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Labyrinth, quibbles, emblems,
Such bleak laborious minutiae
Were all this Jesuit knew of poetry,
Which he had reduced to stratagems.

No music in his soul; but this inane
Herbarium of metaphors and punning
And a veneration of cunning
And contempt for the human and superhuman.

Homer's ancient voice he never heard,
Or the voice—silver and moonlight—of Virgil;
Nor saw Oedipus the accursed in exile
Nor Christ who is dying on a piece of board.

The stars, the radiant eastern stars
That in the vast aurora slowly fade,
Of these he blasphemously said
Chickens of the celestial acres.

As ignorant of divine love he was
As of that other burning in the bone;
The Pale One surprised him one afternoon
As he was reading El Marino's stanzas.

His later destiny is not given;
The dust that yesterday was his frame
Loosed to the changes of the tainted grave,
The soul of Gracián rose up to heaven.

What did he feel then contemplating plainly
The Archetypes and the Splendors?
Perhaps he cried and told himself: Vainly
I sought nourishment in shadows and errors.

What happened when the relentless
Sun of God, The Truth, put forth its fire?
Maybe the light of God left him blind there
In the center of the endless heavens.

I know another ending. Doped on his themes
Infinitesimal, Gracián never noticed heaven
And turns over in his memory as ever
Labyrinth, quibbles, emblems.


Jorge Luis Borges
Translation by Irving Feldman

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