Blind and so mysteriously secret.

I ran across two poems about things and our relationship to them. In this first one the poet might be merely looking around the room to notice a few common items. I used to do that when I wanted to write a letter to a friend or parent, to help me get started. I would mentally extract one thing at a time from the clutter spread all around the kitchen and family room, and ramble on paper about the everyday doings of our tribe. What books was everyone reading? Was there bread rising in a big bowl? Maybe some tools had been left out after a repair job. There was always so much stuff that my method produced a broad glimpse into our family life.

But I never waxed philosophical about the things themselves, the way Borges does. He gives us an elegant and thoughtful view of some of his belongings, with a kind of reverence:

THINGS

My walking-stick, small change, key-ring,
The docile lock and the belated
Notes my few days left will grant
No time to read, the cards, the table,
A book, in its pages, that pressed
Violet, the leavings of an afternoon
Doubtless unforgettable, forgotten,
The reddened mirror facing to the west
Where burns illusory dawn. Many things,
Files, sills, atlases, wine-glasses, nails,
Which serve us, like unspeaking slaves,
So blind and so mysteriously secret!
They’ll long outlast our oblivion;
And never know that we are gone.

-Jorge Luis Borges

8 thoughts on “Blind and so mysteriously secret.

  1. “Which serve us, like unspeaking slaves” – reminds me of this from St. Peter Chrysologus (which I was reading just yesterday), “Was not this entire visible universe made for your dwelling? It was for you that the light dispelled the overshadowing gloom; for your sake was the night regulated and the day measured, and for you were the heavens embellished with the varying brilliance of the sun, the moon and the stars.” (from The Way of Beauty, by David Clayton.

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  2. I’ll take Louis M.’s playful reverence over Jorge’s “illusory dawn” (I know it is sunset seen through a mirror, but still) and impersonal future (“oblivion”) where only things survive.

    On the other hand Borges is certainly appreciative of his things, I’ll give him that, and of the sadness of impending separation. It really is a good poem in that way. True materialism has a spiritual element, which does include a kind of reverence — both for creation and for the things we make or live with.

    No criticism here. Just thoughts which your readings inspire. Gratefully,

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Albert, I so agree – I didn’t want to mention that idea of oblivion up front before people read the whole poem, but it struck me as sad and not true. I’m glad that at least the poet acknowledges the reality of his things and isn’t despising them as part of this world he will escape.

      To whom and whose writing are you referring to, Louis M.?

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      1. I’ve been thinking about that Louis MacNeice poem, “Snow,” from the other day. His approach to things (roses, a tangerine, and logs burning in the fireplace) felt so cheery. So I had this on my mind as I read the Borges poem. The contrast in tone was evident, except that in the last stanza Louis M. seemed to change up a bit with the puzzling use of “spiteful” and the ambiguous (to me) final line, “There is more than glass between the snow and the huge roses,” both of which almost sounded ominous.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Things…they are, without a doubt very necessary – while we are here to make use of them. Similarly, they will not be missed when we are gone.

    Intriguing read, GretchenJoanna.

    Have a lovely week!
    Poppy

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