Borges on Poetry

I really enjoy the work of Jorge Luis Borges. If you have not heard of him, check out In Our Time - Borges.

I found some audio of some wonderful lectures on poetry he gave at Harvard in the late 60s. The interesting thing about them is that he composes them from memory as he was blind by that point. He demonstrates the breadth of his reading with examples from Middle German, Old Norse, Spanish and English, tracing down the sources of some of the quotes was quite a challenge as they come thick and fast during the lectures. I have listened to them a lot and he has become like an old friend, I can hear his voice when I read his essays or stories.

My two favorite quotes are:

Awake! for Morning in the Bowl of Night
Has flung the Stone that puts the Stars to Flight:
And Lo! the Hunter of the East has caught
The Sultan’s Turret in a Noose of Light.

Dreaming when Dawn’s Left Hand was in the Sky
I heard a Voice within the Tavern cry,
“Awake, my Little ones, and fill the Cup
Before Life’s Liquor in its Cup be dry.”

From The Rubaiyat Of Omar Khayyam, translated by Edward Fitzgerald and

Great wine like blood from Burgundy,
Cloaks like the clouds from Tyre,
And marble like solid moonlight,
And gold like frozen fire.

Smells that a man might swill in a cup,
Stones that a man might eat,
And the great smooth women like ivory
That the Turks sell in the street.”

from G. K. Chesterton’s The Ballad Of The White Horse (which was actually the first poem of this length I have ever read, I got it on my kindle from Project Gutenberg)