Browning Resolves to Be a Poet
In these red London labyrinths
I find that I have chosen
the most curious of human professions,
though given that all are curious, in their way.
who looked for the philosopher’s stone
in elusive quicksilver,
I shall make ordinary words—
the marked cards of the sharper, the people’s coinage—
yield up the magic which was theirs
when Thor was inspiration and eruption,
thunder and worship.
In the wording of the day,
I in my turn will say eternal things;
I will try to be not unworthy
of the great echo of Byron.
This dust that is me will be invulnerable.
If a woman partakes of my love,
my poem will graze the tenth sphere of the concentric heavens;
if a woman shrugs off my love,
I will make music out of my misery,
a vast river reverberating on through time.
I will live by forgetting myself.
I will be the face I half-see and forget,
I will be Judas who accepts
the blessed destiny of being a traitor,
I will be Caliban in the swamp,
I will be a mercenary dying
without fear or faith,
I will be Polycrates, horrified to see
the ring returned by destiny,
I will be the friend who hates me.
Persia will grant me the nightingale, Rome the sword.
Agonies, masks and resurrections
will weave and unweave my fate
and at some point I will be Robert Browning
Jorge Luis Borges, 1899-1986
“Browning Resolves to Be a Poet” from The Gold of Tigers (translated by Alastair Reid)
© 1976 Jorge Luis Borges
Photo by Alina Grubnyak on Unsplash