Jorge Luis Borges: This Craft of Verse



This Craft of Verse ´ EBOOK by Jorge Luis Borges – chernov–art.com

I ead this book over breakfast I found that the format lended itself to such a casual eading short lectures larger print I eally liked the layout of the book Well done typesetter You made eading this book a pleasure In typical Borges fashion a single page will move effortlessly through uotes and eferences to Don uixote Arabian Nights Old English grammar and Milton most of the uotations are delivered from memory in their original languageOnly three stars however because a lot of the opinions anecdotes and commentary contained in this book are contained in other Borges books I ve ead So deja vu But not in a bad way More like the loveable old uncle who epeats the same stories over and over Every Borges lecture is always a treat see also the superb lecture collection Professor Borges A Course on English Literature so thankfully this ecent transcription of a series of ediscovered lectures Borges gave at Harvard in the 60s has been made available to us Not only was he one of the greatest writers of all time but such a generous eader and iveting speaker that it s impossible to not want to immediately jump on everything he eferences I do think his modesty is often comical as in his occasional phrasings of oh I may have forgotten this minor detail when the eader knows full well that he delivered these multilingual polyphonic omnierudite lectures based solely on memory without any notes at all but his humble and self effacing demeanor is so sincere and his passion for literature so genuine that it would be crazy to not give him the same charity as he gives his audience Even the titles of the half dozen lectures here are intriguing The Riddle of Poetry The Metaphor The Telling of the Tale Word Music and Translation Thought and Poetry and A Poet s Creed but to actually ead them or hear them the whole thing is on YouTube is to be transported into the presence of someone who is overflowing with pleasure at the inexhaustible joys that come from the simple act of eading eally fine literature Here are some choice uotes that I enjoyed in the course of eading it but the thing has to be experienced in its completeness because there s insights on every pageSometimes looking at the many books I have at home I feel I shall die before I come to the end of them yet I cannot esist the temptation of buying new books Whenever I walk into a bookstore and find a book on one of my hobbies for example Old English or Old Norse poetry I say to myself What a pity I can t buy that book for I already have a copy at homeIf we think of the novel and the epic we are tempted into thinking that the chief difference lies in the difference between verse and prose in the difference between singing something and stating something But I think there is a greater difference The difference lies in the fact that the important thing about the epic is the hero a man who is a pattern for all men While as Mencken pointed out the essence of most novels lies in the breaking down of a man in the degeneration of characterWalter Pater wrote that all art aspires to the condition of music The obvious eason I speak as a layman of course would be that in music form and substance cannot be torn asunder Melody or any piece of music is a pattern of sounds and pauses unwinding itself in time a pattern that I do not suppose can be torn The melody is merely the pattern and the emotions it sprang from and the emotions it awakens The Austrian critic Hanslick wrote that music is a language that we can use that we can understand but that we are unable to translateRemember that Alfred North Whitehead wrote that among the many fallacies there is the fallacy of the perfect dictionary the fallacy of thinking that for every perception of the senses for every statement for every abstract idea one can find an exact counterpart an exact symbol in the dictionaryWhen I speak of night I am inevitably and happily for us I think eminded of the last sentence of the first book in Finnegans Wake wherein Joyce speaks of the ivering waters of hitherandthithering waters of Night This is an extreme example of an elaborate style We feel that such a line could have been written only after centuries of literature We feel that the line is an invention a poem a very complex web as Stevenson would have had it And yet I suspect there was a moment when the word night was uite as impressive was uite as strange was uite as awe striking as this beautiful winding sentence ivering waters of hitherandthithering waters of NightI think of myself as being essentially a eader As you are aware I have ventured into writing but I think that what I have ead is far important than what I have written For one eads what one likes yet one writes not what would like to write but what one is able to write I had ead in Lugones that the metaphor was the essential element of literature and I accepted that dictum Lugones wrote that all words were originally metaphors This is true but it is also true that in order to understand most words you have to forget about the fact of their being metaphors For example if I say Style should be plain then I don t think that we should emember that style stylus meant pen and that plain means flat because in that case we would never understand it It goes without saying that Borges is a man of great learning but in this series of lectures his humility and self deprecating wit outshine even his extensive knowledge of world literature I suppose being honored at Harvard meant a lot to him At any ate it s a very uick and enjoyable ead What an honor and a privilege to be given access to the mind of one of the most original thinkers in the history of literature In the 1967 1968 Charles Eliot Norton Lectures delivered at Harvard University Borges spoke extemporaneously and without notes he was blind by this time about his life in literature and the craft of poetry I ead this slim volume published in 2000 containing his six lectures and the afterword by the editor C tlin Andrei Mih ilescu and closed it to find my eyes filled with tears They were the tears of loss that such a brilliant mind has gone out of. Through a twist of fate that the author of Labyrinths himself would have elished these lost lectures given in English at Harvard in 1967 1968 by Jorge Luis Borges eturn to us now a ecovered tale of a life long love affair wi.

The world but also tears of gratitude that one such as he had come to be and that he has shared with us his love of eading and his insight into the magical world of words From our father Homer through Vergil through Borges the chain continues and I have at hand the latest volume of Alberto Manguel who keeps alive the light of truth passed down from heart to heart of those who love the music of the words Once as a young man while orange blossoms drifted down I sat with my hands on the tomb of Saadi and wished for understanding In Borges I have found that wish fulfilled by learning that the seeking is the treasure and that joining the company of seekers is the highest aspiration Borges imagined Paradise to be a kind of magnificent library and I cannot help but picture him there his sight estored climbing a ladder to each a cherished volume shelved among the eternal stars I thought I d never hear the brave librarian speak Posterity saved the lectures that Jorge Luis Borges 1899 1986 delivered in Harvard University in the fall of 67 and spring 68 The Argentinian was nearing 70 when he gave this series of lectures The ecordings were discovered from the university archives and were transcribed and published in book form in 2000Borges s voice boomed across space and time I found it ideal to listen to the lectures while following along with a transcription posted in a blog It may be a better experience than just eading the transcriptions Here is the free audio download page of the lectures He spoke in a clipped staccato manner catching breath and thought at once He groped for ideas ather like a blind man groping for things in the dark But he always found them and he brought them out to the light We can sense him groping for ideas several moves in advance building a construct from his previous eadings and then evealing the final elegant construction of the library of the mind the library in his mindThe audience listened intently keenly as the penetrating gaze of the master pierced through the lines of poetry and gave his literary interpretation and appreciation He spoke the six lectures impromptu with perhaps only a few days preparation for each topicThe ange of his subjects are as varied as colors He began with the iddle of poetry and continued with metaphor epic poetry and the novel word music and translation and thought and poetry He ended with sharing his own creed as a poet wherein he try to justify my own life and the confidence some of you may have in me despite this ather awkward and fumbling first lecture of mineIt was hardly awkward and fumbling In every lecture he demonstrated utter erudition which was to be expected but still there s a pure kind of magic in the words he was unleashing He had a way of saying things in a punctilious manner of punctuating ideas even if they were in etrospect obvious observations Like for example Happiness when you are a eader is freuent Or on eading lists The danger of making a list is that the omissions stand out and that people think of you as being insensitive And on long books Though we are apt to think of mere size as being somehow brutal I think there are many books whose essence lies in their being lengthy And this came from a writer who never wrote a novelAmong the verses he discussed included lines or passages from Keats s On First Looking into Chapman s Homer the sonnet Inclusiveness by Dante Gabriel Rossetti James Joyce s Finnegans Wake Robert Frost and Browning and a translation of San Juan de la Cruz He ecited them with feeling bringing out the stresses where they fall sometimes going at length in describing the choice of words of the poet and pointing out their distinctiveness what makes the lines go on inging in the eader s ears Sometimes it felt like he was sharing his conversations with the old masters from Greek and Old English giving us an exclusive preview to an anticipated blockbuster movieAside from erudition two other things marked the genius of these lectures humor and humility The speaker s apport and interaction with the audience were amazing One imagined the listeners hanging on to every word as when he shared his propensity to book buyingSometimes looking at the many books I have at home I feel I shall die before I have come to the end of them and yet I cannot esist the temptation of buying new books When I go when I walk inside a library I find a book on one of my hobbies for example Old English or Old Norse poetry I say to myself What a pity I can t buy that book because I already have a copy at home That last statement elicited laughter among the listeners who also broke into a hearty applause There are many similar moments in the ecording that were given to the audience s acknowledgement of the speaker s humor The interaction between speaker and listeners was just preciousThe lectures also evealed a man of humility and self effacing disposition one who acknowledged his forebears and influences and the sources of his metaphysical ideasIf I were a daring thinker but I am not I am a very timid thinker I am groping my way along I could of course say that only a dozen or so patterns exist and that all other metaphors are mere arbitrary gamesIn fact he said them those things about the patterns and the games of metaphors But he always gave fair warning on what and what not to expect from him But still the things he spoke aboutHis thoughts on translation were as timely as ever In his lecture on translation he debunked the supposed inferiority of translations to the original text by stating I suppose if we did not know whether one was original and the other translation we could judge them fairly It s one of the best defense of translations I ve eadOn the strange beauty of literal translations he had an interesting takeIn fact it might be said that literal translations make not only as Matthew Arnold pointed out for uncouthness and oddity but also for strangeness and beauty This I think is felt by all of us for if we look into a literal translation of some outlandish poem we expect something strange If we do not find it we feel somehow disappointedHe erroneously. Th literature and the English language Transcribed from tapes only ecently discovered This Craft of Verse captures the cadences candour wit and emarkable erudition of one of the most extraordinary and enduring literary voices.

Jorge Luis Borges ½ 2 Review

Assumed however that FitzGerald s translation of Omar Khayy m s Rub iy t from which he uoted a uatrain as an example is a literal one And I m not sure what he would make of Nabokov s extremely faithful Eugene OneginThat only a very few patterns and hyming schemes existed in poetry led the poet to declare that free verse is much difficult to pull off than hymed poemsI began as most young men do by thinking that free verse is easier than the egular forms of verse Today I am uite sure that free verse is far difficult than the egular and classical forms The proof if proof be needed is that literature begins with verse I suppose the explanation would be that once a pattern is evolved a pattern of hymes of assonances of alliterations of long and short syllables and so on you only have to epeat the pattern While if you attempt prose and prose of course comes long after verse then you need as Stevenson pointed out a subtle pattern Because the ear is led to expect something and then it does get what it expects Something else is given to it and that something else should be in a sense a failure and also a satisfaction So that unless you take the precaution of being Walt Whitman or Carl Sandburg then free verse is difficult At least I have found now when I am near my journey s end that the classic forms of verse are easier Another facility another easiness may lie in the fact that once you have written a certain line once you have esigned yourself to a certain line then you have committed yourself to a certain hyme And since hymes are not infinite your work is made easier for youThis idea unorthodox as it is was way interesting than William Childress s ant against free verse The latter s arguments was sometimes occluded by fundamentalist attitudes In contrast the poet here spoke with a fire in his voice a bibliophile s enthusiasm that was hard to esist Perhaps because he primarily thought of himself as essentially a eaderAs you are aware I have ventured into writing but I think that what I have ead is far important than what I have written For one eads what one likes yet one writes not what one would like to write but what one is able to writeAnd here I am thinking all along that Roberto Bola o s line Reading is important than writing was his own Borges practically said everything as the Chilean writer himself acknowledged When I write the poet confessed I try to be loyal to the dream and not to the circumstancesOf course in my stories there are true circumstances but somehow I have felt that those circumstances should always be told with a certain amount of untruth There is no satisfaction telling a story as it actually happened We have to change things even if we think them insignificant if we don t we should think of ourselves not as artists but perhaps as mere journalists or historians A similar aesthetic was taken to heart by the late W G Sebald who featured Borges in The Rings of Saturn Writers take heedOn novels it was clear he doesn t like the narrative strategy of Ulysses He liked epics instead He disdained self conscious stories By epic he meant the simultaneous singing of a verse and telling of a story By self consciousness he meant stories where the hero is the teller and so sometimes he the hero has to belittle himself he has to make himself human he has to make himself far too believable In fact he has to fall into the trickery of a novelistIf we think about the novel and the epic we are tempted to fall into thinking that the chief difference lies in the difference between verse and prose in the difference between singing something and stating something But I think there is a greater difference The difference lies in the fact that the important thing about the epic is a hero a man who is a pattern for all men While as Mencken pointed out the essence of most novels lies in the breaking down of a man in the degeneration of characterSo better to fall into the trickery of a poet than a novelist It was possible the lecturer was averse to the encroachment of postmodernism on the novel Like many critics he saw the death of the novelI think that the novel is breaking down I think that all those very daring and interesting experiments with the novel for example the idea of shifting time the idea of the story being told by different characters all those are leading to the moment when we shall feel that the novel is no longer with usWhat is to be done The poet was not worried Because we are modern we don t have to strive to be modern he said It is not a case of subject matter or of styleEven if we are now postmodern we are still modern He was confident that something was at hand He prophesied the comeback of the epicMaybe I am an old fashioned man from the nineteenth century but I have optimism I have hope and as the future holds many things as the future perhaps holds all things I think that the epic will come back to us I think that the poet shall once again be a maker I mean he will tell a story and he will also sing it And we will not think of those two things as different even as we do not think they are different in Homer or in VirgilThings could only go up from there The epic novel was nigh Maybe it was already with us Maybe the metaphor was already made He had made the suggestions pointed to some interesting directions and these were enough to fertilize the mindAnything suggested is far effective than anything laid down When something is merely said or better still hinted at there is a kind of hospitality in our imaginationThat s what it felt like listening to the poet One was a visitor being treated to the hospitality of an estimable and kind imagination All writers in Argentina have had to find themselves against Borges said C sar Aira the Argentinean writer who chose an anti Borgean path He is cold he is an Everest of intelligence and lucidity uncontaminated by eality In these ecordings compiled as This Craft of Verse the poet was not cold He exuded warmth like a grandfather And the mountain of intelligence and lucidity had chosen to be accessible and scalable The climb was memorable The view from the summit was a postcar. Of the 20th century In its wide anging commentary and exuisite insights the book stands as a deeply personal yet far eaching introduction to the pleasures of the word and as a first hand testimony of to the life of literatur.

Jorge Francisco Isidoro Luis Borges Acevedo usually referred to as Jorge Luis Borges Spanish pronunciation xoɾxe lwis boɾxes was an Argentine writer and poet born in Buenos Aires In 1914 his family moved to Switzerland where he attended school and traveled to Spain On his return to Argentina in 1921 Borges began publishing his poems and essays in Surrealist literary journals He also wo