To Leopoldo Lugones
Jorge Luis Borges, A Leopoldo Lugones (in El hacedor, 1972), my translation:
The murmurs of the plaza stay behind as I enter the Library. By an almost physical manner I feel the gravitation of the books, the serene field of order, the magically dissected and conserved time. To the left and right, absorbed in their lucid dreams, are outlined the momentary faces of the readers, in the light of the studious lamps, as in the hypallage of Milton. I remember having remembered that figure already, in this place; and later that other epithet that also defines by the surroundings, “the arid camel” of the Lunario; and later that hexameter from the Aeneid, that uses and surpasses that same device:
Ibant obscuri sola sub nocte per umbras.
These reflections leave me at the door of your office. I enter; we exchange some conventional and cordial words and I give you this book. If I am not mistaken, you did not dislike me, Lugones, and it would have pleased you to be pleased by some work of mine. That never happened, but this time you turn the pages and read with approval some line, perhaps because in it you have recognized your own voice, perhaps because the deficient practice matters less to you than the sound theory.
At this point my dream dissolves, like water in water. The library that surrounds me is on Calle México, not Calle Rodríguez Peña, and you, Lugones, killed yourself in the beginning of ’38. My vanity and my nostalgia have assembled an impossible scene. So be it (I tell myself) but tomorrow I too will have died and our times will confuse themselves and the chronology will lose itself in an orb of symbols and in some way it will be fair to assert that I have brought you this book and that you have accepted it.
J. L. B.
Buenos Aires, 9 of August 1960.
The Lunario is Lugones’s own Lunario sentimental (1909). As Michael Gilleland mentions, the “hypallage of Milton” refers to the “studious lamps” of his Areopagitica:
Behold now this vast City: a City of refuge, the mansion house of liberty, encompast and surrounded with his protection; the shop of warre hath not there more anvils and hammers waking, to fashion out the plates and instruments of armed Justice in defence of beleaguer’d Truth, then there be pens and heads there, sitting by their studious lamps, musing, searching, revolving new notions and idea’s wherewith to present as with their homage and their fealty the approaching Reformation, others as fast reading, trying all things, assenting to the force of reason and convincement.