Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Spinoza and Borges: Someone is building God in a dark cup

Today is Baruch Spinoza's birthday. Of Spinoza, Patrick Kurp in his blog Anecdotal Evidence wrote, "His thought seems inhumanly subtle and demanding, yet Spinoza is among the most humanly compelling, even lovable of great philosophers, excommunicated from the Portuguese-Jewish community of Amsterdam at the age of 23."

Jorge Luis Borges and Spinoza represent a destined pairing of imagination with capacity. Demand and reward. Here are two sonnets by Borges, both translated by Willis Barnstone.

Links to poems by me are at the end of this posting.* Benedictus de Spinoza, November 24, 1632 to February 21, 1677.  "No one / Is granted such prodigious love as he: /The love that has no hope of being loved." [Borges]

Baruch Spinoza

A haze of gold, the Occident lights up
The window. Now, the assiduous manuscript
Is waiting, weighed down with the infinite.
Someone is building God in a dark cup.
A man engenders God. He is a Jew
With saddened eyes and lemon-colored skin;
Time carries him the way a leaf, dropped in
A river, is borne off by waters to
Its end. No matter. The magician moved
Carves out his God with fine geometry;
From his disease, from nothing, he’s begun
To construct God, using the word. No one
Is granted such prodigious love as he:
The love that has no hope of being loved.

tr. by Willis Barnstone


Here in the twilight the translucent hands
Of the Jew polishing the crystal glass.
The dying afternoon is cold with bands
Of fear. Each day the afternoons all pass
The same. The hands and space of hyacinth
Paling in the confines of the ghetto walls
Barely exists for the quiet man who stalls
There, dreaming up a brilliant labyrinth.
Fame doesn’t trouble him (that reflection of
Dreams in the dream of another mirror), nor love,
The timid love women. Gone the bars,
He’s free, from metaphor and myth, to sit
Polishing a stubborn lens: the infinite
Map of the One who now is all His Stars.

tr. by Willis Barnstone

Two related My 3,000 Loving Arms posts:
Today No One Is Your Friend
Experiential Philosophy

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