Jorge Luis Borges
He was always surrounded by the sea of his elders,
The Saxons, who named the ocean
The Whale-Road, thereby uniting
The two immense things, the whale
And the seas it endlessly ploughs.
The sea was always his. By the time his eyes
First took in the great waters of the high seas
He had already longed for and possessed it
On that other ocean, which is Writing,
And in the outline of the archetypes.
A man, he gave himself to the earth’s oceans
And to the exhausting days at sea
And he came to know the harpoon reddened
By Leviathan and he rippled sand
And the smells of nights and mornings
And chance on the horizon waiting in ambush
And the happiness of being brave
And the pleasure, at last, of spying Ithaca.
The ocean’s conqueror, he strode the solid
Earth out of which mountains grow
And on which he charts an imprecise course
As with a sleeping compass, motionless in time.
In the inherited shadows of the gardens
Melville moves through New England evenings,
But the sea possesses him. It is the shame
Of the Pequod’s mutilated captain,
The unreadable ocean with its furious squalls
And the abomination of the whiteness.
It is the great book. It is blue Proteus.
(English translation by Stephen Kessler)