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Adam Cast Forth

Jorge Luis Borges

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Added by: Rick Foster
This translation preserves the rhyme scheme of the original, but pays a price. The Spanish is unadorned and devoid of phrases that evoke the “poetic” language of a more florid era. These “poeticisms” creep INTO this translation as the author scrambles after rhymes. Thus the simple

“preguntado” = asked becomes “queried” and “el pasado” = “the past” becomes “a bygone era”. This robs the poem of the intimacy (the intimacy of inner monologue) that I find so compelling in the Spanish. Other rhymes bring in other unfortunate turns of phrase. The line that is literally: “But I know it exists and that it lasts long” becomes “But I know it exists in flower and profusion.” The sentence “I await no pardon” corresponds to nothing in the original and can only have been invented to provide a rhyme for “garden” (which in the original is not the last word of the poem; Borges ends on the more melancholy phrase, “siquiera un dia” = “at least for a day”).

Again the simple “Haber sido feliz” = “to have been happy” becomes the cliched “to have known true joy.”

Here is another rough stab at the poem. It tries to preserve the intimacy of the voice. Thereby opening itself to attack because of its contemporary colloquialisms. However it does a better job of keeping the ORDER of the phrases that Borges presents (deviating only in lines 6 and 7 where Borges puts the subject of the sentence in a place that I couldn’t make easy-sounding in English).

Adam Cast Forth

(Original title in English)

by Jorge Luis Borges

Was there a Garden, or was the Garden a dream?

Slow in the vagrant light, I ask myself,

Almost for consolation, if the past

(Of which this now-miserable Adam was master)

Wasn’t just some magical scam promoted

By that God I dreamed. Now his bright Eden

Has got itself all muddled up in my brain,

But I know it exists, and will last a long time.

Though not for me. The stubborn earth

Is my correction and the incestuous war

Of the Cains and Abels and the tribes they started.

But – anyway – it is a big thing to have loved –

To have been happy, to have touched

The living Garden, at least for a day.


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