Borges, Milton, and the Rose

“A Rose and Milton”

“A Rose and Milton”

What do these writers have in common: Homer, John Fante, Benito Pérez Galdós, John Milton, and Jose Luis Borges? For at least part of their lives, all were blind. So when Argentinian poet Jorge Luis Borges honors Milton, it is by way of acknowledging a common fate. The name of this poem is “A Rose and Milton”:

A Rose and Milton

From the generations of roses
That are lost in the depths of time
I want one saved from oblivion,
One spotless rose, of all things
That ever were. Fate permits me
The gift of choosing for once
That silent flower, the last rose
That Milton held before him,
Unseen. O vermilion, or yellow
Or white rose of a ruined garden,
Your past still magically remains
Forever shines in these verses,
Gold, blood, ivory or shadow
As if in his hands, invisible rose.

Of course, Milton could not see the color of that last rose he beheld. He could not see whether that last rose was spotless and perfect. Whatever that rose was, it was unperceived by the great poet who held it in his hands; it might as well have been invisible, or, just as well, resplendent in its glory.

The poet talks about being allowed by Fate to handle that last rose that Milton held. I could just see the ironic smile playing on Borges’s face. Very Zen, in effect.