And ne forhtedon na

The Tomb of Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986) in Geneva Switzerland

The title of this post is in Anglo-Saxon from the gravestone of Jorge Luis Borges. It comes from The Battle of Maldon. Translated, it means “Be not afraid.” Toward the end of his life, Borges learned Anglo-Saxon and even studied Old Norse, which is the language of Iceland.

Here is an early poem by Borges (from Fervor de Buenos Aires, 1923) on the subject of death. The translation is by W. S. Merwin.

Remorse for Any Death

Free of memory and hope,
unlimited, abstract, almost future,
the dead body is not somebody: It is death.
Like the God of the mystics,
whom they insist has no attributes,
the dead person is no one everywhere,
is nothing but the loss and absence of the world.
We rob it of everything,
we do not leave it one color, one syllable:
Here is the yard which its eyes no longer take up,
there is the sidewalk where it waylaid its hope.
It might even be thinking
what we are thinking.
We have divided among us, like thieves,
the treasure of nights and days.