Limits

Of all the streets that blur in to the sunset,
There must be one (which, I am not sure)
That I by now have walked for the last time
Without guessing it, the pawn of that Someone

Who fixes in advance omnipotent laws,
Sets up a secret and unwavering scale
for all the shadows, dreams, and forms
Woven into the texture of this life.

If there is a limit to all things and a measure
And a last time and nothing more and forgetfulness,
Who will tell us to whom in this house
We without knowing it have said farewell?

Through the dawning window night withdraws
And among the stacked books which throw
Irregular shadows on the dim table,
There must be one which I will never read.

There is in the South more than one worn gate,
With its cement urns and planted cactus,
Which is already forbidden to my entry,
Inaccessible, as in a lithograph.

There is a door you have closed forever
And some mirror is expecting you in vain;
To you the crossroads seem wide open,
Yet watching you, four-faced, is a Janus.

There is among all your memories one
Which has now been lost beyond recall.
You will not be seen going down to that fountain
Neither by white sun nor by yellow moon.

You will never recapture what the Persian
Said in his language woven with birds and roses,
When, in the sunset, before the light disperses,
You wish to give words to unforgettable things.

And the steadily flowing Rhone and the lake,
All that vast yesterday over which today I bend?
They will be as lost as Carthage,
Scourged by the Romans with fire and salt.

At dawn I seem to hear the turbulent
Murmur of crowds milling and fading away;
They are all I have been loved by, forgotten by;
Space, time, and Borges now are leaving me.

by Jorge Luis Borges

Other poems of BORGES (16)

Comments (4)

There is more in heaven and earth, that moral man could ever know the demensions. GOD, though knows.
There is limit for everything grand and beautiful in the life of man! All glories and splendours of the past disappear into thin air as time passes on due to ravages caused by monarchies or natural calamities! Once golden delight most cherished by man disappears as nonentity by inevitable circumstances in life! This is the limit and enigma of life in the world nobody can escape!
Whether it's an enigma or a meditation I leave to others like Kind and Peerbocus who prefer to write their own enigmatic comments in lieu of dealing with 'Limits' by Borges. I consider Borges to be contemplating something we have all considered at one time or another. Who hasn't paused on his way out the door to glance at a loved one and had the flickering image of being forgotten in time? The shadows and dreams that constitute what we call life seem to carry their own foretaste of eternity. All those places in the South (or in Samarkand) we will never visit though we can see in our mind's eye the urns and cactus like pictures in a fading photograph will disappear and dissolve with time. That fountain where you used to meet in midday or in moonglow has gone with the wind. As the Romans destroyed Carthage leaving not a stone upon a stone, or the temple mount in Jerusalem was leveled centuries ago, so will we be forgotten by those we loved and those who loved us. Yes, I know some comments are meant to be as profound in their impact as the many and varied images in 'Limits, ' but enigmatic remarks, clever as all get out as they may be, simply do not convey the weight of Borges's thought expressed in language that requires time to sink in one's mind and be absorbed. Ten stanzas written in quatrains are far more striking than 'a meditation on life(sic) enigma, ' don't you agree? There's the difference between art and inept writing!
even if one knows, , or thinks he knows, that he cant know, , he cant...and never will ..not even that.