Poema des los dones (Poem about Gifts) is a poem written by Jorge Luis Borges after he was nominated Director of the National Library in Buenos Aires. That is that time that he strongly lost his sight and this poem expresses the beauty of the irony of his inability to fully appreciate his function. He is in fact condemned to be the blind warden of the Library.

Original Spanish version follows the English one:

POEM ABOUT GIFTS

Let none think that I by tear or reproach make light
Of this manifesting the mastery
Of God, who with excelling irony
Gives me at once both books and night.

In this city of books he made these eyes
The sightless rulers who can only read,
In libraries of dreams, the pointless
Paragraphs each new dawn offers

To awakened care. In vain the day
Squanders on them its infinite books,
As difficult as the difficult scripts
That perished in Alexandria.

An old Greek story tells how some king died
Of hunger and thirst, though proffered springs and fruits;
My bearing lost, I trudge from side to side
Of this lofty, long blind library.

The walls present, but uselessly,
Encyclopedia, atlas, Orient
And the West, all centuries, dynasties,
Symbols, cosmos and cosmogonies.

Slow in my darkness, I explore
The hollow gloom with my hesitant stick,
I, that used to figure Paradise
In such a library’s guise.

Something that surely cannot be called
Mere chance must rule these things;
Some other man has met this doom
On other days of many books and the dark.

As I walk through the slow galleries
I grow to feel with a kind of holy dread
That I am that other, I am the dead,
And the steps I make are also his.

Which of us two is writing now these lines
About a plural I and a single gloom?
What does it matter what word is my name
If the curse is indivisibly the same?

Groussac or Borges, I gaze at this beloved
World that grows more shapeless, and its light
Dies down into a pale, uncertain ash
Resembling sleep and the oblivion of night.

Original Spanish version:

POEMA DES LOS DONES

Nadie rebaje a lágrima o reproche
esta declaración de la maestría
de Dios, que con magnífica ironía
me dio a la vez los libros y la noche.

De esta ciudad de libros hizo dueños
a unos ojos sin luz, que sólo pueden
leer en las bibliotecas de los sueños
los insensatos párrafos que ceden

las albas a su afán. En vano el día
les prodiga sus libros infinitos,
arduos como los arduos manuscritos
que perecieron en Alejandría.

De hambre y de sed (narra una historia griega)
muere un rey entre fuentes y jardines;
yo fatigo sin rumbo los confines
de esta alta y honda biblioteca ciega.

Enciclopedias, atlas, el Oriente
y el Occidente, siglos, dinastías,
símbolos, cosmos y cosmogonías
brindan los muros, pero inútilmente.

Lento en mi sombra, la penumbra hueca
exploro con el báculo indeciso,
yo, que me figuraba el Paraíso
bajo la especie de una biblioteca.

Algo, que ciertamente no se nombra
con la palabra azar, rige estas cosas;
otro ya recibió en otras borrosas
tardes los muchos libros y la sombra.

Al errar por las lentas galerías
suelo sentir con vago horror sagrado
que soy el otro, el muerto, que habrá dado
los mismos pasos en los mismos días.

¿Cuál de los dos escribe este poema
de un yo plural y de una sola sombra?
¿Qué importa la palabra que me nombra
si es indiviso y uno el anatema?

Groussac o Borges, miro este querido
mundo que se deforma y que se apaga
en una pálida ceniza vaga
que se parece al sueño y al olvido.