Jorge Luis Borges

Browning Decides to Be a Poet

In these red labyrinths of London I find that I have chosen the strangest of all callings, save that, in its way, any calling is strange. Like the alchemist who sought the philosopher's stone in quicksilver, I shall make everyday words-- the gambler's marked cards, the common coin-- give off the magic that was their when Thor was both the god and the din, the thunderclap and the prayer. In today's dialect I shall say, in my fashion, eternal things: I shall try to be worthy of the great echo of Byron. This dust that I am will be invulnerable. If a woman shares my love my verse will touch the tenth sphere of the concentric heavens; if a woman turns my love aside I will make of my sadness a music, a full river to resound through time. I shall live by forgetting myself. I shall be the face I glimpse and forget, I shall be Judas who takes on the divine mission of being a betrayer, I shall be Caliban in his bog, I shall be a mercenary who dies without fear and without faith, I shall be Polycrates, who looks in awe upon the seal returned by fate. I will be the friend who hates me. The persian will give me the nightingale, and Rome the sword. Masks, agonies, resurrections will weave and unweave my life, and in time I shall be Robert Browning.

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