Converting the outrage of the years

Jorge Luis Borges

In one of Borges’s poems (The Art of Poetry), the following lines appear:

To see in every day and year a symbol
of all the days of man and his years,
and convert the outrage of the years
into a music, a sound, and a symbol.

I’ve been aware, this year more than for a while, of my outrage. It’s a lovely word (as so many words are, when you look closely at them), ‘outrage’. Outrage: something building up internally and wanting to be released outwards [my definition!).

Poetry, says Borges, offers us the hope that this outrage might be converted into something powerful, constructive and even beautiful.

Two events during this last couple of days have reminded me strongly of this.

The first was watching, with my family, the final of ‘Got to Dance’. It was won by Prodijig, the Irish group. Now I know nothing about their personal histories, but I do know a bit about the troubled history of their country. I wondered, as I watched their quite thrilling performance, to what extent some kind of collective outrage  had been converted into music and movement.

Then there was my colleague’s blog post, The end of face-to-face lectures, written after the chilly gloom of lecturing to an empty theatre a couple of weeks ago. It’s a great blog post, and another example of how outrage can be converted into something constructive and powerful.

Here, by the way, is the full text of Borges’s wonderful poem:

The Art of Poetry

To gaze at a river made of time and water
and remember Time is another river.
To know we stray like a river
… and our faces vanish like water.

To feel that waking is another dream
that dreams of not dreaming and that the death
we fear in our bones is the death
that every night we call a dream.

To see in every day and year a symbol
of all the days of man and his years,
and convert the outrage of the years
into a music, a sound, and a symbol.

To see in death a dream, in the sunset
a golden sadnesssuch is poetry,
humble and immortal, poetry,
returning, like dawn and the sunset.

Sometimes at evening there’s a face
that sees us from the deeps of a mirror.
Art must be that sort of mirror,
disclosing to each of us his face.

They say Ulysses, wearied of wonders,
wept with love on seeing Ithaca,
humble and green. Art is that Ithaca,
a green eternity, not wonders.

Art is endless like a river flowing,
passing, yet remaining, a mirror to the same
inconstant Heraclitus, who is the same
and yet another, like the river flowing.

Jorge Luis Borges


One thought on “Converting the outrage of the years

  1. Pingback: The Unbearable Lightness of Being Online | Reading the World/Reading the Word

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