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Chess by Jorge Luis Borges / translated


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Obviouosly I'm new to translation.....I have revised this to add part I which the original post did not include.

Ajedrez by Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986)

En su grave rincón, los jugadores
Rigen las lentas piezas. El tablero
Los demora hasta el alba en su severo
Ámbito en que se odian dos colores.

Adentro irradian mágicos rigores
Las formas: torre homérica, ligero
Caballo, armada reina, rey postrero,
Oblicuo alfil y peones agresores.

Cuando los jugadores se hayan ido,
Cuando el tiempo los haya consumido,
Ciertamente no habrá cesado el rito.
En el Oriente se encendió esta guerra

Cuyo anfiteatro es hoy toda la tierra.
Como el otro, este juego es infinito.
Tenue rey, sesgo alfil, encarnizada
Reina, torre directa y peón ladino
Sobre lo negro y blanco del camino
Buscan y libran su batalla armada.

No saben que la mano señalada
Del jugador gobierna su destino,
No saben que un rigor adamantino
Sujeta su albedrío y su jornada.
También el jugador es prisionero
(La sentencia es de Omar) de otro tablero
De negras noches y de blancos días.

Dios mueve al jugador, y éste, la pieza.
¿Qué dios detrás de Dios la trama empieza                                             
De polvo y tiempo y sueño y agonías?

Chess by Jorge Lois Borges
translated by Judi Van Gorder
From a thoughtful place, players
move their pieces slowly. The board
holds them there until dawn in this harsh
world in which opposites hate each other.

From this magical regime radiates
the forms: heroic rook, quick-witted
knight, armed queen, blustering king,
crooked bishop and aggressive pawn.

When the players have gone,
when the moment has been consumed,
certainly the ritual is not over.
From the East this war was ignited

whose amphitheater today is the entire earth.
Like the other, this game is infinite
Tenuous king, warped bishop, bloodthirsty
queen, forthright rook and cunning pawn
upon a black and white surfaced road
seeking and waging war in armed battle.

They don't know that the hand
of the player governs their destination,
do not know that a precisioned diamond cut
subjects their choice and their day.
The player is also prisoner
(The judgment is long-lived) from another plan
of black nights and white days.

God moves the player, and He is a piece.
What gods behind God framed the beginning
of dust and time and sleep and agonies?

~~ © ~~ Poems by Judi Van Gorder ~~

For permission to use this work you can write to Tinker1111@icloud.com

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What gods behind God framed the beginning

of dust and time and sleep and agonies?


Oh! Spanish OR English, what a line!


Knowing only enough Spanish to meet someone in a bar or to avoid the police, I still think your English reads very well. Nice job. :smile:

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Thanks Marti, It was that line that attracted me to the poem. I had only read one translation of the poem and didn't get the feel from it that I got from the Spanish so I thought I would try my hand. But honestly, my Spanish isn't all that great either, I read it better than I a converse in it. Spanish speakers speak too fast and run their words together and I am too tentative in my own attempts to speak it. But to read and write I can think it out. We keep a boat, the Judi K II (A 40' trawler we can live aboard.} in a marina in La Paz, Baja California. My husband goes down there for most of the winter, he doesn't like the cold weather at home and he says has nothing to do here in the winter but he can fish and putter on the boat down there. I used to go down when I could take time off from the office but I really would rather go to visit my grandkids than go sit on a boat in Mexico when I have time off. So I don't go down as much as I used to consquently my Spanish is rusty.


Hi Badge, Thank you for the links, I had only read one translation and found these others interesting. When I found Chess II, the first part wasn't included. I should have looked further. I will work on Part I. I thought Chess II complete because of its frame. It is a complete Italian sonnet. Part I is also a sonnet.


I couldn't retain the entire sonnet form in English, especially the rhyme but I could retain the problem / resolution pivot and the stanzaic frame. Spanish poetry is usually syllabic rather than metric but in English I tried to maintain a pentameter line. (not necessarily iambic but with 5 stresses per line)


I tried to stick to the original intent which I think was summed up in the last line and I tried to keep it in line sequence. Some of these translations almost para phrase the stanzas. Maybe I was taking it too literal. After reading the other translations, I did change a word in the 3rd to last line.


As for Omar, I searched for a famous quote or judgement of an "Omar" that might imply that we are all chess pieces or pawns of fate but found nothing. But one of the meanings in Arabic of "Omar" is "long-lived" and I thought that might fit as a substitute for "pre-ordained". which is what a judgement is, an order. Any way that is how I read it. Then it really doesn't matter who Omar is, it is the judgement that is important.


And "adamantino" I had to look that up even in English. I don't like the substitution of the literal English for the Spanish for that particular word, the word is foreign to me even in English.


After reading those other translations I think I did OK with this. At least I think I captured the heart of what I understood from the Spanish. I really like this poem.



~~ © ~~ Poems by Judi Van Gorder ~~

For permission to use this work you can write to Tinker1111@icloud.com

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