Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Borges: The Golem

The Golem
Jorge Luis Borges
Translated by James Honzik

If (as affirms the Greek in the Cratylus)
the name is archetype of the thing,
in the letters of “rose” is the rose,
and all the Nile flows through the word.

Made of consonants and vowels,
there is a terrible Name,
that in its essence encodes God’s all,
power, guarded in letters, in hidden syllables.

Adam and the stars knew it in the Garden.
It was corroded by sin (the Cabalists say),
time erased it, and generations
have forgotten.

The artifice and candor of man go on without end.
We know that there was a time in
which the people of God searched for the Name
through the ghetto’s midnight hours.

But not in that manner of those others
whose vague shades insinuate into vague history,
his memory is still green and lives,
Judá the Lion the rabbi of Prague.

In his thirst to know the knowledge of God
Judá permutated the alphabet through complex variations
and in the end
pronounced the name that is the Key

the Door, the Echo, the Guest, and the Palace,
over a mannequin shaped with awkward hands,
teaching it the arcane knowledge of
symbols, of Time and Space.

The simulacrum raised its sleepy eyelids,
saw forms and colors that it did not understand,
and confused by our babble
made fearful movements.

Gradually it was seen to be (as we are)
imprisoned in a reverberating net of
Before, Later, Yesterday, While, Now, Right, Left,
I, You, Those, Others.

The Cabalists who celebrated this mysterium,
this vast creature, named it Golem.
(Written about by Scholem,
in a learned passage of his volume.)

The rabbi explained the universe to him,
“This is my foot, this yours, and this the rope,”
but all that happened, after years,
was that the creature swept the synagogue badly.

Perhaps there was an error in the word
or in the articulation of the Sacred Name;
in spite of the highest esoteric arts
this apprentice of man did not learn to speak.

Its eyes uncanny,
less like man than dog and much less than dog but thing
following the rabbi through the doubtful
shadows of the stones of its confinement.

There was something
abnormal and coarse in the Golem,
at its step the rabbi’s cat fled in fear.
(That cat not from Scholem but of the blind seer)

It would ape the rabbi’s devotions,
raising its hands to the sky,
or bend over, stupidly smiling,
into hollow Eastern salaams.

The rabbi watched it tenderly but
with some horror. How (he said)
could I engender this laborious son?
Better to have done nothing, this is insanity.

Why did I give to the infinite
series a symbol more? To the coiled skein
on which the eternal thing is wound,
I gave another cause, another effect, another grief.

In this hour of anguish and vague light,
on the Golem our eyes have stopped.
Who will say the things to us that God felt,
at the sight of his rabbi in Prague?

Jorge Luis Borges – 1958


Read the original (in Spanish)

Here is the voice of Borges reading The Golem, with footage from the film The Golem: How He Came Into the World directed by Paul Wegener, and with the music of György Ligeti, from Argentinian filmmaker Leandro González.

In 1965, Gershom Scholem dedicated a new computer at the Weizmann Institute at Rehovoth in Israel. At his suggestion, it was named Golem Aleph. Here is his dedicatory speech. The Golem of Prague and the Golem of Rehovoth.

Purchase Borges: Selected Poems


My Best Work is below. Take a look.
Experimental Portraits (Visual Art)
Epistemic Purchase (A poem)
the god of new york (A hard story)
Eagle Creek (A hiking essay)
The Time Factory -SF story and video

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