I am glad that in the stage of life I find myself I’ve come to Borges. Not for the first time do I read him, but for the first time I understand him. He must be numbered with the metaphysical poets.
All his life he was a Platonist–if reading his poetry from start to finish is an indication. His father explained Plato’s ideas to him, and he found it fruitful for poetry. For him among the philosophers there were Plato, Plotinus, Berkeley and Spinoza. Spinoza, he remarks, who did not believe in God but loved and served him faithfully. That is the kind of thing Borges would notice and admire. He does wonderful things with Berkeley, and how often you see Plotinus coming up in poetry? He writes beautifully to Brahms as well, and uses him just as he does the philosophers.
Many things you will learn in Borges, but mostly the beguiling grace of a secular humility. He was not a pagan, and though he was not a believer, he was of the Christian civilization, a dream from which the world has since woken. Genteel, profound, and strangely humble–save a time or two–his god was more Platonical than Christian, but the Platonical has been so congenial to Christianity, the relationship usually so close and fruitful, who in the realm of poetry and in the wake of a Christian civilization can quibble? If Christian civilization has been a dream, Borges dreamed it–though sometimes fitfully. Or perhaps I should say that his was the via negativa rigorously followed until it was lost in mirrors and labyrinths. He admired Blake exceedingly, and contemplated earnestly the platonic archetype of the tiger. He was no ascetic, but a reader who went blind, and a librarian. He felt himself an outsider in Argentina, and not quite of his familiar Buenos Aires. It is as if he was born out of his age and made the best of it, quietly resigned to no heroic endeavor, though admiring it from afar and singing it, like the author of Beowulf. Perhaps what I’m trying to say is that he is to Christian civilization what the author of Beowulf was to the pagan civilization he remembered and lamented.
Anyway, Borges is a treasure of the Spanish language