All Our Yesterdays by Jorges Luis Borges

Borges loved the sonnet, and I love his All Our Yesterdays (not Todos Nuestros Ayeres — the poem’s title was originally published in English*). And so I thought I’d translate the poem into English much like I did Borges’ Spinoza.

Robert Mezey has already translated All Our Yesterdays, but it doesn’t rhyme. I thought I’d translate the poem and preserve the rhyme, albeit structured differently. The original is rhymed ABBA CDDC EFFE GG. I’ve rhymed the translation in the classic Shakespearean form of ABAB CDCD EFEF GG.

All Our Yesterdays
I want to know: which who of all the whos
I’ve been is due my past? The boy who traced
out Latin lines hexameter that hues
lustrous of passing years have now effaced?
Perhaps that lad who sought those savage selves —
tigers and panthers — or the curves precise
of maps and charts in father’s library shelves
is he to whom belongs my past concise?
Or he who pushed a door ajar where lay
a dying man in everlasting sleep,
yes he the boy who kissed in the bright of day
the face departing, dead, forsaken deep?
I am all those who are no more. In vain
I am this night those lost to life’s domain.

All Our Yesterdays*
Quiero saber de quién es mi pasado.
¿De cuál de los que fui? ¿Del ginebrino
que trazó algún hexámetro latino
que los lustrales años han borrado?
¿Es de aquel niño que buscó en la entera
biblioteca del padre las puntuales
curvaturas del mapa y las ferales
formas que son el tigre y la pantera?
¿O de aquel otro que empujó una puerta
detrás de la que un hombre se moría
para siempre, y besó en el blanco día
la cara que se va y la cara muerta?
Soy los que ya no son. Inútilmente
soy en la tarde esa perdida gente.

* the original poem, written in Spanish, was published with the title All Our Yesterdays in English. The title references Macbeth, who said famously:

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

One thought on “All Our Yesterdays by Jorges Luis Borges

  1. Translator’s confession: I don’t understand what is meant by la cara que se va y la cara muerta. I don’t think Robert Mezey’s translation is correct, and mine’s got a lot of guesswork going on.

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