The Gift

Leopoldo Lugones Argüello (13 June 1874 - 18 February 1938)

Jorge Luis Borges, August 9, 1960:

The sounds of the plaza fall behind, and I enter the Library. Almost physically, I can feel the gravitation of the books, the serene atmosphere of orderliness, time magically mounted and preserved. To the left and right, absorbed in their waking dream, rows of readers' momentary profiles in the light of the "scholarly lamps," as a Miltonian displacement of adjectives would have it. I recall having recalled that trope here in the Library once before, and then that the other adjective of setting --the Lunario's "arid camel," and then that hexameter from the Aeneid that employs, and surpasses, the same artifice:

Ibant obscuri sola sub nocte per umbram.

These reflections bring me to the door of your office. I go inside. We exchange a few conventional, cordial words, and I give you this book. Unless I am mistaken, you didn't dislike me, Lugones, and you'd have liked to like some work of mine. That never happened, but this time you turn the pages and read a line or two approvingly, perhaps because you've recognized your own voice in it, perhaps because the halting poetry itself is less important than the clean limbed theory.

At this point my dream begins to fade and melt away like water in water. The vast library surrounding me is on Calle Mexico, not Rodriguz Pena, and you Lugones, killed yourself in early '38. My vanity and nostalgia have confected a scene that is impossible. Maybe so, I tell myself, but tomorrow I too will be dead and our times will run together and chronology will melt into an orb of symbols and somehow it will be true to say that I have brought you this book and that you have accepted it.