This blog post was written in March 2014.
Today is our double book signing here in Tampa. And just as there is a measure of excitement in all such adventures, I simultaneously experience a second emotion within myself that is best expressed in the story below by Jorge Luis Borges.
When Shakespeare wrote “All the world’s a stage,” he went on to say, “and one man in his time plays many parts.” It’s strange when we feel that we are playing those parts simultaneously.
On the one hand I’ll be putting on a face today that expresses one part of myself, the personal satisfaction that comes from having created something original to share, something I believe meaningful or entertaining or thought-provoking or maybe even profound.
On the other hand, I can hear another voice, the voice of the Preacher in Ecclesiastes — “Meaningless, meaningless, all is meaningless” — and I realize, like Borges, like Pessoa, like Giambattista Marino here in Borges’s story A Yellow Rose, that I may have merely added one more thing to the world.
Then again, how meaningless is an apple if it tastes good on the tongue? Or nourishes us? So I share my stories and my art in the hopes that it will bring a favorable aesthetic lift to those who experience it.
Borges was one of my chief influences as a writer and several of the stories in Unremembered Histories have been inspired by his unusual way of seeing things, blended with my own personal vision. Borges, over the course of his life, slowly went blind, but he had great vision.
I first saw this story, A Yellow Rose, in a 1960’s copy of The Antioch Review that I found at a garage sale, along with On Exactitude in Science and four other short thought-stimulants. In fact, the notion contained in this latter story is a recurring one in Borges, which occurs in another form in my story Duel of the Poets, which in the 1990s was translated into Croatian for a poetry website there. Unremembered Histories is a collection of six short stories with a supernatural or paranormal element, of which Duel is a favorite.
The following story can now be found in Borges’ Dreamtigers.
A Yellow Rose
Neither that afternoon nor the next did the illustrious Giambattista Marino die, he whom the unanimous mouths of Fame — to use an image dear to him — proclaimed as the new Homer and the new Dante. But still, the noiseless fact that took place then was in reality the last event of his life. Laden with years and with glory, he lay dying in a huge Spanish bed with carved bedposts. It is not hard to imagine a serene balcony a few steps away, facing the west, and, below, marble and laurels and a garden whose various levels are duplicated in a rectangle of water. A woman has placed in a goblet a yellow rose. The man murmurs the inevitable lines that now, to tell the truth, bore even him a little:
Purple of the garden, pomp of the meadow,
Gem of the spring, April’s eye . . .
Then the revelation occurred: Marino saw the rose as Adam might have seen it in Paradise, and he thought that the rose was to be found in its own eternity and not in his words; and that we may mention or allude to a thing, but not express it; and that the tall, proud volumes casting a golden shadow in a corner were not — as his vanity had dreamed — a mirror of the world, but rather one thing more added to the world.
Marino achieved this illumination on the eve of his death, and Homer and Dante may have achieved it as well.
EdNote: I’m assuming I didn’t see you at my book signing in Tampa five years ago. You may still purchase Unremembered Histories here.
Originally published at https://pioneerproductions.blogspot.com.