As a practical matter, one should find what one loves, and pursue it with purity of heart. All mysteries are then resolved (but not solved). "The solution of the problem of life is seen in the vanishing of the problem." Ludwig Wittgenstein, Proposition 6.521, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (Pears/McGuinness translation) (1921).
Robin Tanner, "June" (1946)
A man who cultivates his garden, as Voltaire wished.
He who is grateful for the existence of music.
He who takes pleasure in tracing an etymology.
Two workmen playing, in a cafe in the South, a silent game of chess.
The potter, contemplating a color and a form.
The typographer who sets this page well, though it may not please him.
A woman and a man, who read the last tercets of a certain canto.
He who strokes a sleeping animal.
He who justifies, or wishes to, a wrong done him.
He who is grateful for the existence of Stevenson.
He who prefers others to be right.
These people, unaware, are saving the world.
Jorge Luis Borges (translated by Alastair Reid), in Selected Poems (edited by Alexander Coleman) (Viking 1999). Regarding "Stevenson" (line 10): Borges was a great admirer of the work of Robert Louis Stevenson.
Robin Tanner, "Still Is The Land" (1983)
When I read Borges's poem, I think of tranquility and repose, peace and quiet.
A Quiet Normal Life
His place, as he sat and as he thought, was not
In anything that he constructed, so frail,
So barely lit, so shadowed over and naught,
As, for example, a world in which, like snow,
He became an inhabitant, obedient
To gallant notions on the part of cold.
It was here. This was the setting and the time
Of year. Here in his house and in his room,
In his chair, the most tranquil thought grew peaked
And the oldest and the warmest heart was cut
By gallant notions on the part of night --
Both late and alone, above the crickets' chords,
Babbling, each one, the uniqueness of its sound.
There was no fury in transcendent forms.
But his actual candle blazed with artifice.
Wallace Stevens, The Rock (1954), in Collected Poetry and Prose (The Library of America 1997).
The repetition in "gallant notions on the part of cold" and "gallant notions on the part of night" is lovely. In the modern era, "gallant" is usually used in the sense of "chivalrously brave, full of noble daring." OED. But earlier senses included "gorgeous or showy in appearance" and "splendid, fine, grand." Ibid. All of these senses seem to work together here, I think.
Lines 3 through 6 ("a world in which, like snow . . .") bring to mind Stevens's "The Snow Man." "A Quiet Normal Life" was written within the last two years of Stevens's life. As I have noted before, this was a time when he had softened his view of the primacy of the Imagination in life, and had begun to accept the "First Warmth" of the World around him. Not that he hadn't noticed the World, and written of it beautifully, of course -- but perhaps he began to doubt (just a bit) his long-held belief that Imagination trumped Reality. Thus, the lines may be an intentional evocation of "The Snow Man," which he wrote more than 30 years earlier.
Robin Tanner, "The Wicket Gate" (1977)