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Ragnarok

Page history last edited by PBworks 13 years ago

 

 

Ragnarök

by Jorge Luis Borges

 

The images in dreams, wrote Coleridge, figure forth the impressions that our intellect would call causes; we do not feel horror because we are haunted by a sphinx, we dream a sphinx in order to explain the horror that we feel.  If that is true, how might a mere chronicling of its forms transmit the stupor, the exultation, the alarms, the dread, and the joy that wove together that night's dream?  I shall attempt that chronicle, nonetheless; perhaps the fact that the dream consisted of but a single scene may erase or soften the essential difficulty.

 

The place was the College of Philosophy and Letters; the hour, nightfall.  Everything (as is often the case in dreams) was slightly different; a slight magnification altered things.  We chose authorities; I would speak with Pedro Henríquez Ureña, who in waking life had died many years before.  Suddenly, we were dumbfounded by a great noise of demonstrators or street musicians.  From the Underworld, we heard the cries of humans and animals.  A voice cried: Here they come! and then: The gods! The gods!  Four or five individuals emerged from out of the mob and occupied the dais of the auditorium.  Everyone applauded, weeping; it was the gods, returning after a banishment of many centuries.  Looming larger than life as they stood upon the dais, their heads thrown back and their chests thrust forward, they haughtily received our homage.  One of them was holding a branch (which belonged, no doubt, to the simple botany of dreams); another, with a sweeping gesture, held out a hand that was a claw; one of Janus' faces looked mistrustfully at Thoth's curved beak.  Perhaps excited by our applause, one of them, I no longer remember which, burst out in a triumphant, incredibly bitter clucking that was half gargle and half whistle.  From that point on, things changed.

 

It all began with the suspicion (perhaps exaggerated) that the gods were unable to talk.  Centuries of a feral life of flight had atrophied that part of them which was human; the moon of Islam and the cross of Rome had been implacable with these fugitives.  Beetling brows, yellowed teeth, the sparse beard of a mulatto or a Chinaman, and beastlike dewlaps were testaments to the degeneration of the Olympian line.  The clothes they wore were not those of a decorous and honest poverty, but rather of the criminal luxury of the Underworld's gambling dens and houses of ill repute.  A carnation bled from a buttonhole; under a tight suitcoat one could discern the outline of a knife.  Suddenly, we felt that they were playing their last trump, that they were cunning, ignorant, and cruel, like aged predators, and that if we allowed ourselves to be swayed by fear or pity, they would wind up destroying us.

 

We drew our heavy revolvers (suddenly in the dream there were revolvers) and exultantly killed the gods.

 

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