Moments (poem)

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Moments (Spanish: 'Instantes') is the title of a text wrongly attributed to Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges. It was widely spread through articles, compilations, posters and email chain letters, mainly in Spanish.

Spanish versions, with some variations, consist of a first person narrated poem about an 85 year old person who regrets not having enjoyed some simple pleasures during his life and instead having focused on safety and correctness.

The vocabulary, syntax and style do not match those of Borges.[1]

Original text and author[edit]

The first known version of the text was authored by American humorist and cartoonist Don Herold and published by the Reader's Digest on October 1953 under the title "I'd Pick More Daisies".[2][3] Herold's text is in prose and it lacks the melancholic tone of the Spanish poem:

If I had my life to live over, I would try to make more mistakes. I would relax. I would be sillier than I have been this trip. I know of very few things that I would take seriously. I would be less hygienic. I would go more places. I would climb more mountains and swim more rivers. I would eat more ice cream and less bran

One of the lines of Herold's original text is also the title of the sentimental waltz "If I Had My Life to Live Over", by Moe Jaffe, Larry Vincent and Charles Tobias, that caught on after World War II, when it was featured by Kate Smith, Buddy Clark, Bob Eberly and Eddy Arnold, among others.[4] It was published in 1939. Its lyrics start with the following verses:

If I had my life to live over
I'd do the same things again
I'd still want to roam to the place we call home
Where my happiness never would end.

The title and content of this song may have inspired Don Herold's humorous article.

English and Spanish apocryphal versions[edit]

Another English version, attributed to one Nadine Stair or Nadine Strain, starts:[2][5][6]

If I Had My Life to Live Over I'd dare to make more mistakes next time. I'd relax, I would limber up. I would be sillier than I have been this trip. I would take fewer things seriously. I would take more chances. I would climb more mountains and swim more rivers. I would eat more ice cream and less beans.

One of the most spread Spanish versions wrongly attributed to Borges starts with the following verses:

Spanish apocryphal text[7]
English translation
Si pudiera vivir nuevamente mi vida
En la próxima trataría de cometer más errores
No intentaría ser tan perfecto, me relajaría más
Sería más tonto de lo que he sido, de hecho
tomaría muy pocas cosas con seriedad
Sería menos higiénico
If I could live my life again
Next time I would try to make more mistakes
I would not try to be so perfect, I would relax more
I would be sillier than I was, in fact
I would take very few things seriously
I would be less hygienic

Most important wrong attributions[edit]

Spanish versions with the shape of a poem were wrongly attributed to Borges by literary magazines like Mexican Plural (May 1989, pages 4–5)[8] and books (such as Elena Poniatowska's "Todo México", page 144).[8]

On December 2005, Irish pop singer Bono, read in Spanish some of the lines of the poem on Mexican TV show Teletón México 2005 and attributed them to the "Chilean poet Borges."[9]

The attribution error was so extended that even the poet and scholar Alastair Reid translated one of the Spanish versions into English under the belief that it was a work from Borges. Reid's translations starts,

If I were able to live my life again,
next time I would try to make more mistakes.
I would not try to be so perfect. I would be more relaxed.
I would be much more foolish than I have been. In fact,
I would take very few things seriously.
I would be much less sanitary.[10]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Internetaleph, Martin Hadis' site on The Life & Works of Jorge Luis Borges. Retrieved January 10, 2011
  2. ^ a b University of Pittsburgh, Borges Center Jorge Luis Borges, autor del poema "Instantes", by Iván Almeida. Retrieved January 10, 2011
  3. ^ I'd Pick More Daisies, full text, Living Life Fully Retrieved January 10, 2011
  4. ^ If I Had My Life To Live Over, by Dinning Sisters, Capitol Records, 1947. Retrieved January 10, 2011
  5. ^ If I had my life to live over, full text as attributed to Nadine Stair in a blog. Retrieved January 10, 2011
  6. ^ A text with the title If I Had My Life to Live Over is attributed to "Nadine Stair" in a compilation of works under the same title by Sandra Martz, ISBN 978-0-918949-25-7
  7. ^ "Jorge Luis Borges, autor del poema "Instantes"". 
  8. ^ a b Almeida, op. cit.
  9. ^ Envía Bono, de U2, mensaje de aliento durante Teletón, El Universal online, December 3, 2005. Retrieved January 10, 2011. Bono was interviewed by telephone
  10. ^ "Moments", translated by Alastair Reid. Queen’s Quarterly 99.3, Fall 1992. Cited by Iván Almeida