Today is Independence Day in Argentina. La Patria was very important to Borges, though he usually wasn’t in agreement with the popular governments. More on that in another posting.
Borges wrote a poem, “Página para recordar al coronel Suárez, vencedor en Junín”, in memory of one of his ancestors who led one of the last battles for independence against Spain on August 6, 1824.
Borges writes in the poem that the battle was only with swords and lances, “not a single shot fired”. I don’t know if that’s historically accurate but it would be interesting, in terms of military history, for a battle at that time not to have gunfire.
Composed in the early 1960s, here is the last stanza of that poem:
His great-grandson is writing these lines
and a silent voice comes to him out of the past,
out of the blood:
“What does my battle at Junín matter if it is only
a glorious memory, or a date learned by rote
for an examination, or a place in the atlas?
The battle is everlasting and can do without
the pomp of actual armies and of trumpets.
Junín is two civilians cursing a tyrant
on a street corner,
or an unknown man somewhere, dying in prison.
Su bisnieto escribe estos versos y una tácita voz
desde lo antiguo de la sangre le llega:
– Qué importa mi batalla de Junín si es una gloriosa memoria,
una fecha que se aprende para un examen o un lugar en el atlas,
La batalla es eterna y puede prescindir de la pompa
de visibles ejércitos con clarines:
Junín son dos civiles que en una esquina maldicen a un tirano,
o un hombre oscuro que se muere en la carcel.