So what did Borges think when he first learned
that Camoes dueled and beat a Borges (who
collapsed to the bloody street) when he returned
back home from Lisbon in 1552?
Maybe he said, “Ah, blades, of course, why not?”
Or maybe, he wished that it was him in the heat
of the fight, self-assured and fearless, hot
to wield his sword, gracious in defeat.
Admitting, “If a Borges has to lose,
it’s best to lose to this crazy Senhor
Camoes”—even this young one, flush with booze,
this one-eyed no-account, long before
the sonnets, long before the going mad
in Goa, and long before the Lusiad.

—William Baer

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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 20 Number 10, on page 48
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