Two versions of “Ritter, Tod und Teufel”
Beneath the chimerical helmet the severe
Profile is cruel like the cruel sword
That waits. All through the despoiled forest
Rides imperturbable the horseman near.
Torpid, furtive, the obscene unspeakable band
Has surrounded him: the Devil with servile
Eyes, the twining labyrinth of reptiles
And the faded ancient with clock of sand.
Horseman of iron, whoever looks upon you
Knows that in you dwells no shred of falsehood
Nor of pallid fear. Your hard gest
Is to order and insult. You are valiant
And ever fail in worthiness you shall not,
German, of the Devil and of Death.
Twofold are the ways. That of this man
Of iron and superbia, and who rides,
Firm in his faith, through the doubtful forest
Of the world, between the jeering and the dance
Immobile of the Devil and of Death,
And the other, brief, mine. In what effaced
Antique night or morning did my eyes
Discover the first time the fantastic epic,
The perdurable dream that is of Dürer,
The hero and the band of all his shadows
That seek me out, watch and come to meet:
Me, not the paladin, exhorts the faded
Ancient with his coronet of sinuous
Snakes. The clepsydra of succession
Measures my time, not his eternal now.
I shall be ash itself and darkness too;
I, who started after, shall have reached
My mortal end; you, who are not at all,
You, horseman of the upright sword
And of the rigid forest, your wayfaring
Shall proceed so long as men abide...
Imperturbable, imaginary, eternal.
Jorge Luis Borges