Comes the Dawn by Jorge Luis Borges explores the highs and lows of relationships, and above all else the realisation of the importance of self-love.
Comes the Dawn by Jorge Luis Borges moves through the idea of ‘learning’ different ideas through relationships – the difference between permanent and temporary relationships, what is ’love’ and what is only ‘company’, ‘defeats’ and moments where you can hold your head high. You will eventually learn that nothing is certain in the future, so you much make the most of today, and love yourself first, and above all else. You can’t wait for others to realise your brilliance, you must see it for yourself.
Borges splits Comes the Dawn into 9 stanzas. The line length of the stanzas varies, moving between 2-4 lines. The changing structure reflects Borges’ idea that the future is never certain, things can change in an instant and this must be remembered.
You can read the full poem here.
Borges employs a great deal of anaphora within Comes the Dawn, almost every stanza beginning with ‘And’ or ‘After’, compounding a sense of time passing. There is a repetition to the poem, but not to the point to which it can ever be depended upon – as soon as you think the structure is stable and repeating, it changes. This form is again a reflection of Borges’ appreciation of life, having learned that nothing is permanent.
Another technique that Borges uses throughout the poem is alliteration. The repeating structure within the aural qualities of Comes the Dawn give the poem a slight musicality, with Borges almost preaching a lesson to the reader. The repeating sounds, often in the form of sibilance, create an atmospheric calm when reading the poem. This poem is aimed at teaching, but does it in slowly and subtly.
Comes the Dawn Analysis
The first stanza employs enjambement throughout, only finishing on the last word of the stanza. This form suggests the passing of time, with the metrical speed that builds as the poem continues reflecting this concept. Indeed, Borges is exploring the transience of love and relationships, and is therefore touching on time as a central theme.
There is a stalk difference between ‘hand’ and ‘soul\ within the first stanza, showing both forms of a relationship – serious and temporary. Borges argues that over time ‘you’ will learn the difference between ‘holding a hand / and chaining a soul’. The action of ‘holding’ is temporary, it can be stopped at any moment and will seem unimportant in the long-term. Yet, the use of ‘chaining’, combined with the Neo-Platonic idea of true love found within the combining of ‘souls’, creates a sense of devotion. These ‘souls’ are combined, be it for good or bad, they are ‘chained’ together and cannot escape one another. Borges argues that over time ‘you’ will learn to see these two situations as ‘subtly’ different things – perhaps in the moment you will be unable to tell, yet time will bring clarity.
The triple repetition of ‘learn’ across the first three stanzas engages with the idea of self-development and improvement. It is time that helps us to understand the world around us, especially those we impact through relationships. Love, and life, is about ‘learning’, growing and becoming more conscious of the impact you are having.
There is a certain level of transience that Borges colocates with his ideas of love. The idea of ‘company’ can be stripped away quickly, indeed, ‘it does not mean security’. Some relationships, even those you thought integral to who you are, can come and go – time will heal and help you to ‘learn’ from your actions.
This sense of relationships being fleeting and uncertain is furthered by ‘kisses aren’t contracts’, there is no moral obligation to stay with someone solely based on a physical connection. Gift and ‘presents’ don’t mean ‘promises’, nothing in certain in affection and love.
Love will teach you ‘defeat’, Borges is quite clear on this. Yet, it will also help ‘your head up and your eyes open’, the restorative and invigorating process of learning helping to expand and teach.
Borges argues that you must only trust in the present, ‘build all your roads on today’, knowing that it is only this very moment in which we are truly experiencing and can therefore trust. The ‘futures’ of ‘tomorrow’ are ‘uncertain’, far to ‘uncertain for plans’, they have a tendency of ‘falling down in mid-flight’. Borges urges the reader to not trust in plans of the future, it is the present moment which must always be the focus. The repeated fricative of this line, ‘futures have a way of falling down in mid-flight’, is abrupt, suggesting the uncaring truth of this moment. Borges isn’t writing to make you feel better, he is writing to teach.
Even the happiest relationships of your life, those of ‘sunshine’, can be negative, actually ‘burn[ing]’ in hindsight. Although happy, being in a relationship may not be the right fit for you in this very moment. Borges takes the image of ‘sunlight’, often representing happiness and joy, and connects it with fire, ‘sunlight burns if you get too much’. No relationship, no matter the stability, is certain.
The most important lines within Comes the Dawn arrive in the seventh stanza, ‘So you plant your own garden and decorate your own souls / instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers’. Borges is suggesting that instead of waiting, and waisting, life on simply expecting someone to arrive and make you happy, take control of your own life. Be your own source of happiness, ‘plant your own flowers’, ‘decorate’ being a central verb that suggests the self inflicted joy that arrives when one begins to love and respect themselves.
Borges uses a repeating structure in the eight stanza, affirming the idea that self-love is a fantastic habit to foster through the metric emphasis placed on the final word of each line. He emphasises ‘endure’, ‘strong’ and ‘worth’, all three combining to present a sense of possibility and independence that self-love can reward. If you learn to love yourself first, you will be able to ‘endure’ those relationships that aren’t right for you – you are strong and know you ‘have worth’.
The final stanza is comprised of only two lines. The process the Borges has been referring to throughout is repeated here, ‘you learn and learn…’, the infinite continuation of this process insinuated through the use of an ellipsis , creating a deliberate pause that extends at this prominent moment in Comes the Dawn. The frank statement concludes the poem, shattering the meter with bluntness, ‘with every goodbye you learn’. There is no perfect rhyme to conclude the poem, it simply ends – a representation of what Borges has been trying to argue. Nothing is certain, nothing beautiful is promised. But with everyone you say ‘goodbye’ to, everyone you experience and move on from, you grow stronger. You learn and learn and learn.