Here's a poem by Borges that I tried to translate into English:

A Un Gato

No son más silenciosos los espejos
ni más furtiva el alba aventurera;
eres, bajo la luna, esa pantera
que nos es dado divisar de lejos.
Por obra indescifrable de un decreto
divino, te buscamos vanamente;
más remoto que el Ganges y el poniente,
tuya es la soledad, tuyo el secreto.
Tu lomo condesciende a la morosa
caricia de mi mano. Has admitido,
desde esa eternidad que ya es olvido,
el amor de la mano recelosa.
En otro tiempo estás. Eres el dueño
de un ámbito cerrado como un sueño.
—Jorge Luis Borges

I'm not thoroughly satisfied with my attempt:

Of A Cat

None are more silent mirrors
nor more furtive venturing dawn;
under the moon, you are that panther
which we are given to spy from afar.
By indecipherable work of decree
divine, we search for you in vain;
more remote than the Ganges and the west wind,
yours is the solitude, yours the secret.
Your back condescends to the lingering
caress of my hand. You have admitted,
from that eternity that already is forgotten,
the love of the distrustful hand.
You exist in another time. You are the landlord
of a closed circle like a dream.

In particular, the last two lines are difficult for me to understand in Spanish, let alone render in English. How should I understand "un ámbito cerrado"?

I've seen a few other English renderings online:

And of course Google Translate suggests:

  • You are the master in a closed environment like a dream.
  • 1
    Side comment: reading the title and the poem, a more adequate translation for the former would be To a Cat (not of a cat)
    – Rafael
    May 11, 2017 at 23:00
  • The renderings you quoted work much better than what you proposed. For example, "landlord" is all wrong, because there's no renting going on; "cerrado como" isn't "closed like" here, but rather, "as closed as" or "as closed off as." Jun 29, 2018 at 6:06
  • I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because we shouldn't be translating poetry. If you're not sure what a certain phrase means, that's different, and we can try to help with that. Jun 29, 2018 at 6:09

3 Answers 3


Ámbito as defined by the Real Academia Española:


(Del lat. ambĭtus).

  1. m. Contorno o perímetro de un espacio o lugar.

  2. m. Espacio comprendido dentro de límites determinados.

  3. m. Espacio ideal configurado por las cuestiones y los problemas de una o varias actividades o disciplinas relacionadas entre sí. Esto pertenece al ámbito de la psicología, no al de la sociología.

Which means that it can be an environment a perimeter or a context. But be aware that in the case of the poem IMHO and interpretation it doesn't represent a place in space, but rather an attitude and a time, something rather foreign. So the last two verses I would translate them as follows:

En otro tiempo estás. Eres el dueño de un ámbito cerrado como un sueño.


You exist in another time.You are the owner

of a closed circle like a dream.


You exist in another time. You are the owner

of a closed world like a dream.


Literally, ámbito can be translated as context.

The cat owns its own world, inaccessible like a dream. Those English renderings seem quite correct to me.


The translation I would have rendered for "ámbito cerrado" is a "closed system." But your "closed circle" is more than adequate, and actually more poetic.

  • The tricky thing about translating poetry is to make the result match some of the "feel" of the source, which isn't always possible. (Thanks for the affirmation. ;-) Nov 16, 2011 at 17:09

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