Poets seem to forget that, at one time, the telling of a tale was essential, and the telling of the tale and the uttering of the verse were not thought of as different things. A man told a tale; he sang it; and his hearers did not think of him as a man attempting two tasks, but rather as a man attempting one task that had two sides to it. Or perhaps they did not feel that there were two sides to it, but rather thought of the whole thing as one essential thing... [I]f the telling of a tale and the singing of a verse could come together again, then a very important thing might happen.
Walter Pater wrote that all art aspires to the condition of music. The obvious reason (I speak as a layman of course) would be that, in music, form and substance cannot be torn asunder. Melody, or any piece of music, is a pattern of sounds and pauses unwinding itself in time, a pattern that I do not suppose can be torn. The melody is merely the pattern, and the emotions it sprang from, and the emotions it awakens. The Austrian critic Hanslick wrote that music is a language we can use, that we can understand, but that we are unable to translate.
After all, what are words? If I use a word, then you should have some experience of what the word stands for. If not, the word means nothing to you. I think we can only allude, we can only try to make the reader imagine. The reader, if he is quick enough, can be satisfied with our merely hinting at something.
From “The Telling of the Tale” in This Craft of Verse, by Jorge Luis Borges
Translated from the Spanish by Richard Howard and César Rennert.