poem 174

[Although in vain, she wishes to convert the sufferings of a jealous man
to a rational process.]

What’s this, Alcino? How could your good sense
allow its own defeat by jealousy,
and show the world, in wild extremes of rage,
this spectacle of one gone mad or worse?
Now how has Celia hurt you, if she grieves?
Again, why do you blame Love of deceit
if he has never promised, for all his power,
lasting possession of such loveliness?
Our possession of temporal things
is temporal, my friend; it is abuse
to wish to guard them always as they were.
Your ignorance or your error I accuse,
because both Fate and Love, of things like these,
have given us not ownership, but use.

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz

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poem 149

She weighs the difficulties of electing a way of life
that must last until death

With all the hazards of the sea in mind,
no one would set sail; if in advance
the dangers were foreseen, no one would dare
so much as taunt the mad bull in the ring.
If the prudent rider were to weigh
the unleashed fury of a pounding beast
set free to race, we would not see
anyone set a skilled hand to the reins.
But if one showed such brave audacity
as, despite the peril, to aspire
to take in hand the blazing chariot
of the great god Apollo, drenched in light:
that one would do it all, not simply choose
a way of life that must endure till death.

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz

poem 145

[She endeavors to expose the praises recorded in a portrait
of the Poetess by truth, which she calls passion.]

This object which you see — a painted snare
exhibiting the subtleties of art
with clever arguments of tone and hue —
is but a cunning trap to snare your sense;
this object, in which flattery has tried
to overlook the horrors of the years
and, conquering the ravages of time,
to overcome oblivion and age:
this is an empty artifice of care,
a flower, fragile, set out in the wind,
a letter of safe-conduct sent to Fate;
it is a foolish, erring diligence,
a palsied will to please which, clearly seen,
is a corpse, is dust, is shadow, and is gone.

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz