There is danger in writing poetry. There is danger in venturing into the world, armed with verse. There is danger in displaying the poetry of the heart to the world. In that regard, Sor Juana was a hero and a warrior.
For my part, I view Sor Juana as either my muse, or the bearer of the muse that in turn inspires me. Were the sonnets to flow in perfection from my fingers as they did from her ink-dipped quill, I would be trembling with delight. Instead, I’m still waiting, holding my breath–holding that inspiration inside until it pours out.
Below is one of her sonnets that is all about risk. Sometimes, analyzing risk is paralyzing. I will post her sonnet, and then a translation by Margaret Sayers Peden*. Translations are tricky, and I often find that remaining true to the syllabic and rhyme may cause a loss of meaning. Sayers Peden’s translation is not at all bad, and you will understand the gist of the poem.
Encarece de animosidad la elección de estado durable hasta la muerte
Si los riesgos del mar considerara,
ninguno se embarcara; si antes viera
bien su peligro, nadie se atreviera
ni al bravo toro osado provocara.
Si del fogoso bruto ponderara
la furia desbocada en la carrera
el jinete prudente, nunca hubiera
quien con discreta mano lo enfrenara.
Pero si hubiera alguno tan osado
que, no obstante el peligro, al mismo Apolo
quisiese gobernar con atrevida
mano el rápido carro en luz bañado,
todo lo hiciera, y no tomara sólo
estado que ha de ser toda la vida.
Spiritedly, She Considers the Choice of a State Enduring Unto Death
Were the perils of the ocean fully weighed,
no man would voyage, or, could he but read
the hidden dangers, knowingly proceed
or dare to bait the bull to frenzied rage.
Were prudent rider overly dismayed,
should he contemplate the fury of his steed
or ponder where its headlong course might lead,
there’d be no reining hand to be obeyed.
But were there one so daring, one so bold
that, heedless of the danger, he might place,
upon Apollo’s reins, emboldened hand
to guide the fleeting chariot bathed in gold,
the diversity of life he would embrace
and never choose a state to last his span.
If you would like to learn more about Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, the great Mexican poet and nun, click here.
Tomorrow night, I will actually post a new flash fiction story by. . . me!
*Both poems I copied out from Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz: Poems, Protest, and a Dream, published by Penguins Classics, 1997.