Verde embeleso de la vida humana

Here is a sonnet from the last great poet of the Spanish literary and political golden age, Sor Juana Ines del la Cruz, living and writing in Mexico in the second half of the seventeenth century, where she was successively a prominent courtier and a nun. It is entitled ” A la esperanza”, to hope.
Verde embeleso de la vida humana

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz
A la esperanza, escrito en uno de sus retratos

Verde embeleso de la vida humana,
loca esperanza, frenesí dorado,
sueño de los despiertos intrincado,
como de sueños, de tesoros vana;

alma del mundo, senectud lozana,
decrépito verdor imaginado,
el hoy de los dichosos esperado
y de los desdichados el mañana:

sigan tu sombra en busca de tu día
los que, con verdes vidrios por anteojos,
todo lo ven pintado a su deseo:

que yo, más cuerda en la fortuna mía,
tengo en entrambas manos ambos ojos
y solamente lo que toco veo.


From <;

We usually think of hope as positive, an attitude we should strive to maintain, even in the face of adversity. Here the poet reveals that hope is an illusion, vain and without connection to reality. The poet knows better – she trusts only in the tangible, she sees only what she can touch. Hope is portrayed as a departure from reality, but at the end of the day, it is only concrete reality which counts. This is the final payoff in the poem, revealed in the last three lines, leaving the reader grounded in the poem’s message.

The poem has some great examples of baroque wordplay “sueno de los despiertos”, “el hoy de los dichosos esperado/ y de los desdichados la manana”. It is fun to appreciate how this works to create sense out of incongruity and to keep the reader alert to the poets skill at using words creatively.

Sor Juana’s life is fascinating, and I recommend the biography written a few years ago by the modern Mexican poet, Octavio Paz, entitled “Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz o las trampas de la fe”, not only is it extremely enlightening about the age, about the position of women, the role of religion, social norms, but it is also an ultimately tragic portrait of a multi-faceted and talented woman.


2 thoughts on “Verde embeleso de la vida humana

  1. I want say something about the difference between these two states; hope and reality. We use to consider hope as a positive attitude one should have against adversity when one put in a plan to achieve. That is true, but considering what Juan has portrays about hope being vain and just an illusion leaves us more room for debate.
    That is especially to me because I am doing some work on our state of mind on that particular issue.
    That is between our dreams, hopes, thoughts, ideas and reality. It is more on the positive aspect of it.
    That is; the vision between hope,dream, ideas and thoughts is bright and very clear and points directly to reality. One’s hope or ideas are answered the very instant with such speed that the vision between hope and reality does not have any illusion at all.
    In such state of mind there is no doubts and confusion that are normally the cause of our illusion and vainness. It is the state where one’ dreams, hopes, ideas and thoughts really works!….
    It is an ideal state I am portraying! And it is very true and in that state our dreams and hopes are connected with real and tangible things. This is the world I am currently living right now!
    With that; I think that confusions, doubts and all sorts of issues and problems acts as impediments or blockage between Juan’s hope and reality.
    But this is not the way I think so! I think that the connections between hope and reality does exist, and it is very bright, vivid right now in my world.
    I have discourse this state of mind in my collections of poems which am working on and which I will publish soon.
    But all in all Juan’s portrayal of hope and reality leaves more room for argue!..
    Anyway, bye for now.
    It is a good discussion I like it!


    1. Thank you for the comment, if the poem makes you think, it is fulfilling a useful function. I think that in this poem hope is seen as escapism or fantasy and therefore an obstacle to getting to grips with real life. At the end of the day, there is no difference between a glass half-full and a glass half-empty, it is what we do with it which is important.

      I hope you are enjoying these poems.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s