Citara de carmin que amaneciste

Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, the last notable Spanish language poet of the 17th century, featured on this blog on October 6th. Her life in the Viceroy’s court in Mexico, and subsequently as a nun in a convent gave her the opportunity of great wordly and artistic success but ultimately she was trapped in her religious role. Today’s poem is an ode to a songbird,but has added resonance with the idea that death will come inevitably and the manner of death can be brought about by the talents and successes of life.

Consider the linnet…

Cítara de carmín que amaneciste

Cítara de carmín que amaneciste
trinando endechas a tu amada esposa
y, paciéndole el ámbar a la rosa,
el pico de oro, de coral teñiste;

dulce jilguero, pajarito triste,
que apenas el aurora viste hermosa
cuando el tono primero de una glosa
la muerte hallaste y el compás perdiste:

no hay en la vida, no, segura suerte;
tu misma voz al cazador convida
para que el golpe cuando tire acierte.

¡Oh fortuna buscada aunque temida!
¿Quién pensara que cómplice en tu muerte
fuera, por no callar, tu propia vida?

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz
From <;


The sonnet quickly passes from the mood of joy at seeing and hearing the songbird, to sadness at its brief life and inevitable death. The final six lines of the sonnet states the paradox that it is the beauty of the birdsong which attracts predators and brings about the bird’s own demise. The parallel with Sor Juana’s own experience is clear and full of pathos, as it was her own poetic voice and the success of it, which led to her being increasingly confined and prevented from pursuing her art.

Much poetry of this era can be seen as conventional and lacking real passion; in the case of Sor Juana and this poem in particular, we can make a real connection between the theme of the poem and her own life, which adds even more to its resonance and impact. And of course it can make us think about our own mortality and our own role in the manner and time of it…


The Poetry Dude


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