Amor empieza por desasosiego,

This is a very satisfying, logically constructed, analytical sonnet by Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, in which she dispassionately lays out the successive phases of a love affair and then uses it to console a friend who is suffering because he is in the final stages of the process in which jealousy and suspicion darkens any relationship. The process is very like what Marcel Proust describes in the various love affairs described in A la Recherche du Temps Perdu, except here, Sor Juana effectively nails the subject in a fourteen-line sonnet, whereas Proust takes a couple of thousand pages or so.

So here is Sor Juana’s Advice to a Jealous Lover…


Amor empieza por desasosiego,

solicitud, ardores y desvelos;

crece con riesgos, lances y recelos;

susténtase de llantos y de ruego.

Doctrínanle tibiezas y despego,

conserva el ser entre engañosos velos,

hasta que con agravios o con celos

apaga con sus lágrimas su fuego.

Su principio, su medio y fin es éste:

¿pues por qué, Alcino, sientes el desvío

de Celia, que otro tiempo bien te quiso?

¿Qué razón hay de que dolor te cueste?

Pues no te engañó amor, Alcino mío,

sino que llegó el término preciso.

From <>

The first four lines succinctly describe the first three phases of a love affair – unease, caring, passion; then daring and risk-taking; then dependence as revealed by needy claims on the lover. The second stanza proceeds through the cooling of passion but the awakening of jealousy, justified or unjustified, which starts to extinguish the flames of love. This the arc of many love affairs, and Sor Juana has described it in just eight lines.

In the remainder of the poem, Sor Juana addresses a lover, reminding him that the course of love is always like this, with a beginning a middle and an end – so why should Alcino, the lover, be upset by this completely natural course of events? There is no blame to be attached to either Alcino or his lover, Celia. So there is no point in suffering as a result – all that has happened is that this love affair has reached its natural end.

Sound and balanced advice indeed, but any lover would likely not be receptive to it until much later.

The Poetry Dude


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