Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz

(1646-95)

Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz is a unique figure in Colonial Mexico: a strong and educated woman in a period dominated by representatives of the Spanish crown and by a very strong presence of the Catholic church.
She learned to read and do math when very young and had a strong desire for higher learning, but as a girl was not allowed to go to university.
Her maternal grandfather had a very large library, and she learned Latin and Nahuatl, and later would be a supporter of the importance of learning other languages.
As a teenager, she went to the court of the Vicereine in Mexico City. There Sor Juana wrote poetry, and poets, theologians, philosophers and other academics were invited to the palace to question her. She became known as the “Tenth Muse”.
Most of her life was spent in the Convent of Santa Paula of the Hieronymites in Mexico City. She chose a cloistered life to dedicate herself to studying and to teaching young nuns. Her library had over 4000 books and musical instruments.
She was targeted by church fathers who felt women shouldn’t be educated. She responded to the attacks in her Reply to Sister Philotea, defending women’s rights and advocating for the education of women.
The church censored her for her criticism of the misogyny and hypocrisy of men.
She died in a plague ministering to other nuns.
Sor Juana was a proponent of education for women, as a supporter of indigenous languages, and by Octavio Paz, as a link with many of the social and literary movements of the day.

Links:

https://www.britannica.com/biography/Sor-Juana-Ines-de-la-Cruz
https://www.biography.com/writer/sor-juana-ines-de-la-cruz

Hombres necios que acusáis…

Hombres necios que acusáis
a la mujer sin razón,
sin ver que sois la ocasión
de lo mismo que culpáis:

si con ansia sin igual
solicitáis su desdén,
¿por qué quereis que obren bien
si las incitáis al mal?

Combatís su resistencia
y luego, con gravedad,
decís que fue liviandad
lo que hizo la diligencia.

Parecer quiere el denuedo
de vuestro parecer loco,
al niño que pone el coco
y luego le tiene miedo.

Queréis, con presunción necia,
hallar a la que buscáis,
para pretendida, Thais,
y en la posesión, Lucrecia

¿Qué humor puede ser más raro
que el que, falto de consejo,
el mismo empaña el espejo
y siente que no esté claro?

Con el favor y el desdén
tenéis condición igual,
quejándoos, si os tratan mal,
burlándoos, si os quieren bien.

Opinión, ninguna gana:
pues la que más se recata,
si no os admite, es ingrata,
y si os admite, es liviana

Siempre tan necios andáis
que, con desigual nivel,
a una culpáis por crüel
y a otra por fácil culpáis.

¿Pues cómo ha de estar templada
la que vuestro amor pretende,
si la que es ingrata, ofende,
y la que es fácil, enfada?

Mas, entre el enfado y pena
que vuestro gusto refiere,
bien haya la que no os quiere
y quejaos en hora buena.

Dan vuestras amantes penas
a sus libertades alas,
y después de hacerlas malas
las queréis hallar muy buenas.

¿Cuál mayor culpa ha tenido
en una pasión errada:
la que cae de rogada
o el que ruega de caído?

¿O cuál es más de culpar,
aunque cualquiera mal haga:
la que peca por la paga
o el que paga por pecar?

Pues ¿para quée os espantáis
de la culpa que tenéis?
Queredlas cual las hacéis
o hacedlas cual las buscáis.

Dejad de solicitar,
y después, con más razón,
acusaréis la afición
de la que os fuere a rogar.

Bien con muchas armas fundo
que lidia vuestra arrogancia,
pues en promesa e instancia
juntáis diablo, carne y mundo.



You foolish men, who accuse…

You foolish men, who accuse
Women without good reason,
You are the cause of what you blame,
Yours the guilt you deny:

If you seek the love of women to win
With ardor beyond compare
Why require them to be good,
When tis you who urge their sin?

You break down their resistance,
Then declare quite seriously,
That their lightness has achieved
What you won by your persistence.

You seek with stupid presumption,
To find her whom you pursue,
To be Thais when you woo her,
And Lucretia in your possession.

No woman can you really win;
Since even the most discreet,
Is ungrateful if she keeps you out,
And loose if she lets you in.

So where is the woman born,
Who would gain your love,
If an ungrateful woman displeases,
And a complaisant one you scorn.

Your amorous labors give
Wings to their indiscretions,
When you have made women wicked
You wish them virtuously to live.

In a passion that is guilty
Who bears the greater blame:
She who fails on being entreated,
Or he who fails to make entreaty?

Or when each is guilty of sin
Which is the most to blame:
She who sins for payment,
Or he who pays for the sin?

Why are you so surprised
At the fault that is your own?
Either prize women as you make them,
Or make them to be prized.

To them no longer urge your suit,
And then with much more reason,
Can you blame their affection
When they are in pursuit.

To assert this I have every right
Your pride has many weapons,
Your persistence and your promises
Devil, world, and flesh unite.

Finjamos que soy feliz…

Que loca ambición nos lleva
de nosotros olvidados?
si es para vivir tan poco
de que sirve saber tanto?

Oh, si como hay de saber,
hubiera algún seminario
o escuela donde a ignorar
se enseñaran los trabajos,

qué felizmente viviera
el que, flojamente cauto
burlara las amenazas
del influjo de los astros!

Let us pretend that I am happy…

What mad ambition drives us
to forget ourselves, to our grief?
What use is all our learning,
when human life is so brief?

What we need is a seminar
with no other aim than showing
not the ways of human learning
but the comforts of not knowing.

Exempt from need for caution,
taking pleasure in all things,
we’d scoff at whatever threats
the stars’ influence brings.

Thought, lets learn not to know,
since so plainly it appears
that whatever we add to our minds
we take away from our years.

Translated by Alan S. Trueblood

A su retrato

Este, que ves, engaño colorido,
que del arte ostentando los primores,
con falsos silogismos de colores
es cauteloso engano del sentido;
este, en quien la lisonja ha pretendido
excusar de los anos los horrores,
y venciendo del tiempo los rigores
triunfar de la vejez y del olvido,

es un vano artificio del cuidado
es una flor al viento delicada,
es un resguardo inutil para el hado:
es una necia diligencia errada,
es un afan caduco y, bien mirado,
es cadaver, es polvo, es sombra, es nada.

To her portrait

These lying pigments facing you,
with every charm brush can supply,
set up false premises of color
to lead astray the unwary eye;
Here, against ghastly tolls of time,
bland flattery has staked a claim,
defying the power of passing years
to wipe out memory and name.

And here, in this hollow artifice,
frail blossom hanging on the wind,
vain pleading in a foolish cause:
poor shield against what fate has wrought,
all efforts fail and in the end,
a body goes to dust, to shade, to nought.

Translated by Alan S. Trueblood

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