Updated September 3, 2021
My Lady by Sor Juana Ines De La Cruz
Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (1648? – 1695)
The bells of passion and love in poetry chime uninterrupted through the centuries. In this poem, one lady implores another. Quite the expression for the times and especially for a female poet.
Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz was a bold and courageous woman who was also a nun, eventually reproached for her writing and then cowed into penance. Another fine work is here: You Foolish Men (internal link).
This reading is by the best female narrator of poetry, Ghizela Rowe. Her page is here:
This unknown translator was very clever. He or she found English rhyming words to closely match those in Spanish. Tricky.
My lady, I must implore
forgiveness for keeping still,
if what I meant as tribute
ran contrary to your will.
Please do not reproach me if the course I have maintained
in the eagerness of my love
left my silence unexplained.
I love you with so much passion,
neither rudeness nor neglect can explain why I tied my tongue,
yet left my heart unchecked.
The matter to me was simple:
love for you was so strong,
I could see you in my soul
and talk to you all day long.
With this idea in mind,
I lived in utter delight,
pretending my subterfuge
found favor in your sight.
In this strange, ingenious fashion,
I allowed the hope to be mine
that I still might see as human
what I really conceived as divine.
Oh, how mad I became
in my blissful love of you,
for even though feigned, your favor
made all my madness seem true!
How unwisely my ardent love,
which your glorious sun inflamed, sought to feed upon your brightness,
though the risk of your fire was plain!
Forgive me if, thus emboldened,
I made bold with that sacred fire:
there’s no sanctuary secure
when thought’s transgressions conspire.
Thus it was I kept indulging
these foolhardy hopes of mine,
enjoying within myself
a happiness sublime.
But now, at your solemn bidding,
this silence I herewith suspend,
for your summons unlocks in me
a respect no time can end.
And, although loving your beauty
is a crime beyond repair,
rather the crime be chastised
than my fervor cease to dare.
With this confession in hand,
I pray, be less stern with me.
Do not condemn to distress
one who fancied bliss so free.
If you blame me for disrespect,
remember, you gave me leave;
thus, if obedience was wrong,
your commanding must be my reprieve.
Let my love be ever doomed
if guilty in its intent,
for loving you is a crime
of which I will never repent.
This much I descry in my feelings–
and more that I cannot explain;
but you, from what I’ve not said,
may infer what words won’t contain.
Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz