Poet, scholar, feminist, genius, nun & Scorpio…as the illegitimate daughter of a Spanish Sea Captain, she had NO rights but nonetheless taught herself Latin, Greek and even Aztec as a teenager. She basically had to enter a convent to acquire the education she craved and then – during the Spanish Inquisition – she started churning incendiary material.
“…In her poem Redondillas she defends a woman’s right to be respected as a human being. Therein, she also criticizes the sexism of the society of her time, poking fun at and revealing the hypocrisy of men who publicly condemn prostitutes, yet privately pay women to perform on them what they have just said is an abomination to God. Sor Juana asks the sharp question in this age-old matter of the purity/whoredom split found in base male mentality: “Who sins more, she who sins for pay? Or he who pays for sin?”
As widely condemned in her day as she was famous and adored, some say De La Cruz was THE most important poet of the 17th Century, influencing Walt Whitman, Emily Dickensen and so forth.
She even wove theme of Hermetic magic into some of her poems. So Scorp.
Pyramidal, funereal and Earthen
Born like shadow and aimed in vain
Like the raised point of an obelisk
Set towards the sky.
Climbing and striving in vain for the stars
Which, though beautiful ,
Sparkle and are exempt,
Far from the vapour of war,
From it’s fugitive shade
They mock at a distance.
The frowning bronze of their rays
Failing to touch the convex surface of this globe.
Property of the of the Goddess,
Who is thrice beautiful,
And Boasts three beautiful faces
And who owns the air that she blots and soaks
With the denseness of her breath.
So that in this quiet and contentment
In this imperial silence,
Even the voices of the night birds,
So dark and grave
That even the silence won’t interrupt them,
Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz
Imagine having the guts (and genius) to write this sort of thing in the middle of the Spanish Inquisition. She also wrote feminist political tracts against male hypocrisy. Amazing.
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