Study Guide

Final Tree

by Lucila Godoy Alcayaga

Final Tree Summary

Summary (Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Mistral chose “Final Tree” as the epilogue for her last book, Lagar, and ever since it has been printed as the closing poem in collections of her work. This placement is fitting not only because of the poem’s subject matter but also because it is one among many of the later poems that demonstrate the furthest refinement of Mistral’s ability to express her inner life through natural imagery.

The speaker of the poem is anticipating her own death. She represents the event figuratively as the act of returning her body, fulfilled and completed like a piece of “fretwork,” to the last of her trees. She fears that, in what she calls her “second life,” she will lack the “solace/ of freshness and silence” the tree offers her and that all she has learned and experienced will have been taken from her. To prevent such a wasteful forgetting, the speaker bequeaths to her final tree, for safekeeping, the experiences that have matured her body and educated her spirit. Among these are her times of mourning and her times of joy, her moments of silence and her moments of song, and the solitudes she has brought upon herself and those forced upon her by the betrayal or absence of others.

It is not inappropriate to see in this list of leave-takings a final tribute to Mistral’s art. It is entirely fitting that the poet who, as a girl, spent hours in her father’s garden talking to flowers and birds should choose a tree as the symbol of...

(The entire section is 480 words.)

Final Tree Bibliography (Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Agosín, Marjorie, ed. Gabriela Mistral: The Audacious Traveler. Athens: Ohio University Press, 2003.

Arce de Basquez, Margot. Gabriela Mistral: The Poet and Her Work. Translated by Helene Masslo. New York: New York University Press, 1964.

Castleman, William J. Beauty and the Mission of the Teacher: The Life of Gabriela Mistral of Chile, Teacher, Poetess, Friend of the Helpless, Nobel Laureate. Smithtown, N.Y.: Exposition Press, 1982.

Fiol-Matta, Lucia. A Queer Mother for the Nation: The State and Gabriela Mistral. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2002.

Gazarian-Gautier, Marie-Lise. Gabriela Mistral: The Teacher from the Valley of Elqui. Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press, 1975.

Marchant, Elizabeth A. “Nation and Motherhood in Gabriela Mistral.” In Critical Acts: Latin American Women and Cultural Criticism. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1999.

Pan-American Union, Department of Cultural Affairs. Gabriela Mistral. Washington, D.C.: Author, 1958.

Preston, Mary Charles Ann, Sr. A Study of Significant Variants in the Poetry of Gabriela Mistral. Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 1964.

Taylor, Martin C. Gabriela Mistral’s Religious Sensibility. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1968.