“This afternoon, my love,” from the group of poems “De Amor y de Discreción” (“Of Love and Discretion”), is a classical sonnet. It is composed of an envelope-rhymed octave followed by an ababab sestet—embodying, according to the rules of the sonnet, “the statement and the resolution of a single theme,” here given in the caption “She Answers Suspicions in the Rhetoric of Tears.” This description establishes that a woman in love is pleading with a jealous lover.
Although all her love poems were commissioned, and it is therefore impossible to tell whose poetic “voice” is speaking to the reader, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz prefers to speak in the first-person singular (the “she” of the caption refers to herself in an ironic distancing effect) but to emphasize the second person, the one to whom the speech is addressed. By utilizing this strategy, the poem pretends to deal with a particular case but in fact deals with the universal significance of that case.
Sor Juana was the most learned person in New Spain, but she was highly conscious of the limits of intellect and reasoning. She may here, following her elder contemporary, the French philosopher Blaise Pascal, be asserting the superiority of the “reason of the heart” over the “reason of the mind,” but one cannot be quite sure. As she does frequently, she starts out in this poem resigned to the powerlessness of arguments to overcome irrational...
(The entire section is 489 words.)