Summary (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
In “We Were All to Be Queens,” Mistral follows the dreams and hopes of childhood as they are thwarted and destroyed by the realities of adult life. The opening stanzas recount the dream shared by four young girls, the poet among them, who expect to marry kings as powerful and gifted as the biblical King David and to reign over distant kingdoms. These faraway lands are to be fruitful, filled with “trees of milk” and “trees of bread.” Most importantly—in an image repeated throughout the poem—the kingdoms will border the mysterious and magical sea. The girls, sequestered for years behind the tall mountains of the Andes, will at last have their dreams fulfilled when, as queens, they see and touch the ocean. They will be liberated and transformed by contemplating the broad expanse of water and the distant horizon.
The second half of the poem tells the sad fate of the girls’ dreams as each girl grows to adulthood. Rosalie is the only one of the four to kiss a genuine sailor. Ironically, the real sea, not the sea of her fantasies, devours her lover in a storm. Soledad raises seven brothers and leaves her “life-blood in the bread” she bakes. Her eyes remain “forever black/ for never having looked on the sea.” Efigenia follows a stranger, but he does not lead her to the sea. Lucila, who is Mistral as a child, alone receives her kingdom; but it is an entirely imaginary place where the future poetess counts her sons among the clouds and...
(The entire section is 475 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised 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.