The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“Green enravishment of human life” is a sonnet of the Italian or Petrarchan type. It consists of an octave (eight lines rhyming abbaabba) and a sestet (six lines rhyming cdecde). The sonnet lacks a title; it is identified by its first line. The octave is mainly descriptive of the theme of the poem: hope. The speaker of the poem emerges in the sestet. After describing the attitude of those who, hoping for change, ignore or distort reality, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz expresses her own positivist attitude about the world.

Sor Juana spent several years of her life at the court of colonial Mexico. There she wrote many poems of circumstance, conventional pieces in which she praised persons of high rank and love poems that might have been written by request. Another part of her lyric poetry, however, conveys her own feelings and worldview. “Green enravishment of human life” is one of those philosophical or moral poems in which Sor Juana expresses her personal ideas. The poem is a good illustration of Sor Juana’s rationalism, an attitude that is obvious at other points in her work. For the poet, to hope is to fool oneself, and she distances herself from those who live in the expectation of future improvements or riches. An even more unfavorable description of hope can be found in another of her sonnets, “Diuturnal infirmity of hope,” in which she describes hope as cruel, deceptive, and homicidal, since it “inflicts a more...

(The entire section is 532 words.)

Forms and Devices

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

This sonnet is exemplary in its use of conceits which were characteristic of Spanish Baroque poetry. A conceit always implies ingenuity, striking inventiveness, whether in a single original image or in a series of elaborate and witty analogies. This sonnet utilizes several unexpected pairings of terms to describe hope. Paradox and wordplay are also frequently used in Baroque poetry, and Sor Juana uses here the parallelisms, inversions, and repetitions that were favorite ways of syntactic organization in Baroque poetry.

The recurring image that runs through the poem is the traditional association of hope with the color green; this image appears in the first three stanzas. The roots of this association may lie in the rebirth of the world with the reemergence of vegetation in the spring. Sor Juana, however, undermines the positive connotations of the color green by presenting it in contexts that become increasingly negative. It accompanies “enravishment” in the first stanza, which suggests a deceitful, passing state. The falseness of hope is further stressed in the second stanza, in the seemingly paradoxical juxtaposition of images of weakness and strength: “robust old age,” “decrepit vigor” (in Spanish, verdor, greenness). In the third stanza, hope is described as making the hopeful wear “green glasses” through which they adapt the real world to suit their personal desires.

Furthermore, Sor Juana accentuates the...

(The entire section is 432 words.)