Sonnets of Death Summary
by Lucila Godoy Alcayaga

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Sonnets of Death Summary

"Sonnets of Death" by Lucila Godoy Alcayaga is a baleful lament about the death of Alcayaga's lover, who took his own life. In the poem, she mourns the loss of his life and her separation from her lover with great anguish.

The sonnet begins with Alcayaga promising that she and her lover will one day meet again. Alcayaga vows that she will lead him into the light when she comes to be with him and that they will rest together eternally. She expresses a deep and sincere love for this man, and it is clear in this text how deeply she misses him and wishes she could be reunited with him. It seems that her only true solace is the fact that she will see him after she dies and they can be reunited in the afterlife.

Alcayaga spends a portion of the sonnet in anger, practically yelling at the "evil hands" that killed her lover. Ironically, she knows that her lover killed himself, but metaphorically, she is blaming the evils in his life while also expressing frustration with him. While she loves and misses him dearly, she feels it was selfish for him to commit suicide and strip her of his company. She even spends a portion of the poem yelling at God and imploring him to lead her lover into the light. She is morose that she cannot join him, that they will remain separated until she dies her natural death.

Her fear and jealousy are clear at the end of the text, as she is angry that she cannot be with her lover—she is, it seems, jealous of death itself, because that is where her love is. The final portion of the poem is a lament that they cannot be reunited yet, but she vows that she will come and be joined with him eventually.

Summary

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

The “Sonnets of Death” are Mistral’s most famous poems. They are also the poems that established her reputation in her native Chile. In 1914, she submitted them to a national poetry contest and won first prize. She was forced out of anonymity and into the literary life of her country.

The poems grew out of Mistral’s love affair with Romelio Ureta, a young man she met in her early years as a rural schoolteacher. The relationship broke off when Ureta became engaged to another woman. Before the marriage, however, he took his own life. The three sonnets trace Mistral’s attempt to sort out and reconcile the grief, remorse, disappointment, anger, and guilt that Ureta’s abandonment and death raised in her.

The sonnets contain the intense, direct feelings, the natural imagery, and the search for some permanent state of harmony that are the distinctive characteristics of Mistral’s poetry. In the first sonnet, for instance, the poet imagines visiting the cemetery and taking from a frozen niche the burial urn containing the ashes of her lover. Rather than causing sadness, however, the occasion elicits a gleeful sense of triumph. She will scatter rose dust over the dead man’s remains, and she will leave the graveyard singing songs of beautiful vengeance. The source of this unexpected happiness is revealed in the final two lines of the poem. The poet now is certain of the constancy of her lover, for she is sure the rival woman will not quarrel with her for possession of the “handful of bones,” which is all that remains of him.

In the second sonnet, the poet imagines an almost macabre afterlife for her lover and herself. When she has died and has been buried beside him, she anticipates an eternal and intimate conversation between them, carried on beneath the ground in the “quiet city” of the dead.

In the final sonnet, the poet begins to glimpse a truly plausible and satisfying resolution to her dilemma. This resolution is typical of those Mistral would reach in many of her later...

(The entire section is 940 words.)