Sonnets of Death

by Lucila Godoy Alcayaga

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Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 656

In "Sonnets of Death" by Lucila Godoy Alcayaga, known by her pseudonym Gabriela Mistral, the suicide of her lover, Romelio Ureta, is explored with great passion. The feelings she explores are developed over three distinct sonnets.

Sonnet I:

From that frozen niche the men have put you,
I will lower you down to the humble, sunny earth.

In these lines, the setting is provided. It is a cold day, fitting for the tone and symbolic of her experience, and she explores the urn (located in the "niche") which houses her former lover's remains. In contrast, she wishes to lower him to the "sunny earth," a place of more warmth and more fitting for the remains of her dead lover. After all,

That I must sleep there, the men do not know,
and that we must dream on the same pillow.

The speaker longs for her lover. She feels their shared past, the warmth of a shared bed and a shared pillow. Regardless of what he has done to her (left her for another woman, in fact), she feels drawn to him, even in death.

I will leave singing my beautiful vengeance
for the hand of no other woman will
descend to such depths to fight me for
your handful of bones!

The narrator shows an almost giddy strength here in her resolve to finally have her lover back by her side. The vengeance will be "beautiful" and worth song. Only she would go to such measures to secure the proximity of her lover's remains in death, and surely no other woman would fight her for his "handful of bones." Expressing that she loved him like no other woman could, the narrator is driven by a sense of pride that she will be victorious in the end.

Sonnet II:

I will wait until they have covered me completely . . .
and then we will speak for an eternity!

She has so much she still wants to say to the man who left her for another and then took his own life. And there is no sense of bitterness in her desire to talk this over with him in the afterlife; after all, she has "eternity." She longs for this reunification and describes this moment with serene language, talking about the "frosted road . . . where men go, content to live." Although she returns to the cold imagery of frost, the tone is one of acceptance. This is what she must do to eventually return to the man she loved.

You will know our new covenant was a sign of the stars
and, having broken that enormous pact, you had to die.

Here the narrator returns to provide one key detail: her lover broke their pact. He left her for another. He even intended to marry the other woman. Perhaps in his emotional turmoil of being torn between the two women, he saw the truth. He "had to die" because of the broken promises he'd made.

Sonnet III:

Tear him out, Lord, from those fatal hands
or sink him in the long sleep that you can give!

When "wicked hands" take her lover away, the narrator begs God to either remove him from the clutches of this woman or to kill him. That's a pretty significant prayer. If he can't see the error of his ways, God must intervene and end his life. So,

He stopped the pink boat of his life.

God answers the prayer by ending his life. The boat is symbolic of the vessel leading him on life's journey, and God puts His hand down and stops its forward progression. Her prayer is answered.

You are going to judge me, you know it, Lord!

This is the only sense of real anguish and guilt we see in the sonnets. She knows that she will be judged for her prayer to effectively end her lover's life. Perhaps this is one of the things they will have time to discuss in their "eternity" of conversation.

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