Sonnets of Death

by Lucila Godoy Alcayaga

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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 440

Lucila Godoy Alcayaga, who used the pseudonym Gabriela Mistral, penned these sonnets in a state of despair over the loss of her lover. At one time committed to her, he abandons her for another woman and intends to marry his mistress—until he commits suicide. These sonnets explore Alcayaga's emotional connections to her lover, which linger after his death.

Everlasting Love

For Alcayaga, love is forever. It sounds pretty cliche, perhaps, but it's a theme that is explored by many poets. In these sonnets, the narrator dreams of the life she had with her lover and wishes to be reunited with him in death—both physically ("I will lower you down to the humble, sunny earth / That I have to sleep there") and through their shared experience when life is over. She longs to talk to him, likely about his decision to leave her, which set this entire trajectory in motion: "I will wait until they have covered me completely . . . / and then we will speak for an eternity!" Death cannot separate these two permanently. Instead, she waits for death and for the opportunity to be with him again.

The Beauty of Nature

In "Sonnets of Death," nature provides eternal beauty. Her lover's remains are encased in an urn, resting in a "frozen niche." This cold image is contrasted with her dreams for him, to be with her in the "humble, sunny earth." This image provides warmth and peace by comparison. She also longs to spread "rose dust" over his remains. In the third sonnet, the narrator envisions the woman who took him as snatching him from a "snow of lilies." Lilies often symbolize humility and devotion, and she thus sees her love as one having great substance by comparison. She describes their love as being in "joyful bloom" when he was snatched away from her. Throughout the poem, the images of nature are woven together in ways to effectively capture the beautiful and steadfast love that the two shared.


In the poem, prayers can be answered in unexpected ways. In her grief, the narrator begs God to end her lover's relationship with the other woman or to "sink him in the long sleep that [God] can give." Answering her prayer, God "stopped the pink boat of his life." It is in the very end of the third sonnet that she feels that she is going to be judged for this prayer. Perhaps it was a prayer uttered in despair or desperation, but she feels that she received exactly what she prayed for. She doesn't necessarily express guilt over the prayer itself—only that God will judge her for it.

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