Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 497
In Sun Stone, the poet searches for the experience of the poetic moment through making love. The quest is framed by a structure modeled after the Aztec sun stone, a calendar divided into 584 days. The poem is composed of 584 lines and opens and closes with the same six lines. Setting the tone for the entire poem, these six lines invoke a world free of alienation, a paradise outside of time. Sun Stone rushes forward without any breaks, leading to an ending that returns the reader to the beginning. Even as the calendar is round, time is cyclical. The protagonist’s experience is also repetitive, alternating between ecstasy and alienation.
The opening lines of Sun Stone point to a reality outside the passage of time where opposites are united. The poet describes a river flowing backward and forward, always returning to the same point. On its bank is a tree at once firmly rooted and dancing.
Alienation intrudes. The protagonist becomes disoriented and confused in the urban landscape. He cannot even remember his name. He is confronted with the horrors of history: bombings, concentration camps, and assassinations. He recalls Socrates’ death, the assassination of Julius Caesar, the betrayal of Montezuma, the murder of Leon Trotsky in Mexico. Yet in Madrid, in 1937, in the midst of the Spanish Civil War, the protagonist manages to overcome the atrocities of history through love. Love brings human beings to a timeless paradise where individual identity is lost in oneness:
these nakednesses, woven together,can overleap time and are invulnerable,nothing can touch them, they go to the origins,there is no You nor I, tomorrow, yesterday, names.
After the protagonist has succeeded in stepping out of history through love, he finds himself once again subject to alienation. He feels isolated, separated from others by barbed-wire fences, spikes, and bars. Love is his only defense against isolation and death. Through love, he is free from all forces that dehumanize him. The world changes when love is practiced. It is a means for transforming society: “The world grows fresh and green while you are smiling and eating an orange.” The bliss of lovers anticipates an ideal world where all are lovers and poets.
The protagonist pays tribute to woman, who makes him whole. Woman is a goddess, the female principle that redeems him from isolation and the horrors of history. He evokes women from many times and places, figures of myth and women immortalized in famous poems: Laura, Isabel, Eloise, Persephone, and Mary. Woman is the gateway to vision and knowledge. Alienation is broken by ecstasy, and history is undermined through the mediation of the woman. She is the “flower of resurrection and grape of life.”
Sun Stone is perhaps Paz’s most important poem. The reader experiences a full cycle of history, starting and ending with an eternal present before time and history. Through the mediation of woman, the protagonist is able periodically to escape the tyranny of history and his own alienation.