We Were All to Be Queens Summary
by Lucila Godoy Alcayaga

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We Were All to Be Queens Summary

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

In “We Were All to Be Queens,” Mistral follows the dreams and hopes of childhood as they are thwarted and destroyed by the realities of adult life. The opening stanzas recount the dream shared by four young girls, the poet among them, who expect to marry kings as powerful and gifted as the biblical King David and to reign over distant kingdoms. These faraway lands are to be fruitful, filled with “trees of milk” and “trees of bread.” Most importantly—in an image repeated throughout the poem—the kingdoms will border the mysterious and magical sea. The girls, sequestered for years behind the tall mountains of the Andes, will at last have their dreams fulfilled when, as queens, they see and touch the ocean. They will be liberated and transformed by contemplating the broad expanse of water and the distant horizon.

The second half of the poem tells the sad fate of the girls’ dreams as each girl grows to adulthood. Rosalie is the only one of the four to kiss a genuine sailor. Ironically, the real sea, not the sea of her fantasies, devours her lover in a storm. Soledad raises seven brothers and leaves her “life-blood in the bread” she bakes. Her eyes remain “forever black/ for never having looked on the sea.” Efigenia follows a stranger, but he does not lead her to the sea. Lucila, who is Mistral as a child, alone receives her kingdom; but it is an entirely imaginary place where the future poetess counts her sons among the clouds and sees her husbands in the rivers. Such, in fact, was to be Mistral’s fate; she never married or had children of her own. Her poetry and her students were to be her only children.

The poem ends with a vision of the future generations of young girls who will continue the cycle of dreaming and disappointment, longing from their remote valley for a glimpse of the mythical sea, without ever achieving it. This is not a bitter ending, nor is the poem simply pessimistic. The poem is a part of the insulated, innocent world of the girls and of the larger adult world beyond it. By blending these two perspectives, Mistral attains the kind of harmony that characterizes much of her poetry. The result in this poem is a sweet sadness in which the naïve hopes of the young girls are preserved and cherished even as their inevitable disappointment is acknowledged. Such a subtle and difficult balance demonstrates Mistral’s ability to hold two contradictory, often mutually destructive human experiences in a creative tension. In “We Were All To Be Queens,” an acceptance of an unimaginatively literal adult reality makes the dreams of childhood all the more...

(The entire section is 644 words.)