Since I'm Condemned

Since I'm condemned to death
by your decree, Fabio,
and don't appeal, resist or flee
the wrathful judgment, hear me,
for there's no culprit of such guilt
should be refused confession.

Because, you say, you've been informed
my breast has caused offence to you,
I stand condemned, ferocious one.
Does uncertain news, not fact,
achieve more in your obdurate breast
than experience of so many truths?

If you've believed in others', Fabio,
why not believe in your own eyes?
Why, reversing the sense of Law,
deliver to the rope my neck?
You're as liberal with your rigours
as meanly strict with favours.

If I have looked at other eyes, Fabio,
kill me with your wrathful eyes.
If I serve another care,
let your implacable anger serve me.
And if another's love diverts me,
you, who've been my life, strike me dead.

If I have viewed another with delight,
never be delight in our mutual looks;
if with another I engaged in pleasant speech,
let your eternal displeasure point at me.
And if another love disturbs my sense,
chase out of me my soul, who've been my soul.

But as I die without resisting
my unhappy lot, my only wish
is you allow me choose the death I like.
Let my death be of my choice,
for your mere choice
continues me in life.

Let me not die of harshness, Fabio,
when I can die of love.
That will do you credit,
redeem me, since to die for love,
not for guilt, is no less a death,
but more an honoured one.

And now, finally, I seek your pardon
for all the wrongs I did to you through love.
Wrongs they are and they deserve your scorn.
Your offence is just in my accosting you,
because by loving you
I turn you to ingratitude.

by Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz

Comments (14)

Derek Walcott is St. Lucian, and this poem is actually about the Castries city fire, where everything was burnt down except the church. But it can take on many different perspectives as described.
Appreciate the poem as it evolves around faith and affection.
I kinda like this poem Thanks for your poems Derek I miss u😇😐😯😅😀
A lovely sonnet with philosophical musings about life to redeem the joys of life. Thanks.
Really good poem, I'd never read this before. The most obvious thing as soon as you see it is it's a sonnet,14 lines, but the syllables are always higher than the traditional 10, the first line has 15, in fact. The rhyme scheme is: a B a b c b c B a c d d c B The 'b' rhyme occurs 5 times and in fact the upper case 'B' indicates the same word which also appears in the poems title: fire. This repetition of one rhyme and one word especually drives the impact of the fire home, it shows it's the uppermost thing in the narrator's mind, but it also produces an incantatory effect, the repetition of this sound through the poem can ring in our ears and consciousness without us being too aware of it, but produces a powerful effect, like a bell of meaning tolling somewhere in our minds. The beauty of that in this poem is that the devastation that's occurred to the City has been brought about by religion also, specifically that of a hot gospeller, which one would usually associate with evangelical Protestant religion, and in modern times with quite expressive preaching that also uses incantatory effects to produce a feeling and a mood and an emotion in listeners. This is further reinforced by alliteration (and repetition of) tale by tallow and the use of wax at initially as a noun and later as a verb. Some phrases stop the reader in their tracks, for example, Under a candle's eye, that smoked in tears: is the candle smoking in the tears like someone might inhale a cigarette? Or is it smoking, as in emitting smoke like a chimney, into the writer's eyes? But then how would he be under the candle's eye? The problem of the phrase is not disagreeably impossible, it just creates ambiguity and intrigue. Why would our character who is the 'I' of the poem be ambiguous when he (assuming it is a man) says he wants to record events precisely: Wanted to tell, in more than wax, of faiths that were snapped like wire? He's distressed, of course, but his distress could also explain the loss of his city to newcomers who introduced, quite forcibly, strange new ideas and told the people of the city and the surrounding hills that they were sinners of liars, as later, as the narrator is slowly assuming the information the hot gospeller has brought to them (even asking Christ for direction) he calls the walls that represented the last standing remnants of his city liars.
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