Who would think that a Mexican woman who wrote poetry more than three hundred years ago would have anything applicable to today’s political arena? About one and one half years ago, my daughter returned from a business trip with a little gift, a translation of Sor Juana’s work. It is not the sort of literature I sit down and read all the way through. It is deep, questioning, the sort of literature you savor here and there. A few minutes ago I opened the book once again to read one of her ballads–typically referred to as romances. However, this is not exactly a romance. It reads:
“One who is sad criticizes
the happy man as frivolous;
and one who is happy derides
the sad man and his suffering.
The two philosophers of Greece
offered perfect proofs of this truth;
for what caused laughter in one man
occasioned tears in another.
The contradiction has been framed
for centuries beyond number,
yet which of the two ways was correct
has so far not been determined;
instead, into two factions
all people have been recruited,
temperament dictating which
band each person will adhere to.”
This is only a small portion of the ballad. It is ballad 2 in the translation by Edith Grossman. The introduction to the book is by one of my favorite authors (I have read all her books published to date), Julia Alvarez.