PROCURA DESMENTIR ... THE SKULL BENEATH THE SKIN
Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz trans. Michael Smith

Procura desmentir los elogios que
a un retrato de la poetisa inscribió
la verdad, que llama pasión



Este, que ves, engaño colorido,
que del arte ostentando los primores,
con falsos silogismos de colores
es cauteloso engaño del sentido;

éste, en quien la lisonja ha pretendido
excusar de los años los horrores,
y venciendo del tiempo los rigores
triunfar de la vejez y del olvido,

es un vano artificio, del cuidado,
es una flor al viento delicada,
es un resguardo inútil para el hado:

es una necia diligencia errada,
es un afán caduco y, bien mirado,
es cadaver, es polvo sombre, es nada.

The poet tries to refute the praises bestowed
on a portrait of her by truth, which she calls
the deceit of passion.



This painted deception you see,
flaunting the charms of art,
with its false syllogisms of paint,
is a subtle deceit of sight;

this thing flattery has tried
to redeem from the horrors of age
and to defy the ravages of time
defeat old age and the void,

is a vain contrived device,
is a fragile flower in the wind,
a futile defence against fate;

is a foolish misguided attempt,
is a failiing effort and, seen truly,
is a corpse, is dust, is shadow, is nothing.

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (1641-1695) was born in the Mexican village of Juana de Asbaje y Ramírez.
She is among the greatest poets of her own age in any language, among the greatest poets of any age,
and probably the greatest woman poet whose works survive.

Trans. copyright © Michael Smith 2009

next
index
translator's next