loss are common concepts in poetry that have been explored by men and women alike, across time and across cultural boundaries. Two such poets are Louise Labe, a French, Renaissance poet and Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, a New Spanish nun and Baroque poet. In Sonnet 23 by Labe and Sonnet 165 by Cruz, issues of love, loss, and impermanence are explored through imagery and tone.
In Sonnet 23, Labe attempts to understand why her lover no longer finds her attractive or no longer wants to have a relationship with her. Labe asks, "What good is it to me if long ago you/eloquently praised my golden hair, compared to my eyes and beauty to the flare/of two suns where, you say, love bent the bow, sending the darts that needled you with grief?" In the sonnet, the narrator claims that she was once compared to the sun, which is both radiant and a source of life. The narrator's radiance is compared to the sun in two ways: by the way it glows and makes her hair appear golden and the flares, which appear to create a spark in her eyes. Labe is making it clear that at the beginning of the narrator's courtship, she was being compared to the most beautiful things in nature and her lover told her that her beauty had made him fall in love with her. Labe contends that something has changed in her lover's view of her and wonders, "Where are you tears that faded in the ground?" Labe is stating that she misses the tears that were shed over her during their relationship. The sonnet transitions at this point as Labe makes it evident that the separation between the two lovers was caused not because they wanted it to, but due to the untimely death of her lover. Moreover, Labe comments on the futility of oaths and honors of constant love that were made while they were still together because it seems like a lie now. Labe accuses her lover of trickery and appears angry at her lover for making her fall in love with him. She claims, "Your brutal goal was to make me a slave/beneath the ruse of being served by you." Labe contends that her lover wanted her to be devoted to him under the premise of being loved in return. This mutually beneficial love is not seen as being equal because her lover can no longer love her back, yet she cannot do anything but love him.
The last four lines of the stanza are quite distinct and Labe appears to be pleading with the reader, or whoever is listening, to let her vent her frustrations. She cries, "Pardon me, friend, and for once hear me through." By asking to be heard, and consequently asserting that she needs to be listened to thoroughly indicates that Labe does not often get the opportunity to be heard. As if Labe's anger at the beginning of the sonnet were not clear to the reader, she states, "I am outraged with anger and I rave." Labe intends to make it understood that her raving is uncharacteristic of her normal behavior and the only reason she is doing so is because she is full of anger. Given that the poem is directed at her dead lover, the narrator appears to want to have the last word. However, she also understands that simply because he cannot respond it does not mean that he does not also have the same emotions. She asserts, "Yet I am sure, wherever you have gone, your martyrdom is hard as my black dawn."
The continuous shifts in tone from sadness to anger to despair simulate the emotional waves that accompany a person after they lose a loved one, especially if their loved one dies unexpectedly. To punctuate the tone of the sonnet, Labe states outright that she is angry to clarify any doubts, if any. What makes the sonnet even more tragic is that Labe insinuates that the two lovers have been together for a long time, which can be seen through assertion that she was told she was beautiful long ago.
On the other hand, Cruz's sonnet, while also commenting on the fleeting nature of love, does not have a specific intended…