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Poetry Analysis Notes


Cradle Song
by Gabriela Mistral
translated by Langston Hughes (1957)
interpreted by Ryan Troeschel

The sea cradles
its millions of stars divine.
Listening to the seas in love,
I cradle the one who is mine.

The errant wind in the night
cradles the wheat.
Listening to the winds in love,
I cradle my sweet.

God Our Father cradles
His thousands of worlds without sound.
Feeling His hand in the darkness,
I cradle the babe I have found.

Poet: Gabriela Mistral was born in northern Chile in 1889 in a village called Montegrande and was the first Latin American woman to win a Nobel Prize in Literature. Her parent's names were Petronila Alcayaga, and Jeronimo Godoy Alcayaga Villanueya. Gabriela Mistral's birth name was Lucila Godoy Alcayaga. Lucila. Their mother raised her and her sister after the father deserted them. Lucida began school at the age of nine, but only stayed in school for three years. She also assumed the name Gabriela Mistral. At age sixteen she moved to La Cantera to take a job. While in La Cantera, she fell in love with a railway worker. The relationship didn't even last two years. The young man committed suicide. This affected her deeply and she wrote Sonetas de la Muerte (Sonnets of Death) to express her feelings. She published three poems from Sonnets of Death in 1914 for which she won a national prize in poetry. She later edited a book that was titled Readings for Women. In 1923, Mistral was awarded the title "Teacher of the Nation" by her own government. In 1922, she published the first volume of her collected poems entitled Desolacion (Desolation). She then published Ternura (Tenderness) in 1925. Her later collections were Questions (1930) and Tala (1938). She also wrote fables and continued publishing in periodicals. The main themes that she relayed in her poetry were love, death, childhood, maternity, religion and the beauty of nature and of her native land. She became Chile's representative abroad for almost twenty years, including at the League of Nations, at the United Nations and in various consulates. Eventually, Mistral settled in the United States and taught at Middlebury and Barnard colleges and at the University of Puerto Rico. In 1945, Gabriela Mistral was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. She accepted it on behalf of Latin America. Now, all of her poems have been translated into many different languages. Gabriela Mistral died in 1957.

Vocabulary: errant - roving or wandering; shifting about.

Type of poem:
This is a narrative poem.

Speaker: The speaker of this poem is the poet, Gabriela Mistral.

The poem is directed towards a general audience.

Tone: The tone of this poem is very soft and calm.

This poem has a very strong and powerful meaning. It talks about a woman who is cradling and rocking her child. She compares the wind blowing the wheat to her cradling her baby. Not only does she compare her cradling her baby to the wind and wheat, but she compares it to God cradling the world. She feels very strong and attached to this baby and nothing will keep her from holding it.

Structure of poem: The poem has a structure of a traditional poem
- It's a quatrain with four stanzas
- The rhyme scheme is abcb for every stanza
- Equal stanzas (four verses per stanza)
- Some end-stopping lines and some run-on lines

Examples of poetic techniques used in the poem:

"His thousands of worlds without sound" Alliteration
"The sea cradles it's millions of stars divine" End-Stopping Line
"Listening to the seas in love" Imagery

Connection between the poem and the poet's life and/or times: Gabriela Mistral never had children of her own. She felt that writing about them in her poetry was the closest that she would ever be able to get to having her own children. Through this poem you can tell that if her boyfriend had not committed suicide, she would have wanted to have children her own children.

Most memorable quote from the poem:
"I cradle the babe I have found"

© Smelli Notes 2001