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Piedra de sol

Piedra de sol

by Octavio Paz

Analysis: Allusions

When poets refer to other great works, people, and events, it’s usually not accidental. Put on your super-sleuth hat and figure out why.

Literary and Mythological References:

  • Melusina (109, 217) is a serpent- or fish-woman in medieval mythology and, more recently, the name of a character in Andre Breton's surrealist writings, like the novel Nadja.
  • Laura (110) might refer to the famous object of Petrarch (an important Italian poet from the 14th century) love poetry.
  • Persephone (110, 519) was the Greek goddess of the underworld, and since she was abducted and taken to Hades the earth grows cold every winter until the spring comes and vegetation returns, as when she was released.
  • Pablo Neruda's poem "Madrid, 1937" (276).
  • Heloise (366-369, 519), a 12th-century nun, fell in love with her teacher, a priest named Abelard. They kept it a secret so it wouldn't affect their standing in the church, but Heloise ended up pregnant and something had to be done. Abelard decided to marry her, even though she worried that would ruin his reputation as a priest. She offered to be his prostitute (and that's where this fits into "Piedra de sol"). When Heloise's uncle found out he castrated Abelard as punishment. Ouch.
  • Agamemnon (428) was murdered by his wife's lover after coming home from the Trojan War.
  • Cassandra (429) was Agamemnon's concubine, also murdered.
  • Plato's Crito (431-433), in which Socrates was forced to drink hemlock, a poison, as an execution method. When his buddy Crito offered to bust him out of prison he told him there was no need, that rather they should sacrifice a rooster to Aesculapius, the god of healing, because he had been "cured of life."
  • Austen Henry Layard (434), a famous 19th-century archaeologist who wrote a book on what he discovered at the ruins of Nineveh, and included several descriptions of the ways that jackals had taken over the city, ruined long ago in a massacre.
  • William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar (435-436), in which Brutus, who betrayed his friend Julius Caesar, had an uncomfortable meeting with his murdered friend's ghost the night before a big battle.

Historical References:

  • Moctezuma (436-437) was the Aztec emperor when the Spaniards arrived to conquer America, and he was either, as the Spaniards claimed, killed by his countrymen or, as the Aztecs claimed, killed by the Spaniards. Either way his death wasn't too pleasant.
  • Maximilien Robespierre (437-440) was a leader in the French Revolution, and to avoid execution tried jumping out a window and shooting himself, but only managed to shatter his jaw before being killed.
  • Cosme Damian Churruca (441) was a Spanish admiral who was killed during a sea battle by a cannon ball.
  • Abraham Lincoln (442-443), whose assassination you hopefully remember learning about in elementary school (it happened in a theater).
  • Leon Trotsky (443-444) was a Russian Bolshevik exiled in Mexico who was killed with an icepick in his home. He supposedly spat on his attacker and fought him, and lived for a day before finally dying.
  • Francisco I. Madero (444-445) was president of Mexico during the Mexican Revolution and was betrayed and executed in a coup.

Biblical References:

  • Adam and Eve (176-179, 425) were driven out of Paradise because they disobeyed God and ate the one fruit they weren't supposed to. Also, after that there was some trouble over their son Cain killing his brother, Abel.
  • In the Bible, Samson (426) killed a thousand men with the jawbone of an ass (word to the wise: don't mess with guys like that).
  • Mary (110, 519) was Jesus Christ's mother. In the Catholic Church she has a very important role as holy virgin, and she's made some appearances in Mexico that give her quite a following there.
  • The Crucifixion (464-465) was when Jesus Christ was, in the Christian religion, executed by hanging on a cross. He was buried on a Friday and came back to life on Sunday, miraculously. 
  • Peter (521) was one of Jesus' disciples. 
  • Paul (521) was an important early Christian teacher, who wrote a few of the books of the Bible.

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