Piedra de sol
by Octavio Paz
Stanza 1 Summary
Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
a crystal willow, a poplar of water,
the tall fountain the wind arches over,
a tree deep-rooted yet dancing still,
a course of a river that turns, moves on,
doubles back, and comes full circle,
forever arriving: […]
- These first lines are über-important because they are repeated at the end of the poem—they're like a clasp that makes the poem-chain into a loop.
- Basically, what we have here is a list of images. And those images are all of natural elements—trees, water, and wind—in circular forms. The trees are bent over, the water is blown by the wind into an arc, the river curves. All these round images are like echoes of the circle that is the poem.
- The lines in the original Spanish are hendecasyllabic, aka they all have eleven syllables, and this pattern will continue throughout the poem. Check out the "Form and Meter" section for more on hendecasyllables, but for now we'll just note that sadly, this English translation doesn't preserve that nifty pattern.
[…] the calm course
of the stars or an unhurried spring,
water with eyes closed welling over
with oracles all night long,
a single presence in a surge of waves,
wave after wave till it covers all,
a reign of green that knows no decline,
like the flash of wings unfolding in the sky,
- You can see that Paz is into lists of natural elements—he keeps going here with the stars, the seasons, more water—but in these lines a presence also shows up: eyes and wings give us animal features, and the oracles add a human mysticism into the natural mix.
- Besides those times that you accidentally swim up next to a blue whale, water usually doesn't have eyes. Check out the personification in Lines 9-10, when the water does have eyes, and the eyes are the ones that produce the prophecies. So water is given the attributes of a human being, and one that can tell the future, at that. Things are gettin' crazy up in here.
- Notice, too, the sense of eternity that the poem is pushing—the green water "knows no decline." Curious, though, that never-ending water would be like a "flash of wings"—flashes are usually pretty quick. What is the speaker trying to do by likening eternity to the blink of an eye?
- Also notice the repetition of the word "wave" in lines 11-12, which might try to mimic the sea, which is basically a whole bunch of repeated waves.
- Keep your eye out for more repetitions, circular images, and loops as you read the rest of the poem.