Piedra de sol
by Octavio Paz
Stanzas 47-48 Summary
Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
door of being: open your being
and wake, learn to be, form
your face, develop your features, have
a face I can see to see my face,
to see life until its death, a face
of the sea, bread, rocks and a fountain,
source where all our faces dissolve
in the nameless face,
the faceless being,
the unspeakable presence of presences…
- This stanza opens with repetition of the previous stanza's first words: "door of being." Before, we suggested that might be an image of birth. This time the speaker seems to be talking to the one who is being born.
- He tells it to "open your being / and wake, learn to be, form / your face, develop your features." In the prior stanza he asked for the door to "wake me, / allow me to see the face of this day."
- So before it is the speaker being born (in one possible interpretation) and here the speaker is speaking to the one being born. Transformation alert.
- But since we know that there is a big confusion among individuals in this poem—one is the other, and we are all one—he is probably talking to himself in both instances. Anything goes in this poem.
- He asks again for a face to see in order to see his own face, and we are back to natural elements (with some man-made ones thrown in too): "a face / of the sea, bread, rocks and a fountain."
- The poem is winding down with a desire to return to the source of life, where everyone is one. That source was described earlier as God ("the nameless face, the faceless being").
- Note the repetition of the word "face" again. Any ideas on why that word pops up so much?
I want to go on, to go further, and cannot:
as each moment was dropping into another
I dreamt the dreams of dreamless stones,
and there at the end of the years like stones
I heard my blood, singing in its prison,
and the sea sang with a murmur of light,
one by one the walls gave way,
all of the doors were broken down,
and the sun came bursting through my forehead,
it tore apart my closed lids
cut loose my being from its wrappers,
and pulled me out of myself to wake me
from this animal sleep and its centuries of stone,
and the sun's magic of mirrors revived
a crystal willow, a poplar of water,
a 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,
- This last stanza is super important for understanding the poem as a whole. Let's break it down.
- Lines 561-564 reflect the ugly parts of the poem that hated growing old, forgetting, and dying. "I want to go on, to go further, and cannot" and "I dreamt the dreams of dreamless stones" (whoa, repetition, anyone?) seem to refer to death.
- Then, though, the dead speaker wakes up and hears his blood singing, and the sea singing. This has to do with the cycle of reincarnation—the cycle of the calendar that always repeats itself and allows for the rebirth we just saw in the last few stanzas.
- What happens when death is conquered? Well, walls and doors break down; the sun comes through the forehead and wakes up the speaker from his stone sleep.
- Remember way back in Line 44, where the speaker says "you are a city the sea assaults"? Well, here we get a description of the sea conquering the city and reviving the dead.
- Perhaps through death the speaker is revived, because he finally reunited with his drowned lover? Or perhaps there is some other explanation that you can't wait to tell us about—we're all ears.
- Finally the sun revives "a crystal willow, a poplar of water […]." Sound familiar?
- We're back to where we started, just like on New Year's Day, everything "comes full circle, forever arriving." Pretty cool, right?
- By the way, these lines don't count toward the magic number 584 in the original Spanish, since they are a repetition of the first lines of the poem. Just in case you were stressed about Paz's math.