Juana de Ibarbourou, a Uruguayan poet, celebrates human life as a manifestation of nature. Many of her poems express the idea that death, though inevitable, is not final, but that the individual will transmigrate into another form, often returning as some kind of luxuriant floral growth. Her insistent demand, immediate and sensual, frankly expressed in the poem below, displays her desire to live life to the fullest before the death of the body. This theme, common in Western poetry from the Classical period forward, is known in Latin as Carpe diem, “Seize the day. “

What is the poet’s attitude toward her lover? What arguments is she using to persuade him to make love with her?

Take me now, while it is early
and I bear dahlia buds (1) in my hand

Take me now while still
my hair is dark.

Now, while I have fragrant flesh
and limpid eyes and rosy skin.

Now, while my nimble foot
wears the living sandal of spring.

Now, while on my lip is laughter
like a quickly shaken bell.

Afterwards…Oh! I know
that I will have none of these later.

And your desire then will be useless
like an offering placed on a tomb.

Take me now while it’s still early
and my hands full of tuberoses (2).

Today, no later. Before night falls
and the flower’s fresh center wilts.

Today, not tomorrow. Oh, beloved, can’t you see
that the vine will become a cypress tree? (3)
Translated by Mary Gallwey

(1) A symbol of youth.
(2) A lily-like flower of Mexico.
(3) A symbol of death.

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This is an excerpt from Reading About the World, Volume 2, edited by Paul Brians, Mary Gallwey, Douglas Hughes, Azfar Hussain, Richard Law, Michael Myers, Michael Neville, Roger Schlesinger, Alice Spitzer, and Susan Swan and published by Harcourt Brace Custom Books.The reader was created for use in the World Civilization course at Washington State University, but material on this page may be used for educational purposes by permission of the editor-in-chief:

Paul Brians
Department of English
Washington State University
Pullman 99164-5020

This is just a sample of Reading About the World, Volume 2.

Reading About the World is now out of print. You can search for used copies using the following information:Paul Brians, et al. Reading About the World, Vol. 1, 3rd edition, Harcourt Brace College Publishing: ISBN 0-15-567425-0 or Paul Brians, et al. Reading About the World, Vol. 2, 3rd edition, Harcourt Brace College Publishing: ISBN 0-15-512826-4.

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