Philosophical Satire, or Sátira filosófica

An Electronic Edition · Juana de Asbaje (also known as Juana Inés de la Cruz) (1651-1695)

Original Source: Porrúa edition of Sor Juana’s Obras completas (Redondilla 92 on page 109) Trans. by Kate Eagen and Lisa Trinh; University of Virginia

Full Colophon Information

Philosophical Satire
(Trans. from Spanish into English and transcribed by Kate Eagen and Lisa Trinh; University of Virginia)

Argues the inconsistent taste and censure 1.
of men who blame women for the very problems
that they themselves cause

You foolish men who accuse 4.
women[1] without reason,
without admitting guilt[2] to the treason
that is the hypocrisy of your views:

and with fervent unrivaled desire 8.
their[3] disdain you men compel,
how can you expect them to behave well
when you spur them into hell’s fire?[4]

You combatively reject her resistance 12.
and then, with firm conviction[5] in your assault,
you claim her easiness was at fault
for the crimes[6] bred by your own diligence.

You believe in your own boldness in spite 16.
of your madness that none can curtail,[7]
you men like dogs,[8] who chase their tails
and then whimper at the pain of your own bite.

You long, with foolish presumption,20.
to find the one you lust[9] for:
first, Thais,[10] seductress and whore,
Later, Lucretia, virtuous in possession.

Is there any reaction[11] more peculiar 24.
than that of he who boasts a level head,[12]
but, watching his breath on the mirror spread,
is shocked to find his reflection[13] unclear?

Whether they express favor or put you through hell,[14] 28.
you hold all women equally in contempt:
complaining, if they show you resent,
ridiculing, if they love you well.

It would seem no woman wins; 32.
for though she be modest and faithful,[15]
if she does not accept you, she’s ungrateful,
and if she does, she’s promiscuous therein.

Always asinine,[16] persisting in abuse[17] 36.
with your double standard[18] unparalleled,
one woman you condemn for morals upheld[19]
and another you condemn for being loose.

Pray tell,[20] how can she stay moderate, 40.
she for whom your demanding love contends,
if she who is ungrateful, offends,
and she who is easy, infuriates?

But between the pity and pain 44.
required by your love’s taste still unsatiated[21]
admirable is her resolve, even while berated,
since all the same, you men complain.

You clip their beautiful wings, thus confining 48.
your lovers’ liberties to this earth,[22]
and only after diminishing their worth
you wish again for angels, ever spellbinding.

Who bears the blame of it all 52.
in a passion errant and fleeting:[23]
she who falls to pleading,
or he who pleads for her to fall?

In bestowing blame, where to begin, 56.
although both from righteousness have strayed:
with she who sins for pay,[24]
or he who pays for sin?

So why, then, do you deflect 60.
from the guilt your actions breed?
Desire them after the deed,
or grant them the decency you so often neglect.[25]
Stop now with your wooing
so that you might, with more reason,
plausibly accuse women of this treason
rather than beg for your own undoing.[26]

Wielding weapons of logic,[27] my wings unfurl,[28] 68.
ready to wage war[29] against your hubris,[30]
for in theory and in practice
you men unite devil, flesh and world.[31]

Sátira filosófica

Arguye de inconsecuentes el gusto 1.
y la censura de los hombres que
en las mujeres acusan lo que causan

Hombres necios que acusáis 4.
a la mujer sin razón,
sin ver que sois la ocasión
de lo mismo que culpáis:

si con ansia sin igual 8.
solicitáis su desdén,
¿por qué queréis que obren bien
si las incitáis al mal?

Combatís su resistencia 12.
y luego, con gravedad,
decís que fue liviandad
lo que hizo la diligencia.

Parecer quiere el denuedo 16.
de vuestro parecer loco,
al niño que pone el coco
y luego le tiene miedo.

Queréis, con presunción necia, 20.
hallar a la que buscáis,
para pretendida, Thais,
y en la posesión, Lucrecia.

¿Qué humor puede ser más raro 24.
que el que, falto de consejo,
él mismo empaña el espejo,
y siente que no esté claro?

Con el favor y el desdén 28.
tenéis condición igual,
quejándoos, si os tratan mal,
burlándoos, si os quieren bien.

Opinión, ninguna gana; 32.
pues la que más se recata,
si no os admite, es ingrata,
y si os admite, es liviana.

Siempre tan necios andáis 36.
que con desigual nivel,
a una culpáis por crüel
y a otra por fácil culpáis.

¿Pues cómo ha de estar templada 40.
la que vuestro amor pretende,
si la que es ingrata, ofende,
y la que es fácil, enfada?

Mas, entre el enfado y pena 44.
que vuestro gusto refiere,
bien haya la que no os quiere
y quejaos en hora buena.

Dan vuestras amantes penas 48.
a sus libertades alas,
y después de hacerlas malas
las queréis hallar muy buenas.

¿Cuál mayor culpa ha tenido 52.
en una pasión errada:
la que cae de rogada
o el que ruega de caído?

¿O cuál es más de culpar, 56.
aunque cualquiera mal haga:
la que peca por la paga,
o el que paga por pecar?

Pues ¿para qué os espantáis 60.
de la culpa que tenéis?
Queredlas cual las hacéis
o hacedlas cual las buscáis.
Dejad de solicitar,
y después con más razón,
acusaréis la afición
de la que os fuere a rogar.

Bien con muchas armas fundo 68.
que lidia vuestra arrogancia,
pues en promesa e instancia
juntáis diablo, carne y mundo.


[1] Here we elect to pluralize the subject because we believe that the original “a la mujer” serves as synecdoche for the female sex as a whole. We believe that in the original poem, this establishes the all-encompassing nature of this gender-based affront, and we feel that this is less obvious in the English “to a woman” or “a woman; therefore, to emphasize breadth, we choose “women” as the subject of men’s accusations.

[2] While the words “guilt”, “treason”, and “hypocrisy” carry far stronger attacking impact than the original stanza conveys, we elect to open with the direct, unyielding tone that we perceive throughout the entirety of the original poem, rather than to accommodate the specific tone of this stanza. One of our key references, the Arenal and Powell translation strongly supports this interpretation.

[3] We choose to interpret this “su” as a plural possession due to the “obren bien” in the next verse, because we assume that Sor Juana would not have changed the subject mid-verse.

[4] The inclusion of “hell’s fire” in this verse is a bit of a creative liberty. Initially it arose as an option to aid in our established rhyme scheme, but the more we examine its use, the more sense it makes. It adds to the sense of gravity associated with sexual impropriety throughout the poem and underscores the religious background from which we know that Sor Juana wrote. For more information on pro-woman sentiments in early modern women’s religious writings, see Stephanie Merrim, Early Modern Women’s Writing and Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, 1999; Sylvia Brown, ed., Women, Gender, and Radical Religion in Early Modern Europe, 2007; Carol Pal, Republic of Women: Rethinking the Republic of Letters in the Seventeenth Century, 2012.

[5] While “gravedad” does not necessarily translate directly to “firm conviction”, we believe that our translation of the word aids in establishing the implacable nature of men.

[6] Once again, there is no mention of “crimes” in the original verse, but we see the inclusion as an aid in conveying the overall impact of the poem, while they are not necessarily true to her original words.

[7] While there is no mention of anyone trying to impede the madness of men in the original, the word “curtail” serves mainly as a creative liberty that aids our rhyme scheme and does not detract from the impact of the line. For example, while Sor Juana does not mention anyone trying and failing to impede the madness of men, there is a certain sense that resistance is futile given all the mentions detailing the extent of male dominance.

[8] Here we decided that a direct translation of the Spanish “boogeyman” idiom does not entirely make sense in English, and find instead a similar meaning in the senselessness of a dog who chases his own tail and is upset when he catches it because he has foolishly overlooked the predictable painful outcome of the situation.

[9] In place of a neutral verb such as “find” that would more directly translate to “buscar”, we think that men “lust” after both Thais and Lucretia, albeit for different reasons. We felt that using such a stereotypically dirty word only further implicates and degrades men.

[10] Thais, the fabled lover of Alexander the Great, is widely recognized in classical literature as a symbol of female sexuality. Lucretia was a married Roman woman who felt such shame after suffering rape from Sextus Tarquinius that she was driven to suicide by the guilt of her moral convictions surrounding her virtue. In classical literature, she is often represented the ideal moral standard for her gender. Rather than simply following the structure of introducing Thais and Lucretia as well known paradigms for the opposing demands of men’s affections, we hope that our structure adds meaning to the otherwise antiquated references.

[11] “Reaction” does not directly translate to “humor” but we find that it better conveys a sense of responsibility in a situational response than would “mood” or “humor.”

[12] This translation is on the side of creative liberty. It aids in preserving the rhyme scheme associated with the idiom related to the fogged mirror, which was one element that we deem to be of utmost importance to preserve. We believe that it does not compromise the overall sense of arrogance presented by the man in question, and therefore allow it slightly change its manner of presentation.

[13] There is no mention of “his reflection” in the original work but we find that in addition to working with fogged mirror idiom, it adds a critical element of self-examination to the translation. For the man to find that he does not see himself as clearly as he expects adds interesting commentary towards his own disillusion in self-awareness and the male disconnect from logic while mistreating women that Sor Juana so emphatically underlines throughout her work.

[14] The use of “put you through hell” aids in our creative interpretation. The expression supports the rhyme scheme and also conveniently serves as a bit of sardonic pity in classic Sor Juana surreptitious degradation.

[15] There is no clear and direct single word translation for “recatarse” in English that carries the amount of innocence and virtuosity that we interpret from the original verse. As a result, we use the weaker verb “be” and include two adjectives that better convey this sense of modesty for us while maintaining rhyme and rhythm.

[16] After debating as to whether or not “asinine” should serve as our translation of “necios” in the title of our poem, we felt compelled to include it in our poem, given that it delivers a much more mature degree of culpability than “foolish.” Now that we are deeper in the poem, we have fewer qualms about directly attacking men in their ways, which “asinine” clearly does.

[17] Again, there is no mention of any word relating to “abuse” in the original work, but our addition as such gives added strength to the insult that is being delivered and aids our rhyme scheme.

[18] We choose to blatantly include “double-standard” here because that is ultimately the message that Sor Juana intends to convey with her words. Had the term existed in her time, we expect it would have been included in the original as well. According to the Corpus Diacrónico del Español (CORDE), the phrase “doble moral” was coined in 1968. Although google shows more than 475,000 hits for the expression “doble estándar,” it is not recognized by the RAE; the first page of results include hits from Argentina, Chile, Mexico, and Uruguay. The OED records the emergence of “double standard” in the English lexicon in 1951.

[19] We find “condemn” to be a far more impactful verb than “blame”, so we exchange the two in this verse to outline the severe implications of the convictions men hold. In following, we believe that “for morals upheld” still communicates the same blame associated with a female rejecting a male as “ for being cruel”, and has the added benefit of painting women in a morally superior light.

[20] “Pray tell” is an added transitional rhetorical device to communicate the mounting frustration that builds up as the poem continues surrounding the horrible double standard perpetuated by men.

[21] We add a sense of unfulfillment to this translation with the inclusion of “unsatiated”. It adds to our rhyme scheme, but more importantly serves to underline the illogical nature of a double standard, because it leaves no room in the process for satisfaction.

[22] This verse occupies a space as perhaps the one in which we take the most creative liberties. We want to preserve a sense of forced sacrifice coming from men, and believe that the imagery of an angel who has her wings clipped as a result of a man’s “love” literally debasing her, serves this purpose incredibly well. Not only does it paint women as holy and therefore far beyond the comprehension of mere mortals (in this case, men), it refers back to Sor Juana’s feminist defenses as she tried to reclaim religious spaces through poignant biblical citation. For example, in her villancico to Santa Catarina (Oaxaca, 1691), Sor Juana appeals to angelic spirits to “Venic, Serafines, / venid a mirar / una Rosa que vive / cortada, más” (V.1-4). In addition, we return to the image of an empowered angel in the final stanza, so this inclusion sets the stage for future metaphors.

[23] We include “fleeting” to aid our rhyme structure because while it adds a word not in the original, it adds very little that could change the overall sense of misguidedness associated with this passion, which will have an inherent sense of ephemerality.

[24] Here we believe that it is more important to maintain the simple elegance of the inversion in this line and the following one, rather than search for an alliteration that works as well as pagar/pecar.

[25] It is difficult to translate “Make them as you would find them” while maintaining our rhyme scheme, so here we employ the creative liberty to slightly change the meaning of one particular line to maintain pattern. Our translation details better future actions for men but also emphasizes their current wrongdoings very explicitly, whereas the original leaves that part unspoken but obvious nonetheless.

[26] While we could have directly translated this verse on the whole as a more forceful command, we believe that there is an interesting “Sor Juanista” value to presenting this verse as a logical hypothesis outlining an alternative set of behaviors. In a certain sense, it is satirically patronizing in the way that it guides men through this simple alternative course of action while reminding them of the responsibility they bear for taking actions that will ultimately lead to their downfall. Interestingly enough, this is the one point in the poem where we soften, rather than strengthen, Sor Juana’s level of aggression towards her intended audience and serves to juxtapose the incredibly powerful last verse that we have constructed.

[27] We feel that the inclusion of logic here is implicit in the original work, but it aids our translation to better emphasize the qualities we feel are central to Sor Juana.

[28] We include “my wings unfurl” for several reasons in our translation. First, this is the one point in the poem where Sor Juana inserts her first person perspective (not including the command in the prior verse), so we feel that it is acceptable to add as much perspective of hers as we like. As a result, we like the powerful birdlike or angelic image that “wings unfurl” conveys. Similarly, Sor Juana’s status as a “rara avis” could play into her sense of compulsion in writing this scathing criticism in a time where women had essentially no right to even complain about the abuses presented to them.

[29] We feel that “wage war” is a preferably stronger verb choice than “fight” and hope to close out our translation on highly powerful resonating note. In addition, it aids the alliteration begun in the first line of the verse with “wielding weapons” and “wings”.

[30] While “arrogance” would have been a suitable alternative for “hubris” and holds value as a direct translation, we believe that “hubris” includes even more impact because, by its very definition, is a fatal flaw. Oftentimes, hubris is associated with failure to comply with the limits of human nature, or playing God as men are in this case. It also often carries the implications of sexual connotation or exploitation. We believe that it conveys the degree of disdain that Sor Juana held for this manner of male behavior and has the added benefit of having originated in ancient Greece, thus fulfilling her penchant for classical references.

[31] We believe that this translation is strong enough directly, and think that maintaining her last words as closely as possible is of tantamount importance.

Full Colophon Information

Genre: Poetry
Subjects: Feminism, Philosophy, Women
Period: 1650-1700
Location: New Spain
Format: verse

Translators Note-Methodology:

Using the version of the redondilla found in the Porrúa edition of Sor Juana’s Obras completas (Redondilla 92 on page 109), we translated the “Philosophical Satire” multiple times individually with the intention of developing our respective understandings of the poem. As a result, our first translation drafts are more literal than subsequent versions and do not abide by a rhyme scheme, seeing as the translation process required us to constantly derive new interpretations of the poem. After attempting several translations separately, we came together and analyzed the poem stanza-by-stanza, collectively deciding what we believed the message of each stanza to be before splitting up again to work on individual translations with an ABBA rhyme scheme, the same tactic employed in the original poem in Spanish by Sor Juana. The final translation reflects our individual creative interpretations of the poem and our collaborative effort to convey the meaning, words, intentions, and form of Sor Juana’s original poem.

Of the poetic devices used by Sor Juana in “Philosophical Satire”, our primary goal was to preserve the original rhyme of the poem (ABBA), which we found to be the most distinguishing elements of the work, and one that best represents Sor Juana’s poetic skill. We gave secondary importance to her other poetic techniques, such as parallel structure and inverted word order; we tried as much as possible to keep these devices intact in our translation. In addition, we attempted to roughly follow the syllabic count established in the poem so as to further ensure a similar read at the end of the day. Using a myriad of literary devices, we were allowed more liberty in order to stay true to the meaning behind this poem, making her references and allusions more understandable to the modern reader.

In this translation, we want to preserve Sor Juana’s direct tone, making her statements as clear and blunt as she originally intended. Overall, we wanted to convey the strength of her argument by translating the poem’s brutally witty criticism (and Sor Juana’s awareness of the potential implications) while keeping her argument calm and rooted in logic. In “Hombres necios,” Sor Juana does not stoop down to the level of the men to whom she is writing to, but rather she uses reasoning to outwit and advise them. The purpose of this translation is not to simplify or reduce the complexity of her argument but rather to convey the selfsame poignant yet basic vernacular that she employs in Spanish to stay true to her intended audience. In our translation, we have the intention of maintaining her character and wittiness throughout, both based on our studies of her works and others’ representations of her. We want to prove her argument as scholarly, thoroughly intellectual, and of merit.

This translation tries to be consistent with our image of Sor Juana. This poem is an educated woman’s response to unjust societal norms and the hypocrisy of the double standard that gender inequality creates. She rejects and criticizes how men have assumed power from taking advantage of women in this manner. In her essay titled “A Feminist Rereading of Sor Juana’s Dream,” Cuban scholar and sorjuanista Georgina Sabat-Rivers said that “what really mattered to [Sor Juana] was to give to the feminine sex a literary and intellectual status equal to that of men, as can be seen explicitly or implicitly throughout her works,” which she does by the elevated argument of this redondilla (145). In our work, we joined Sabat-Rivers and many other scholar in recognizing Sor Juana’s carefully constructed, sardonically biting rejection of male authority.

We consulted a variety of helpful sources, including the Oxford English Dictionary and its Historical Thesaurus, as well as Real Academia Española’s “Nuevo tesoro lexicográfico de la lengua española” (NTLLE), whose definitions from a collection of Spanish dictionaries of the fifteenth-century onwards allowed us to better understand the meaning of words like Sor Juana did. This was perhaps our most valuable resource because her seventeenth-century language relates to a different context than that which we are familiar with; she also plays frequently with secondary and tertiary meanings of key words, and their Greco-Roman etymologies. We used various other translations including one found at the Early Americas Digital Archive (“Arraignment of Men,” and one in a translation of “La Respuesta” by Electa Arenal and Amanda Powell. Both of these works – one, an early-twentieth century translation of the poem, and the other, a more recent version published by the Feminist Press – allowed us to gain a broader perspective on how others interpret her words in a modern context. Using both the OED and Nuevo Tesoro while translating, in addition to a greater understanding of the text, we believe that we have chosen the most appropriate words and rhymes to preserve as much of what we interpret to be Sor Juana as possible.


• de la Cruz, Juana Inés. The Answer/La Respuesta: Including Sor Filotea's Letter and New Selected Poems. Trans. Electa Arenal and Amanda Powell. 2nd ed. New York: Feminist at the City U of New York, 2009. Print.

• de la Cruz, Juana Inés. Obras completas. México, D.F.: Editorial Porrúa, 2007. Print.

• Early Americas Digital Archive.

• Nuevo tesoro lexicográfico de la lengua española (NTLLE).

• Oxford English Dictionary.

• Sabat-Rivers, Georgina. "A Feminist Rereading of Sor Juana’s Dream." Feminist Perspectives on Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz. Ed. Stephanie Merrim. Detroit: Wayne State UP, 1999. Print.