Throughout this piece, Agustini experiments with imagery. Some of these images are quite clear as her speaker describes her opinion of the moon. Others are certainly going to be interpreted in different ways. This poem was first written in Spanish. The version below was translated into English by Valerie Martínez.
In the Light of the Moon Delmira Agustini (Translated by Valerie Martínez) The moon is pallid and sad, the moon is bloodless and cold. I imagine the half-moon as a profile of the dead ... And beyond the rekilled and praised pallor Of Arab pearls, I prefer the rose in recent bud. In a corner of this land with the colors of earth, I adore this pale moon, I adore this death mask! And at the altar of the night, like a flower inflamed, Inebriated by strange perfumes, my soul resigns. I know of lips withered with blasphemy and wine; After an orgy they kiss her trace in the lane. Insane ones who die kissing her image in lakes… Because she is light of innocence, because white things Illuminate her mysterious light, things taking on white, And even the blackest souls become uncertainly bright.
Explore In the Light of the Moon
‘In the Light of the Moon’ by Delmira Agustini describes a speaker’s love for the moon and how she is drawn to it.
In this unique piece of poetry, the speaker outlines her opinion of the moon and the various images she feels it symbolizes. In the first stanza, the speaker compares the moon to death, describes it as cold and distant, but also professes her adoration for it. In the final stanza of the poem, the speaker refers to others who have experienced the same type of devotion as she has. Those with dark souls have been drawn to the moon, as she has, due to its purity.
Structure and Form
‘In the Light of the Moon’ by Delmira Agustini is a three-stanza poem that is divided into two four-line stanzas and one final five-line stanza. As noted above, the poem was originally written in Spanish. Therefore, readers should approach the translation knowing that the specific words on the page were not those that Agustini originally composed the piece with. That being said, the poet’s use of language is fairly consistent throughout. She employs a great deal of imagery and uses other examples of literary devices like juxtaposition and those explored below.
Throughout this piece, the poet makes use of several literary devices. These include but are not limited to:
- Simile: occurs when the poet compares two unlike things using “like” or “as.” For example, the poet describes the “half-moon as a profile of the dead” and then she later compares herself to a “flower inflamed.”
- Caesura: occurs when a poet inserts a pause in a line of verse. This could be through the use of punctuation or through a natural pause in the meter. For example, “Of Arab pearls, I prefer the rose in recent bud.”
- Imagery: can be seen when the poet uses particularly interesting and effective descriptions. They should inspire the reader to imagine the scene in the greatest detail as possible. For example: “And at the altar of the night, like a flower inflamed, / Inebriated by strange perfumes, my soul resigns.”
- Enjambment: occurs when the poet cuts off a line before its natural stopping point. For example, the transition between lines three and four of the first stanza.
The moon is pallid and sad, the moon is bloodless and cold.
I imagine the half-moon as a profile of the dead…
And beyond the reknowned and praised pallor
Of Arab pearls, I prefer the rose in recent bud.
In the first stanza of ‘In the Light of the Moon,’ the speaker begins by describing the moon with two different connected phrases. The speaker says that the moon is “pallid and sad” and that the moon is “bloodless and cold.” In this first line, it feels, the speaker is interpreting the moon as an emotionless and distant object, how most readers have likely imagined the celestial body themselves. In the next line, the poet uses first-person perspective in order to allow her speaker’s personal experiences to come into play.
She regards the moon as a “profile of the dead,” an example of a simile. It feels to her as something distant, dead, and cold. But, at the same time, she makes something else clear about herself. She prefers roses in “recent bud” to “Arab pearls.” Both are natural, but one is far more cultivated.
In a corner of this land with the colors of earth,
I adore this pale moon, I adore this death mask!
And at the altar of the night, like a flower inflamed,
Inebriated by strange perfumes, my soul resigns.
In the second quatrain, the speaker says that in the “corner of this land with the colors of earth / I adore this pale moon.” Following this, she immediately refers to the moon as “this death mask.” Again, she compares the moon to death. She feels a closeness to it, rather than feeling separate from it due to its proximity to death and coldness.
She feels at home and joyful at the “altar of the night.” This is an interesting statement that helps readers understand the devotion the speaker has to these nighttime images. She, like others before her (the next stanza reveals), is dedicated to the moon. It’s there, among the perfumes of night, that her “soul resigns.” She is at peace and willing to give herself over to the forces that have entranced her.
I know of lips withered with blasphemy and wine;
After an orgy they kiss her trace in the lane.
Insane ones who die kissing her image in lakes…
Because she is light of innocence, because white things
Illuminate her mysterious light, things taking on white,
And even the blackest souls become uncertainly bright.
The final stanza is six lines long. Here, the speaker looks back on what she “knows” about other people who have loved the moon. There are those “Insane ones” who have died “kissing her image in lakes.” They are drawn to her, the moon, because she is “light of innocence.” The white of the moon is one of the most important images and symbols in these lines. It symbolizes innocence. The white is overwhelming and incredibly strong. It has the ability to lighten even the blackest souls, the speaker says.
Those who are drawn to the moon feel compelled to be close to it because of the way it lightens their burdens. Those who have lived less than innocent lives are alleviated of some of their burdens when they see the moon.
While this piece focuses on the moon specifically, it is also possible to read it as a depiction of how the natural world, or night, more generally influences people.
The meaning is that the moon is a symbol of innocence that, through its beauty and purity, can lighten the burden of human beings. The speaker herself feels this way and experiences joy at the altar of night, staring at the white moon.
She wrote this poem in order to explore the power of the natural world and one speaker’s understanding of it. The poet suggests that the moon, as a constant element in the night sky, symbolizes death and innocence. While entranced by it, one’s soul experiences some relief.
The tone is passionate and dedicated. The speaker is one of those who loves the moon with a very particular type of devotion. She sees it as a symbol of death and innocence, one that draws others to it through their desire to be purified.
Readers who enjoyed this piece should also consider reading some other related poems. For example:
- ‘The Harvest Moon’ by Ted Hughes – presents the beauty of the “flame-red” harvest moon that occurs after or before the autumnal equinox.
- ‘Facts About the Moon’ by Dorianne Laux – a clever and moving description of the dynamic between the earth and the moon.
- ‘Death and the Moon’ by Carol Ann Duffy – is an elegy written for Adrian Henri, a longtime partner of the poet’s.