María Luisa Milanés was an ardent feminist and Cuban nationalist who killed herself in part because of an unhappy marriage (Davies 58). She wrote poems that were deep critiques of patriarchal culture and that were expressions of solidarity with other women and all oppressed people.
Her poems were sometimes published under the pseudonym Liana de Lux. Her passions were philosophy, music, and literature. Her works include Autobiografía, published though unfinished. She destroyed many of her own poems and essays before her death. Amado Nervo was said to be her favorite poet and a great influence on her work.
She read French, English, and Latin, writing in and translating from French, Spanish, and English, publishing in the journal Orto (Fajardo). A 1920 volume of Orto gathered a selection of her verses and was dedicated to her memory (Lizaso and Fernández de Castro 299).
Hago como Spártaco
Ya decidí, me voy, rompo los lazos
que me unen a la vida y a sus penas.
Hago como Spártaco;
me yergo destrozando las cadenas
que mi exisitir tenían entristecido,
miro al mañana y al ayer y clamo:
¡Para mayores cosas he nacido
que para ser esclava y tener amo!
El mundo es amo vil; enloda, ultraja,
apresa, embota, empequeñece, baja
todo nivel moral; su hipocresía
hace rastrera el alma más bravia.
¡Y ante el cieno y la baba, ante las penas
rompo, como Spártaco, mis cadenas!I’ll do what Spartacus did
I've decided: I'll go, breaking the ties
that bind me to life and its sorrows.
I'll do what Spartacus did;
I'll stand tall to destroy the chains
that have saddened my being,
I'll look towards morning and the past and declaim:
I was born for greater things
than being a slave and having a master!
The world is a vile master; filth, insult,
snare, mind-numbing, soul-narrowing, below
all moral standards; its hypocrisy
makes the bravest soul despicable.
And considering the mud and slime, considering sorrow,
I break, like Spartacus, my chains!
No puedo comprender . . .
Me abisma no entender, bello Narciso,
la ingenua admiración que te arrebata
y te fascina en la onda azul y plata . . .
Claro, que para ti es un paraíso
mirar tus ojos bellos y tu boca,
tu sonrisa, tu frente y tu figura
llena de majestad y de dulzura . . .
Pero ¿no piensas que haya algo de bueno
que distraiga tus ojos y tu mente,
fije más alto tu mirar sereno
y entretenga tus horas dulcemente?
¡Quisiera comprender mi alma sencilla
la perfecta hermosura de tu frente,
donde jamás el pensamiento brilla!
I just don’t get it . . .
Lovely Narcissus, I'm afraid I don't understand
the naive admiration that grips
you bewitched in the blue and silver wave . . .
Sure, for you it's Paradise
to look into your own beautiful eyes and your mouth,
your smile, your brow and your figure
full of majesty and sweetness . . .
But don't you think there's something better
that might amuse your eyes and mind,
might direct your calm gaze to something higher
and fill the hours with sweetness?
My simple soul longs to understand
the perfect beauty of your brow,
where no thought ever sparks!