Table of Contents
The poem “Fear” is written by Gabriela Mistral. The poem was written in 1924. It was published as a part of the poetry collection called “Ternura”. The poem talks about the fear a mother feels about her child. The poem explores the uneasiness a mother feels about the child being too ambitious. She is scared of the child losing touch from her roots. The poem explores the relationship between a mother and her daughter and how it affects a mother’s dreams for the daughter. The mother in the poem loves and understands her daughter and realizes that the society could influence her daughter to have unrealistic expectations that can distance her from reality.
About the poet
Gabriela Mistral is the pen name of the Chilean poet, Lucila Godoy Alcayaga. She was born in 1889 in Vicuña, Chile. She was also an educator, diplomat and humanist. She received Nobel Prize in Literature for her poetry in 1945, becoming the first Latin American to do so. Some of her famous works are “Piececitos de Niño” and “Todas Íbamos a ser Reinas”.
The poem is written in 24 lines. There are 3 stanzas, equally containing 8 lines each.
I don’t want them to turn my little girl into a swallow. She would fly far away into the sky and never fly again to my straw bed, or she would nest in the eaves where I could not comb her hair. I don’t want them to turn my little girl into a swallow.
The speaker begins by talking about how she does not want her daughter to be turned into a swallow by “them”. “Them” here stands for other people in the society or her peers. The mother believes that the other people can influence her daughter into dreaming too big or flying too high.
She thinks that once the girl learns how to fly high into the sky, she would not want to come back to her mother’s house. And if she flies too far away from the mother’s reach, the mother will not be able to brush her hair the way she does. She again repeats the first lines and says that she does not want her daughter to be turned into a swallow.
The poet begins by describing the fear of the mother. She does not want her daughter to be turned into a swallow by “them”. By swallow the poet means having very high ambitions and by “them” she means the society.
She is scared that once the daughter gets too high ambitions, she will aim too high and forget her simple beginnings. The daughter would no longer want to come back to her mother’s “straw bed”. The mother wants to brush her daughter’s hair when she grows up as she does now. She repeats the first lines again to put emphasis on her point.
I don’t want them to make my little girl a princess. In tiny golden slippers how could she play on the meadow? And when night came, no longer would she sleep at my side. I don’t want them to make my little girl a princess.
The speaker again brings in the influence that other people can have on her daughter. She believes that the others may lead her daughter to dream of becoming a princess one day. She doesn’t want her daughter to be treated like a princess. She fears that being treated like a princess will distance her daughter from reality and harm her growth. Moreover her little girl will not be able to play like a young child should in golden slippers.
According to the mother, golden slippers may be beautiful to look at but they are not comfortable to wear. In the same way, a luxurious lifestyle is a dream that should not be realized. And because a princess sleeps in palaces, the daughter would not want to sleep next to her mother. This scares the mother.
In this stanza the mother rejects the idea of an overly luxurious life. She does not want her daughter to be a princess and wear slippers made of gold. All of this will make her daughter forget about her humble belongings. The mother is scared that this life of luxury will make the daughter stay away from her mother and not sleep next to her side.
And even less do I want them one day to make her queen. They would put her on a throne where I could not go to see her. And when night time came I could never rock her … I don’t want them to make my little girl a queen!
The speaker says more than anything else, she does not want “them” to influence her daughter to have the expectation of being treated like a queen. That the scariest thing for her is if her daughter was treated like a queen. She says that the society will put her on a high throne, this will make it harder for the mother to see or meet her daughter. And the daughter will not want her mother to rock her to sleep.
The speaker reiterates how the mother thinks that a life of luxury will corrupt the little girl. Being a “queen” and sitting on a “throne” will push the daughter farther away from the mother. Once the daughter gets a taste of high living and luxury, she would no longer want to hear her mother’s lullabies and be rocked to sleep in her arms. The poet ends the poem by repeating the first lines of the stanza to stress on the mother’s wish.