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"Triumphs of Egypt"


About this poem

Juana Inés de la Cruz

B. Limosneros, trans.

1 The translation of the Hebrew Bible was, according to one Aristeas, the project of Ptolemy II Philadelphus, who wanted a Greek version for the library of Alexandria. Especially as concerns the specific number of translators (who were said to have been sent to an island, each to work in seclusion on his own version) the story may be apocryphal; but what is more certain is that the translation, considered highly skilful, was executed in Egypt during the reign of one of the early Ptolemys.

The triumphs of Egypt

in dulcet strains

the Earth and Heavens

in concert hymn,

since neither can


while upon such festivity

joyously attend

the purling of streams

and whistle of the wind,

the rustle of leaves

and the echo's lament.


Be it vanity or Providence,

the indomitable Ptolemy Philadelphus 1

assigned seventy-two sages to the translation

of the Holy Scriptures into Greek.

   God so ordained that to his care

our Church should owe the Old Testament's purity,

and that by his hand be corrected

wherein the Hebrew original erred.

But why (O Heaven!), why to a Pagan King

did God grant so exalted a privilege

as to make him sovereign Guardian

of His deepest mysteries?


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