In this collection we see Vallejo begin to move away from the ideals and influences of modernism (Higgins,J) rather than using language as a tool to escape reality by romanticising it, Vallejo seeks to convey his own sense of reality, whilst he does employ modernist techniques such as religious symbolism and imagery that is connotative of beauty and art he subverts this imagery and in this way succeeds in conveying emotion in a manner much more personal and direct that lacks literary pretension and the glorification of the role of the artist (Miller, N).
The poem explores Vallejo’s crisis of faith and the effect this has had on his relationship with society and how it has caused him to feel in terms of his existence in the world as a consequence. The broken language is symbolic of Vallejo’s broken faith and ideology, he attempts make sense of a world which to him does not make sense. The title Espergesia in an archaic legal term signifying the passing of a sentence this then must raise the question of who is passing the sentence there are only two possibilities of who this could be, God or society.
Given that Vallejo debases religion and thereby a society with religion at its foundation, it would be strange if he felt this sentence to be actually imposed upon him by either party, instead however the poem implies that life itself it a sentence. Vallejo in his clever employment of paradox, “el claustro de un silencio que hablo a flor de fuego” portrays the sense of loss he feels now religion holds nothing of value for him.
Also the imagery in the penultimate stanza of “la luz” and “la sombra” is a metaphor for religions downfall. It is made implicit throughout the poem that he does not believe in God, the most pertinent example that demonstrates this is in the opening stanza “Yo naci un dia que Dios estuvo enfermo” through his use of personification Vallejo attributes human weakness to God, undermining his power and in doing that, as by definition God cannot be ill, he denies his existence, this is further stressed by the repetition of this phrase.
There is evidence to show that he bears a sentence imposed by society, for example in the lines “Todos saben… que soy malo” there is a striking sense of bitterness of what society has condemned him to be now he doesn’t believe in God.
The juxtaposition of what everybody constrasts significantly with what they don’t know “del diciembre de ese enero”, he emphasisesthis in the contrast in language of simple compared to a more elusive and ambiguous mode of expression that puts across a sense of perhaps being harder to comprehend yet of having a more profound meaning, the implication being that others have a superficial understanding of life as they know only of his external appearance and his external acts and can perceive nothing of the state of his soul his sense of emptiness and his existentialist view of life (Higgins, J).
It seems clear that Vallejo is sentenced by society for his belief that life is a sentence and within this idea we gain an insight to the sense of isolation and fear that is so vividly manifested in the poem. In the third stanza, the image “la Esfinge preguntona del Desierto” communicates this notion with poignancy, the sphinx being the traditional symbol of the enigma of existence “grand in its loneliness… symbol of eternity… forever gazing on and on into a future which will still be distant when we, like all who have preceded us and looked upon its face, have lived our little lives and disappeared” (Stoddard,J. L)
Whilst many critics believe that the opening stanza indicates that the poet is pursued by a sense of fatality, it can also be maintained that this line is a manifestation of his despair caused by him not believing in religion rest of the poem stresses the poets isolation and different vision of life primarily that God does not exist and where religion once gave meaning to life now it cannot this understanding has led him to become misunderstood by the majority of society who continue to derive meaning to life from religion this point is illustrated throughout the poem particularly in the paradoxical imagery that he creates manifest a deeper understanding whilst serving to emphasise the meaningless of life “ hay un vacio, en mi aire metafisico”.
In conclusion this poem can be interpreted in many ways however to me it is the cry of an existentialist in a religious world, Vallejo is experiencing a crisis of faith and within that a crisis of identity and this conflict and confusion of emotions is reflected in his language, in particular his use of antithesis and paradox. At the same time Vallejo is coming to terms with the meaningless and inevitability of life in a deterministic and seemingly meaningless universe. His sentence is the “limites” life imposes, his portrayal of an unfulfilled existence is powerful. The poem is an existential lament and an incredibly expressive, emotive and revolutionary piece of writing.