Pablo Neruda Poems
Images of Nature in a Song of Despair and Body of a Woman by Pablo Neruda
Pablo Neruda is a Chilean poet who has won the Nobel-Prize Award and was once named as “the greatest poet of the twentieth century in any language.” During his early days, his poetry consisted of a sensuality that hadn’t been widely explored or accepted before by any other poet. His original poetry was sensual, earthy and different to previous notions of love. He explored this sensuality through his poetry as a frank spokesperson for love. He raised the traditional “women of nature view” to being on a cosmic level leading him to be one of the first who were widely accepted for his sensuality. Through many poems written by Pablo Neruda, we see a great quantity of figurative language and literary devices. Many of these instances can be found in Neruda’s Twenty Love Poems and A Song of Despair. The use of these devices brings Neruda’s poetry to life; it catches the reader’s attention and keeps them focused on the essence of the poems. Most of Neruda’s thematic elements are centralised around visual imagery and personification; these are used to help the reader understand the fundamental nature of Neruda’s works.
Twenty Love Poems and A Song of Despair are based around the magnificence the female body possesses and the effects of love mainly explored through images of nature.
“Cuerpo de mujer, blancas colinas, muslos blancos, pareces al mundo en tu actitud de entrega,”
This is just one of the many occurrences of figurative language found within his book of poems where he uses these images of nature. However, these poems are not just sensual poetry, but beautifully crafted uses of figurative language. Neruda’s unique use of language places him in his own class of poetry and Neruda creates a feeling of natural understanding through his poetry. Neruda’s love of nature and the beauty that exists amongst it blazes through his language and metaphors.
Neruda’s style and major themes changed and developed throughout his life but in the Twenty Love Poems, writing as a young man himself, he explores the ecstasies and torments of young love. Neruda seems to view love as a form of salvation from isolation, it is a way of crying out against life’s tragedies and a method for overcoming loneliness. In particular he portrays sex as a way of uniting with nature and the Earth. However, love and love-making, is not a straight-forward solution to the problems of existence because the person that you are in love with may be as flawed, weak and lonely as you are. This can be witnessed in A Song of Despair (Una Canción Desperada) where Neruda reminisces about a former lover and the effect she had on him. He remembers the way she loved but also the power that she held which he compares to the sea. In much of Neruda’s poetry he uses images of nature to portray love; its sensuality, its power and its sorrow.
“Emerge tu recuerdo de la noche en que estoy.
El rio anuda al mar su lament obstinado.”
Neruda is reminiscing about a woman, who was a force of nature so strong that she swallowed everything around her, using a simile to compare her with the sea; long and enormous like the time and distance they were apart. He uses this naturalistic imagery to show her power and presence in his life was powerful. He also uses personification to describe the river “mingling” with the sadness; an image representing how the river of sadness is now going out into the sea where all the sadness is collectively together.
Neruda also uses imagery of nature to portray much darker images of love as well as sorrowful images.
“Sobre mi corazón llueven frÍas corolas.
Oh sentina de escombros feroz cueva de naufragos.”
The image of dead flower heads pouring over his heart is quite bitter because he only mentions the flower heads but what happened to the stems and leaves? It can be interpreted as a metaphor of someone beautiful but cold hearted like his lover and the effect she had on him and how she was pouring life and love into his heart but now these dead flowers symbolise that she is doing the opposite. She has torn the love right out of him, now only injecting him with hurt. The cave of the shipwrecked is a metaphor that has been extended from the first line. She is the sea and he has been caught up in the shipwreck. He has been hit with the force of her power. He uses these conventionally beautiful and scenic images to portray love in a sorrowful light where these conventionally blissful images have turned into a symbol of hurt.
Further into the poem, Neruda also reminisces about how she was his salvation, not just his torture.
“Era la negra, negra soledad de las islas,
Y allí, mujer de amor, me acogieron tus brazos.”
Here, he could be metaphorically describing how he was mentally in a dark place, void of light and he continues to use the metaphor of the sea and now he’s at an island but not some sort of tropical holiday island. She saved him, embraced him, and loved him which saved him.
Neruda has a strong appreciation for women; we see this in A Song of Despair. Even though his lover caused him much grief and heartache, he still continues to talk about her more endearing qualities such as how she saved him even though she still did the opposite in the end. In many of Neruda’s poems, a loving appreciation of women can be found as a central theme.
In Body of a Woman (Cuerpo de una Mujer) Neruda uses sensual images of nature as well as phrases of gratitude to show his appreciation and love for women. The narrator talks of a difficulty in their life which they were saved from. The specific of the difficulty are unknown for their praise are the focus of the poem.
“Fui solo como un túnel. De mí huían los pájaros
y en mí la noche entraba su invasión poderosa.”
Neruda compares himself to a tunnel: empty. He was in a dark place mentally where he couldn’t find any positivity and even when positivity came to him, his negativity repelled it such as the birds: a symbol of happiness and care-free. No matter what goes through this tunnel, whether it is joyous like the birds mentioned, or not, he cannot shake this feeling of the loneliness swallowing them up which would be worse during nightfall as that is especially when this feeling devoured him.
“Pero cae la hora de la venganza, y te amo.
Cuerpo de piel, de musgo, de leche ávida y firme.”
Again, Neruda employs images of nature but he uses them to craft a woman of nature- Mother Nature/Earth. Mother Nature is described and he praises her for being able to do things which he cannot. A woman can produce nourishment and give life unlike their male counterparts. At the beginning of the poem he states:
“Mi cuerpo de labriego salvaje te socava
y hace saltar el hijo del fondo de la tierra.”
Neruda describes the body of a woman and then describes his own body. He describes it as being rough, peasant, and by comparison it is unworthy of “digging” into her. He describes a son “leaping from the earth” and all these descriptions are about love-making and reproduction. The magnificence of a woman being able to reproduce which is something that a man cannot do, so by comparison a woman is far mightier as he talks lowly of himself. This kind of figurative language of appreciation is what fuelled to Neruda being one of the first to be hugely successful in sensual poetry. By portraying women in this new light, one in which they were worshipped and connected with nature, being true to themselves with not only who but what, they are.
To conclude, images of nature are of prominent use in Pablo Neruda’s poetry, especially within the theme of love. Una Canción Desperada shows love in multiple perspectives. Love; the salvation, the heartbreak, the naivety. All these different perspectives are portrayed using images of nature, from being positive images to cynical ones, Neruda captures it all in one poem. He shows that there are many ways in which one person’s love can affect us and that the feelings can be very varied. In Cuerpo de una Mujer Neruda here shows his love and appreciation for women. A completely different type of love, he isn’t in love, he’s in admiration and awe. There are far more sensual images used here in comparison to different types of love portrayed in Un Canción Desperado. Overall, Neruda successfully uses these images to create a varied view of love which is a central theme in both poems. Neruda’s earthy, sensual poetry preceded previous notions of intimacy which gives his poetry authenticity. Love can make us feel a variety of feelings, each one different but yet all within one love.
Heights of Macchu Picchu by Pablo Neruda
Pablo Neruda’s poem Heights of Macchu Picchu represents in many ways. Macchu Picchu was built in the 15th century Inca style,with dry stone walls. Macchu Picchu is a nice place for people who loves nature and like to climb. Fun fact, the classic Inca Trail takes roughly 4 days to climb, though the last of those four days will be only a short hike to be in Machu Picchu in time to see the sunrise.The poem is written in free verse, also Neruda connects the past with the present. Heights of Macchu Picchu is symbolized in multiple ways. Neruda explores Macchu Picchu to convey the meaning of life as he learns about the city he connects with the past and reflects on his thoughts of life, especially through the use of imagery and personification.
Neruda’s imagery conveys an appreciation of humanity and the human experience. For example neruda explains that in line (33-38) “And the air came in with orange-blossom fingers over all those asleep: a thousand years of air, months, weeks of air, of blue wind, of iron cordillera, that were like soft hurricanes of footsteps polishing the lonely boundary of the stone”. So these are the last lines of the poem and which is part of the theme. The theme of the poem is about life, it explains some of the things us humans go through. Neruda adds, “here the wide kernels of maize rose up and fell again like red hail” line (15). This is basically talking about how life put us in tough situations. Everything in this life comes to an end, nothing stays forever. I actually agree with the statements Neruda has made about life in some of those lines.
Neruda portrays his imagery to convey his thoughts of Macchu Picchu, that nothing stays forever and everything always comes to an end. Neruda uses many oceans imagery to convey the human experience. He states “Mother of stone, spume of the condor. High reef of the human dawn. Shovel lost in the first sand” line (10-13). Which really shows appreciation and have that deep meaning into it.He also kinda points out that you can not live your life to please others.The choice must be yours. These are some of the traditional practices in poetry. It basically talks about the leader and a sacred place which really shows the value and power of the people. As he states “the mother of stones” alongside the “Spume of condors”. That really shows the condition of humans and what they are going through..The other line does much the same, “High reef of the human dawn” a natural metaphor. Machu Picchu appears emergents and yet buried. Also kinda connected with happiness. Then he talks about how the people are not happy because they are being separated. It had a big effect of the humans even cause some of the humans to die. The speaker compares city itself with nature, by saying it’s the ‘high reef of the human dawn’ and the ‘mother of stone.’ There’s a very deep meaning of life in these lines. He compared the nature with life and how nature relieve stress.
Neruda’s imagery illustrates Macchu Picchu as a way to tell a story about the past. Neruda concludes that “Here in the high carnivorous lairs the feet or man rested at night next to the feet of an eagle” line (20-23). He’s focused on the past and finds the modern world to be wanting because of the people in it.The speaker is trying to find an aspect of himself in his travels but isn’t able to. The poem really connects with the past. While Neruda was going through his journey of Macchu Picchu, the Spanish civil war happening.The Spanish civil war was basically war of principles. Which was a bloody war during that time and killed many people. Neruda mention the Spanish war in his wars but not in this one. Neruda doesn’t mention the past but he points it out in way to tell a story about the past, which makes it kinda hard to understand but it makes it look more professional.
Finally in this poem Neruda describes the sacred city which deeply connected with past life. Represnts what all humans go through.Heights of Macchu Picchu is symbolized in multiple ways. Neruda explores Macchu Picchu to convey the meaning of life, as he learns about the city he connects with the past and reflects on his thoughts of life especially through the use of Imagery and personification. So this was what’s it all about which is humanity, life or the human experience and condition. His main focus was on the past through this whole poem.
Pablo Neruda: a Dilemma of Lost Love
Pablo Neruda wrote in a variety of styles such as in his collection of love poems, surrealist poems, historical epics, and political manifestos. In 1971 Neruda won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Colombian novelist Gabriel García Márquez called him ‘the greatest poet of the 20th century in any language”. Pablo Neruda was one of the first to use surrealism technique in his poetry. It added a sense of supernatural phenomena. No living poet is as famous today as Neruda was in his lifetime. His poetry had an enormous influence throughout Latin America.
His first two books were rather self-published and traditional but it brought little attention from the public. His third book, Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair (1924), was not considered worthy of publishing because of its frank celebration of sex. The frank eroticism brought attention and his striking images capture the ecstasies and torments of young love:
Body of woman, white hills, white thighs, you look like the world in your posture of surrender.
My savage peasant body digs through you and makes the son leap from the depth of the earth. (From ‘Song I’)
In his last 20 years he produced an amazing amount of work much of his love poetry was inspired by his passion for his third wife, Matilde Urrutia (his first two marriages ended in divorce). This collection allows us to follow the evolution of his romantic sensibility over five decades.
As the purpose of this paper is to study dilemma of lost love of Neruda, he wrote many poems about his lost love like The Song of Despair, Tonight I Can Write the Saddest Lines, Don’t Be Far Off, When I Die I want your hands on mine and Here I Love You.
In the poem The Song of Despair, poet’s beloved had departed from him. He is in despair as he know that she can no longer come back to him. His love and fascination dominate his mind and thought. So he experiences emotional attachment with her but knows well that she is not going to experience again the pleasant moments of life spent together in joy. He is sad to remember that she had departed for ever. They are never going to meet again.
The poem is an elegy written as a memorial of poet’s dead love. The poem narrates deep sorrow that has engulfed him when he is feeling that his end is near. He remembers how he spent his life with her in perfect harmony and profound joy. There is nothing permanent in life of man on earth. His joys, love, memory of pleasant relations, songs of love and beauty are transitory. A river is a symbol of nature which is going through mountains and rippling through green and pale landscape ultimately loses its form and movement in ocean. The poet feels this is destiny of man’s love. His birth and death are fixed and loses his identity or memory in mystery of nature.The poem is full of love but the love is physical and sensual. The description of landscape is natural and realistic. The poet laments that man’s life is not endless. Everything even the memories are forgotten. The parting is so complete that not only physically but also in thought and songs move away from each other farther and farther:
“It is the hour of departure, the hard cold hour which the night fastens to all the time tables. Oh farther than everything oh farther than everything, It is the hour of departure oh abandoned one!” (Stanza 26 & 29)
The poem Tonight I can Write the Saddest Lines the speaker’s feelings of loneliness lead to immense sadness. The opening line establishes the mood of this poem and the incredible sense of loss the speaker feels. In this poem, the sorrow does not diminish, but intensifies. The constant images of night can present internal darkness, sadness, and lost romance. At night we think about something that tortures us, unable to be comfortable and to sleep. This is a breakup poem, so night represents the emptiness he feels after she left.
“This is all. In the distance someone is singing. In the distance, My soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.” (Stanza 8)
The loneliness of night is immense without her. She has gone, but he still can’t accept it. It is hard to forget someone you love. You feel like your lover is still with you. The poet wants to forget her, and he is trying to convince himself he doesn’t love her anymore, but he clearly does. The speaker is so upset that he starts to ask himself if they ever truly loved each other or if it was all a figment of his imagination. In short, he discovers how sometimes she loved him and other times he loved her, but that his love was not enough for her to stay with him. While he might not write about his lover anymore, it doesn’t mean he will forget her.
In the poem Don’t be Far Off speaker simply can’t live without his lover—not even for a day! One day without someone you love can be devastating. Neruda uses the metaphor of an “empty station,” where the trains wait quietly for the morning (when the passengers will return). This is when they will come to life, just as Neruda will come back to life if his love were to return. Neruda uses gradation to describe his feelings, saying,
‘Don’t go far off, not even for a day/ Don’t leave me, even for an hour / Don’t leave me for a second.’
His pleas continue throughout the poem, becoming more and more desperate. By the end he would wander the entire earth seeking his love if they were ever separated. It is the clear from the first line that the speaker has a listener in mind. This person is very dear to him and makes him feel as if he is soon to be alone. He is emotionally tied to this person and is begging them not to “go far off.” Neruda’s speaker does not want his listener to leave him, “even for a day’. He says that it is difficult to come up with the words to express himself. As he waits for this person to come back to him the day will be “long” and he will be “waiting.” There is nothing else he can do to occupy his time aside from sitting, waiting and hoping this person will return to him. He will never stop and never rest. His wanderings will appear maze-like in their complicated patterns and crisscrossing sections. Throughout this imagined, distressing time in his life, he will be asking for the listener’s return.
The poem When I Die I Want Your Hands On Mine is an incredibly emotional love poem. In this poem, the speaker talks about wanting his spouse to remember him after he passes, but he doesn’t want her to mourn his loss so much that she doesn’t continue living her life. The poet wants his lover to remember him after his death. His last wish is to feel her hands one more time. She was the reason for his happiness. He wants her to go on living after his death because he loves her very much.
“When I die I want your hands on my eyes: I want the light and the wheat of your beloved hands to pass their freshness over me one more time … to feel the smoothness that changed my destiny.” (Stanza 1)
In the poem Here I Love You Neruda imagines kissing his lover, but she is not there. She is far away in another world. He passionately remembers the sweet moments he spent in her company. The poet speaks to his departed beloved. She has gone ‘there’ while he remains ‘here’. Thus “here” refers to the dark pine wood, moonlit waters, snowy evenings and all those places the speaker travels alone with the memories of his beloved where as ‘there’ signifies the world where the speaker’s beloved has already reached and now dwells. The grief of separation is immense in this poem because the speaker is alone here in this physical world. However, he still loves her as faithfully as before but the horizon hides her in vain. He looks at the ships sailing out of sight if he could send his kisses to his beloved. The sadness that echoes through the line
“Sometimes I get up early and even my soul is … Far away the sea sounds and resounds. This is a port. Here I love you.” (Stanza 3)
He recalls the times he spent with her in the natural surroundings of the moonlit waters, snowy evenings in the pine forests and the coastal areas. So the speaker feels that he is alone in this world. He feels that days are passing monotonously. Sometimes he wakes up early. His whole body and even the soul is wet because of some kind of bad dream and feels as if he had no energy. He feels that he had heard the sound of the sea far away. He loves her while he is here in this world and she is in another world. Although she is there beyond the horizon in the other world he loves her. Sometimes he sends the message of love to her but gets no reply. He is forgotten like the old anchors. In the afternoon he feels sad. He is hungry and his life has no purpose. He loves her who is not with him. He finds difficult to pass the evening and hates it. But he likes the night because he meets her regularly in his dream. When the stars in the sky look at him, he feels that his beloved is looking at him and he hears the pine trees singing her name.
Through various poems it is analyzed that poet loves his beloved a lot. The pain of separation is immense and it can be seen in almost all his poems. He is unable to bear loss of his beloved and wanted to spend all his life with her but fate has another choice. Although one loves another person dearly, but they can’t control decisions of God. Fate has a lot of important role to play in one’s life. We can’t fight with our destiny. Whatever happens in our life is in accordance with destiny written by God. Some people accept it and some remain in memories of their beloved forever like Neruda.
The importance of pure love is enormous and every human being can feel it. No matter who is the person, love always takes an important place in his or her life because love is defined as the most important indicator of happiness. Neruda was a dedicated lover. Even after his lover died he had an immortal love for his beloved. He will never forget his lover and always love her till his last breath and always cherish their memories that they had spent together.
Loss is a reminder of the impermanence of life and its pain of is unavoidable. When we open ourself to the pain, we open yourself to joy. When a loved one dies, the loss follows you from moment to moment. It is both permanent and ever present. The pain of loss is important, not just because it challenges us in ways but it has huge lessons to teach us. The pain is a message about what is important in life. It not only tells us how to love; it also provides us with an opportunity to discover sources of strength and flexibility within us that help us prosper. Looking inside the pain expands us, encouraging us to become larger than we are and to live a life of meaning. Inside the pain is the opportunity to see all of our present moments in a way that helps us live life more purposefully and more fully. But we can’t learn the lessons that loss contains while fighting or running from it. Neruda first run away from bitter reality of his life i.e the death of his beloved and dearly wishes her to come back so that they can spend their life happily ever but after some time he accepts the death of his beloved and reminisce the moments they spent together and wishes to die with their memories.
But in his poems from the 1950s and 60s, solitude is no longer unbearable. He had a lovely wife, and a beach house where he draws solace from the sea. These poems have an atmosphere of stillness and contemplation, especially in contrast to the turbulence of his youth. It is as if he is settling into himself as just a man, not a famous poet.
Thus, it is concluded that Pablo Neruda is one of the best poets of his time. He was famous for his love poems and poems on politics. His poems are sensuous, shocking, emotional, touching and full of love. Neruda was clearly a prolific writer. Neruda cannot be categorized by a single poetic style. No sooner had he mastered one poetic form or mood than he moved to another. The sensual poems of Veinte poemas are quite distant from the surrealist poems of Residencia, and the political, epical Canto general is conversational and colloquial. His poems range from painfully intense introspection to fiery political rhetoric, yet clarity of poetic vision and emotional conviction is found throughout his work. There have been few poets as prolific as Neruda and few who have sought after, and achieved, such high and diverse standards of excellence. The least that can be said of Neruda is that he was the greatest Spanish poet of the century.
Pablo Neruda’s Poetry and Poetic Styles
Throughout his poetry, Pablo Neruda utilizes a variety of poetic styles in order to portray a message. It is widely accepted that, at the start of his career, Neruda’s poetry embraced romanticism, followed by a deeper form of tangled romanticism. Contrasting with his romantic phase, Pablo Neruda took on an increasingly political approach in his poetry. Poems by Neruda such as Dead Gallop are often held in high contrast with poems like the United Fruit Co. This contrast is present because the latter of these poems is so clearly politically motivated that it approaches the line of being propagandistic. This tangle of the exploration of art through the utilization of aesthetics and the exploration of art involving a charged political agenda gives rise to the debate of when art ceases to be art due to excess political motivation. On the other hand, an art piece such as a poem by Neruda may cease to be art in the absence of a certain degree of political stance to give it meaning. While poems written later in Neruda’s poetic career are largely viewed as deeply political in their intentions, it would be unwise to deem his earlier developments of poetry as void of political motive in that this notion would call to question the significance of these earlier pieces of poetry. Keeping this idea in mind, it is more sensible to argue that all of Neruda’s poetry is politically involved to a certain degree.
First, in order to assess Pablo Neruda’s poetry more precisely in relation to aesthetic and political qualities, it is essential to recognize each of his poems as fitting onto a spectrum. On one end of the spectrum lies a polarized aesthetic quality, while the other end of the spectrum represents a polarized political value. Poems such as Dead Gallop fall on the aesthetic end of this spectrum, while the United Fruit Co. is characterized as being more politically involved. While certain pieces of Neruda’s poetry are arguably greatly polarized on either end of the spectrum, each poem draws from both ends of the scale to some extent. If a poem, or anything that claims to be art for that matter, is deemed as being too polarized on either end of the artistic spectrum, its artistic claim is weakened. From this, art can be defined as representing a healthy balance between both aesthetic and political qualities in order to create an artwork that presentably delivers a meaningful message. In search of political meaning in Neruda’s seemingly more aesthetic poetry, this essay begins its assessment on the political end of the spectrum, shifting in a sort of regression to the analysis of the more romanticized, aesthetic works.
Perhaps one of Pablo Neruda’s most clearly defined political poems, the United Fruit Co. serves as harsh critique of the multinational fruit company, and on a larger scale opposes capitalism as a whole. The central message of this the United Fruit Co. is obvious, as is the nature of any politically charged art piece. Neruda draws on Marxist theories in order to critically assess the effect of the foreign entities taking advantage of Latin American nations. This poem is largely a political argument against the neocolonialism forced upon these Latin American nations by more powerful, capitalistic countries. In order to more effectively relay his message, Neruda litters the United Fruit Co. with clear, political elements such as the critique of “the dictatorship of flies” (20) in Latin America and the United States through the naming of companies such as “…Coca Cola Inc., Anaconda, / Ford Motors, and other entities” (4-5). Due to how indisputably obvious this argument against the foreign exploitation of Latin American nations by Neruda is and the seemingly sparse traditional aesthetics, this poem approaches the line of being propagandistic rather than artistic in value.
Pablo Neruda’s the United Fruit Co. certainly contains propagandistic elements, yet underneath this surface of political gallery lays Neruda’s ever-prevalent aesthetic expression. Neruda primarily uses religious symbols, specifically Christian references, in the first stanza of the poem as a metaphorical expression of the imposed capitalism by the United States on Latin America. This biblical language is juxtaposed with consumerist icons imposed by the United States in his aesthetic style; however, Neruda adopts these aesthetic qualities in order to support the central political message of the poem. Neruda incorporates this religious language through irony in the United Fruit Co. by stating “When the trumpet sounded, everything / on earth was prepared / and Jehovah distributed the world” (1-3) in that he discredits the United States as the godly figure of Latin America. In Neruda’s opinion, a god should treat his followers fairly, yet Neruda criticizes the United States and other foreign entities because they merely exploit the nations of Latin America to fulfill selfish desires. Furthermore, Neruda uses imagery of fruit as an extended metaphorical representation of Latin America in its entirety. By describing Latin America in this way as “the central coast of my land, / the sweet waist of America,” (8-9) Neruda presents the nations as woman victimized by entities such as the United States and the dictators that are “…soppy / with humble blood and marmalade,” (23-24). In identifying these elements, it becomes apparent that the United Fruit Co., one of Neruda’s most politically polarized poems, is not in fact void of the aesthetic qualities. While aesthetics and political tendencies are certainly not balanced in the United Fruit Co., the inclusion of both elements provides validity for Neruda’s artistic claim for this poem.
In contrast to Neruda’s political poems, Dead Gallop represents a sort of mediation between aesthetics and politics, yet it leans towards the aesthetic end of the spectrum. On a surface level Dead Gallop is a just jumble of aesthetics, and it’s only after prying deeper into the poem that meaning can be derived. Neruda utilizes this confusing jumble of aesthetics, and therefore the confusion of his readers, to his advantage in that he spins this style to relay his overall message. Neruda’s failure to articulate the core meaning of Dead Gallop, therefore making a large portion of the poem intelligible, ultimately is the meaning. This impossibility of articulation represents the turmoil of the early twentieth century, and ultimately the necessity for the development of both a new style of articulation and living in this shifting world.
Furthermore, while Dead Gallop serves as a contrasting poem by Neruda in that its message is far from being as concise as poems such as the United Fruit Co., the poem utilizes its abundance of aesthetics in order to critique the political stances of the time. Neruda utilizes the disparity between life and death as an extended metaphorical basis for the poem in that it represents the poet’s existence between the two due to his lack of ability to come to terms with the political situation of the world in his time. Immediately upon introducing Dead Gallop, Neruda implements irony within the title; the poet presents the peculiar unity between life and death by telling readers that each individual is galloping to death. Lines such as “the cross-echo of church bells” (4) represent the close relationship between life and death, specifically in this line because church bells represent weddings, the start of new life, or funerals, the end of a life. Neruda utilizes images of circular objects to represent the imprisonment that we all exist in: the inescapable notion that all life comes to an end. Even when it seems as though the poet is beginning to reach a conclusion in the third stanza of Dead Gallop, Neruda loses grasp of this, and instead leaves it to readers to derive their own meaning.
By analyzing both Dead Gallop and the United Fruit Co., it becomes apparent that each of Pablo Neruda’s poems fall on the aesthetic versus political spectrum, and that while they are certainly not balanced, each poem shares elements of both ends of the spectrum. This incorporation of both aesthetics and political motivation provides validity to Neruda’s claim that his poems are artistic; the absence of either of these elements would discard this claim. In assessing Neruda’s poetry, readers can get a sense of which poetic style they prefer: one that gives readers answers or one that asks readers to find their own answers. Without an individual’s participation in the dictating of what art is, the boundaries of art become blurred. We as individuals have a responsibility to deem what art is in our society, and to differentiate it from pure aesthetics or propaganda.
The Illustration of the Spanish Civil War in Pablo Neruda’s Poem I’m Explaining a Few Things
Pablo Neruda’s Narration of The Spanish Civil War
Pablo Neruda is a famous Latin American poet that wrote throughout the early twentieth century. Neruda focused many of his works on topics that were popular in both Latin American and Spanish cultures, which were usually focused on controversy and conflicts. Neruda used his work as a means of explaining all of the things that the people were suffering through and was able to create a mass exposure due to his creative way of describing the scenes. For example, one of his most popular works, “I’m Explaining A Few Things” serves as a narration of a man who is living in Spain during the period of the Spanish Civil War. The poem begins with stanzas explaining life before the war, and how the whole city was changed by the violence and destruction that occurred during the battle. By exposing the two different spectrums of the city, Neruda uses his artistic abilities to illustrate the real life issues that the country and the people of Spain had to go through during the period of the war.
Neruda begins his poem by describing Spain before the conflict broke out. He opens the poem with a couple of questions, asking, “where are the lilacs? And the poppy-petalled metaphysics? And the rain repeadedly spatteing its words and drilling them full of apertures and birds?” (Neruda, 1-5). By using these questions, Neruda is depicting how the land of Spain is supposed to be one filled with beauty and nature, however one would not be able to tell that by looking at the land after the battle. He lists off many of the positive qualities of Spain, and then suddenly says, “And one morning all that was burning” (Neruda, 35). With lines such as this one, Neruda begins to explain how the scenes of the battle began to destroy the city. All of the beautiful things that he once loved about the land was no engulfed in flames and filled with bandits and soldiers murdering innocent people in the streets. Neruda states, “Face to face with you I have seen the blood of Spain tower like a tide to drown you in one wave of pride and knives”(Neruda, 51-54). This image provides a mental image of how horrific the results of the war was, and how terribly it impacted Spain and its entire population. Neruda concludes his poem with the lines, “And you will ask: why doesn’t his poetry speak of dreams and leaves and the great volcanoes of his native land? Come and see the blood in the streets” (Neruda, 66-70). By concluding his writing with these lines, Neruda begins to comment on how his writing isn’t going to be illustrating all of the simple beauty that the world possesses; he uses his poetry to illustrate the issues of the his culture and society.
Neruda’s writing tends to have a similar topic of anger and resistance towards figures of power, and he often avoids writing about the positive aspects of life. By focusing on the more realistic and controversial subjects of Latin American cultures, he brings man key issues to light that people are often times ignoring. Rafik Al Massoudi, a writer for The International Journal of Literary Humanities, discusses Neruda’s realism and resistance in his article that is entitled “The Impure Identity in Neruda’s Poetry: Plural Identities.” Al Massoudi discusses how Neruda has an identity in poetry that is very rare among modern poets, in which he is covering real issues with a strong passion for the subject. He claims, “Such identity is a hybrid in such a way that it resists the pure, politically constructed identity that is imposed by power. It is a kind of extraordinary identity that transcends the normal, submissive one” (Al Massoudi). This line from the author discusses how Neruda’s powerful and rebellious identity that he forms within his work is both rare and influential. His overall tone and subject matter is rather important to his Latin American culture and helps expose the difficulties that all of these people are fighting through.
Mike Gonzales, a journalist for The Guardian, wrote an article that described the life of Pablo Neruda, and how his works were influenced by the culture around him. He explains how Neruda’s politics are often found “in his passionate, emotional responses to events that changed his own life” (Gonzales), which is very much so the case for “I’m Explaining A Few Things”. In the poem, Neruda provides graphic images of the violence and aftermath that the Spanish Civil War created, and it is clear to see that these events had a traumatic impact on him. By witnessing his whole town burning, seeing everything that he grew up with engulfed in flames and covered in blood, Neruda was likely traumatized by this event and illustrated his suffering through his work. Gonzales notes this tragedy as a turning point in Neruda’s work and claims “The turning point came in Spain, when the joy he felt in the company of Lorca and Bañuel and others in Madrid was destroyed by Franco’s coup in July 1936” (Gonzales). Neruda would use this so-called “turning point” of his career to demonstrate the pain and suffering of all of the Spanish people to his readers.
Neruda’s works demonstrated extraordinary relevance to the conditions of the people of Spain and Latin America, due to the fact that his writing was meant to be expository of these terrible circumstances. In “I’m Explaining A Few Things”, Neruda perfectly illustrates how the Spanish society as a whole was greatly impacted and harmed by the events of the Spanish Civil War, and he used his writing to portray this to mass populations. His poetry is not simplistic and common, like many other modern poets who simply write about the beauty of the world, but it served as a means of social commentary to express his concern about the well-being of his own people. Neruda was influenced so greatly by these events that he tried to begin a political career of his own to try to change the state of the world and to help the people of Spain and Latin America, however he was not successful. Neruda’s works have greatly served as a means to expose Latin American issues as well as to help solve the problems that his beloved society was facing.
Pablo Neruda: Life and Literary Works
Pablo Neruda Thesis
Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda, stands as one of the most famous and widely read poets throughout the world today. His most famous book, Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair, which portrays his love of women, was translated in over twenty languages and, like much of his other works, has over one million copies in print (Stackhouse). As the 1971 Nobel Prize winner in literature, Neruda has a spot in literary history as one of the greatest poets of his lifetime. Despite having gone through self-conflicting times, most of Neruda’s poems are about love, his longing for his home country, and Latin America (Sobejano).
Neruda was born in Parral, Chile on July 12, 1904 and given the name Neftali Ricardo Reyes Basoalto. He was the son of Rosa de Basoalto, who died of tuberculosis only weeks after Neruda’s birth, and José del Carmen Reyes, a railroad employee. As a young boy and adolescent, Neruda was fond of nature and his surrounding environment and often wrote poems and essays with themes based on his environmental interest, gaining him many local writing prizes. His father had hopes of Neruda having a profession, so in 1921, Neruda left high school and relocated to Santiago, the capital of Chile, to study French Literature. This was also the time that Neruda began writing serious poetry. After submitting his a few of his works for magazine production, the young adult adopted the pseudonym of Pablo Neruda, after Czech short-story writer Jan Neruda, to hide his poetry from his disapproving father.
In 1923, after leaving his university career, nineteen year old Neruda “sold his furniture and borrowed money from his friends”, in order to publish his first book of poems Crepusculario – which translates into “Twilight” (Stackhouse). Though the book generated little income, it instantly received positive critical reviews, justifying Neruda’s attempts. The author moved on to his next and even more successful book, Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair, which was published in 1924. In it, Neruda remarks a casual love affair he was involved in. The book shifts from a passionate and loving attraction to apathy and despair. This collection of love poems marked the beginning of Neruda’s romantic reputation.
His literary career was not the only thing growing. As his poems became more and more prominent, Neruda began his political career. In 1927, Neruda met with Chile’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs where “he was appointed as the Chilean consul in Rangoon, the capital of Burma” – an Asian country (Diamond). Not having any experience in diplomacy, Neruda was appointed as ambassador of his country, solely for his gregariousness and accomplishments with his writing. Neruda traveled as consul around the world to places including Dutch East Indies in 1930, Buenos Aires in 1933, and Barcelona in 1934 (Maynard).
Although often ascribed to surrealism, Neruda’s poems have also been associated with the modernist era. Granted that he almost never wrote with the style modernists were so famous for, Neruda wanted to alter the way Latin American and Spanish poetry was perceived. He repeatedly changed his style of poetry from book to book, going from romantic and passionate in Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair to surrealistic poetry in Residence on Earth. “Neruda’s style of surrealism is not intended to shock or to make his reader laugh; rather, he uses the absurd to represent the complexity of the human mind and modern life” (Diamond). During his life, Neruda’s style was even called Nerudaism because of how diverse his poetry was. Quickly after Residence on Earth, Neruda, once more, changed the way he wanted his poetry to be remarked and began to write about social and political issues (Sobejano).
The Surrealist era of literature began in 1924, originally in France. Seen as another experimental avant-garde stage in literature and other arts, the founder of this movement, André Breton, characterized Surrealism as “pure psychic automatism by means of which we propose to express either verbally, or in writing, or in some other fashion, what really goes on in the mind” (Quinn). “Surrealists believed the unconscious mind was the true source of valid art and knowledge and, therefore, relied on the thoughts and images from the subconscious as revealed in dreams and natural or induced hallucinations” (Werlock). Though the movement remained dominant in Europe, American poets began to adopt the movement after World War II.
Pablo Neruda’s poem, “Tonight I Can Write the Saddest Lines”, is a prime example of how Neruda is able to mix different writing styles. The poem contains no regular meter but manages to express rhythm through assonance and consonance. Author Marjorie Agosin writes in an article how Neruda’s “Tonight I Can Write the Saddest Lines”, “marks a clear transition from the era of Spanish-American modernism to that of surrealism, with its often disconnected images and metaphors,” (Poetry for Students). When the book was first to be published, Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair was refused to print by Chile’s leading publisher. Nonetheless, the book and poems within the book including, “Tonight I Can Write the Saddest Lines”, received overwhelmingly positive feedback. Neruda’s poem is applauded and even called Latin America’s most beloved poem in an essay written by Dean Rader, a professor at the University of San Francisco:
Neruda’s poem both participates in and refuses to participate in expected conventions of modernist aesthetics. At once, the text feels shockingly unpoetic and overwhelming so. The “confusion” in the poem, its paradoxical nature, mirrors the confusion within the speaker of the poem and his own paradoxical stances on the woman who has left him. The poem succeeds because it, like love, like human emotion, cannot be quantified, classified or confined…To express such common and such strong emotions without succumbing to cliché or sentiment or cloying language is an amazing achievement. (Poetry for Students)
“Tonight I Can Write the Saddest Lines” acquired admiration from the public and critics for its simplistic and easy to understand yet passionate language. The speaker states, “I no longer love her, that’s certain, but maybe I love her,” illustrating to his reader the void and confusion he feels from the absence of a woman.
Having a large growth in popularity after Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair, Neruda continued writing for the majority rest of his life. In the 1960’s Neruda began writing for the theater. He also, however, became a cancer patient during at that time. Neruda grew weaker and weaker and on September 23, 1973, died in a hospital in Santiago, Chile. Pablo Neruda wrote public-favorites and gained himself a poetic career that would mark him in history as a poet to be remembered.
Internal Struggle in “El Viento en La Ilsa” (“The Wind on the Island”): How Can We Choose?
In the poem, “El Viento en La Isla,” Pablo Neruda develops the theme of internal struggle by using vocabulary and images of nature and love. This allows him to illustrate, rather than simply tell of, his own inner struggle: to stay with his lover, or to pursue his political career as a socialist. Throughout the poem, he also writes with rhetorical figures, such as metaphors and personification, to show the strong influence that the two choices have on him.
To develop the theme of internal struggle, Neruda uses short stanzas to have an effect of urgency and frankness. He does not have long or verbose sentences. Rather, he delivers his message in a clear and concise manner, but a manner that is still very powerful. The vocabulary in the poem at first glance seems ordinary and every day. For example, Pablo Neruda uses words related to nature such as “horse,” “sea,” “rain,” “wind,” “foam,” “shadow,” and “the lone night.” He also uses words related to the body such as “arms,” ”mouth,” “front,” “bodies,” and “big eyes.” These words are not very elaborate or complex, but when looking closer, it becomes evident that these simple and basic words can still have very deep effects and evoke strong emotions. The vocabulary related to nature and the body make his themes more clear and concrete, as they represent and symbolize his two different options. The body represents his infatuation and relationship with his lover. This love is comfortable and normal. In contrast, nature represents his pull to working in politics, the unknown, discomfort, and being isolated from his lover. Overall, Neruda uses the vocabulary of nature and the body of a lover to create contrast between his two different options. This effect is very powerful, because the message of the internal struggle is much more understandable when the reader can imagine the world as the author sees it.
Neruda also uses many rhetorical figures in his poem to help develop the theme of internal struggle. First, he uses the wind as a symbol of political work, and this choice is very important and effective. He does not simply say that he feels pressured to work in the political world with the socialists. Rather, he uses the wind, and its connotations as unpredictable and strong, as a symbol of this. It is important because the connotations with wind add a lot to Neruda’s purpose in writing this poem. Another rhetorical figure he employs is metaphors, which are equally interesting and purposeful. When Neruda writes, “The wind is a horse,” he does not describe the wind as a horse, but it says it is a horse. This metaphor helps the reader understand Neruda’s pressure to work in politics, and emphasizes his internal struggle. Lastly, Neruda uses personification when he says “Let the wind … call me and seek me galloping in the shade.” The personifications of the wind highlights the internal struggle that pursues Neruda; it does not only exist, but “runs” and “calls” and “looks.” Neruda gives life and power to the wind. Finally, Neruda uses hyperbole when he says “[the] love that burns us.” When Neruda exaggerates the feeling of love, it shows his difficulty in leaving his lover, as the wind, representing the pull of his political work, drags him away from her.
At the end of the poem, Neruda uses imagery of the wind running and galloping and him and resting with his lover. It shows his final inner struggle, between work and love, and the two dragging him in different directions. The final paradoxical image attracts the attention of many readers world wide, because like in his other poems and pieces of writing, Neruda is able to write about something relatable and global: in this case, internal struggle. Many of us know the feeling of being drawn to different experiences and opportunities, yet not wanting to leave the comfortable and known, whether it be our job, our families, or our hometown. It is amazing that through his symbolism and rhetorical figures, Neruda is able to put these feelings into words in his poem. It is interesting that in the end, Neruda does not have an obvious or definitive solution, as much as the reader might expect his struggles to be resolved. Again, as in many of his poems, he represents the humanity and the imperfection in us all. Many times, the answer is unclear, like Neruda shows in this poem, but he does get us thinking about how to ultimately make these difficult decisions.
Neruda and Impure Poetry
“Wheels that have crossed long, dusty distances with their mineral and vegetable burdens, sacks from the coal bins, barrels, and baskets, handles and hafts for the carpenter’s tool chest. From them flow the contacts of man with the earth, like a text for all troubled lyricists. . . . In them one sees the confused impurity of the human condition . . . A poetry impure as the clothing we wear, or our bodies . . . the deep penetration of things in the transports of love, a consummate poetry soiled by the pigeon’s claw, ice-marked and tooth-marked, bitten delicately with our sweatdrops and usage . . . Melancholy, old mawkishness impure and unflawed, fruits of a fabulous species lost to the memory . . . surely that is the poet’s concern, essential and absolute.” (Neruda)Pablo Neruda delineates his poetic doctrine in Toward an Impure Poetry, as a tacit reactionary statement against accusations of banality and morbidity. Therein, he justifies his work as that of a contemporary poet, emphasizing upon relevance and purpose. For unlike the stereotypical hermetic poet, Neruda was a politically conscious artist, who refused to be content with detached aestheticism and introversion. He deemed such traditional poetic notions as escapism in the twentieth century, a time fraught with conflict and disparity; when each institution of faith was crumbling, leading to a general atmosphere of confusion and uncertainty, further compounded by capitalistic, jingoistic, and industrial trends. As Ajanta Dutt explains, “poetry must be discovered through a perception of that which appears grim and destroyed, and appears from the hidden recesses of human consciousness” (xxxvi).Thus, in the modern scenario, Neruda believed it was necessary to portray these imperfections, as demonstrated by the peculiar juxtapositions in his imagery, regarding which, Dutt opines that Neruda “deliberately juxtaposes the crude against the beautiful to shock a reader out of complacency” (xxxv). For instance, in Ars Poetica: “Between shadow and space, young girls and garrisons, / saddled with a strange heart, with funereal dreams”, or “a stench of clothes scattered on the floor / and a yearning for flowers” (Dutt 7), which reflects the contradiction between the harshness of reality and the desire to surpass it. In this same poem, Neruda employs a subtle but powerful image that conveys the idea of impure poetry: “a bell cracked a little” (Dutt 7), i.e. the poetic voice cracked from hardship, releasing distorted tones of suffering and truth.Neruda asserted that contemporary poetry must be colloquial and topical instead of adhering to distant ideals; it must be rooted to the reality from which it arises. As he claimed in Ordinance of Wine, “I speak to things that exist. Heaven forbid / that I should invent things when I am singing” (Dutt 80). Therefore, he vouched for poetry which transcends personal boundaries to reflect upon the universal from an individual perspective. The poet must seek to cure the world he inhabits, and thus, he can no longer afford to immure himself in fancies. He must feel an obligation to share his visions with his readers, as articulated in Ars Poetica: “the morning’s rumours afire with sacrifice / now beg of me this prophecy I have” (Dutt 7). The poet must seek to purge the universal anguish through the power of association, and educate through his verse, so the readers may make a tangible effort to bring about the much-needed change. For “the verse falls to the soul like dew to the pasture” (Dutt 6). Though this line is quoted out of context from Tonight I can Write . . . , it embodies Neruda’s idea of poetry and its motives.Such altruism identifies Neruda with visionaries like Tagore, Brecht, and Dario Fo, and this concern continued to grow with his age, as reflected by his corpus and his inclusion into the Communist Party in 1939.“Arise to birth with me, my brothergive me your hand out of the profounddepth of your disseminated sorrows” (Dutt 30)“Show me: your blood and your furrow;say to me; here I was scourgedbecause a gem was dull or because the earthfailed to give on time its tithe of corn or stone” (Dutt 46)Neruda’s Marxist sentiment is more than evident in these lines from Canto General. He understood his role as the voice of an oppressed people, “give me all the pain of everyone, / I am going to transform it / into hope” (Dutt 66). He felt a genuine empathy towards the tormented masses, and implored them to unite and overcome their misery—this was Neruda’s constant endeavour, his message of hope for the proletariat. For as he symbolically emphasized in Ode to Autumn, their strength lay in their numbers:“It is difficult to take downall the leaves fromall the trees ofall the countries” (Dutt 65)Moreover, in the lines: “proletariat of petals and bullets, / alone alive, somnolent, resounding” (Dutt 8), one finds the same hope in explicit poetic candour. The future lies with the proletariat, they must realize their latent potential—the glorious heritage behind them—and buckle up against the horrors of the present. In such lines, Neruda posits his typical Communist optimism.* * *Brought up in postcolonial Chile, Neruda witnessed the implicit dichotomies and contradictions of the Latin American milieu, and strived to depict them in his work. For example, in Discoverers of Chile: “Shadows of thorns, shadow of thistle and wax, / the Spaniard meeting with his dry figure, / watching the sombre strategies of the terrain” (Dutt 9). In this barren imagery, Neruda captures the complexity of perceptions between the two civilizations. The natives, through the ‘shadow’ motif, are seen as simple and uncivilized in contrast to the Spanish ‘discoverers’. Also, “all silence lies in its long line” (Dutt 9); silence remains a constant motif in Neruda’s poetry; here, it denotes the ravaged aspect of colonized Chile. Therefore, Enrico Mario Santi describes Neruda as “fiercely anti-intellectual, a political militant . . . the embodiment of the Latin American Poet” (70). A sentiment shared by the Swedish Academy while awarding Neruda the 1971 Nobel Prize and recognizing him as “the poet of violated human dignity,” who “brings alive a continent’s destiny and dreams” (Santi 70). Apropos of this, a parallel may be drawn to the growth of ‘magical realism’ in Latin American literature, for its proponents too were driven by a socio-political consciousness, and the genre allowed them to express their discontentment with their circumstances in the guise of fantastical fiction.The Spanish Civil War played a significant role in formulating Neruda’s activism, as he strived to voice his resentment against the horrors of fascism in his adopted country. Susnigdha Dey explains, “In such a situation, poetry cannot remain as a specimen of belles lettres. It cannot remain any more as pure” (Chilean Poetry 29). For art reflects life, and so the aware artist could no longer lose himself in ‘art for art’s sake’ when everything around him was being torn apart. Owing to such sinister preoccupations, Jon M. Tolman points out a distinctive trait of Neruda’s poetry with regard to his conception of time: “each moment as it passes emerges into a silent, slowly accumulating menace that fills his environment, oppressive in its weight. Time grows like a parasitic plant, eating away at life. In this way, the time symbol serves as a bridge between the related themes of death and of solitude” (Dey, Pablo Neruda 40). Herein, one sees the effect Neruda wished to create: to portray the pervading despair as a mundane quotidian reality. Again, one might recall similar themes inherent in ‘magical realism’, as elaborated upon by Gabriel García Márquez in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech.Neruda on Residence on the Earth: “These poems should not be read by the youth of our country. They are poems which are soaked by a pessimism and a terrible anxiety. They do not help to live, they help to die” (Dey, Pablo Neruda 41). These lines betray the young poet’s hesitation and uncertainty; understandably, Neruda, at least at the onset, was sceptical about the ramifications of his work. He had an immense but unsure concern for his compatriots, who were still “learning to build and to read” (Dey, Pablo Neruda 46). Nonetheless, his convictions had matured by the time he wrote Third Residence (1947), where “he held out a promise of uniting the lone wolf’s walk with the walk of man” (Dey, Pablo Neruda 42). Subsequently, he strived for a political purpose beyond pure aesthetics (Agosin 89), and post-Canto General, he finally completed the difficult transition from obscurity to clarity for the sake of his readers (Dey, Pablo Neruda 46-47). As Dutt elaborates, “His purpose is to strip his writings of any distorted or complex factors that may impede the understanding of the reader. His tone is optimistic and positive” (xxxix). Canto General reflects Neruda’s concern for the individual, it speaks of “‘invisible men,’ so that the poem becomes the collective chronicle of a people. Neruda, like Walt Whitman, is a minstrel who transmits as well as transforms the history of his continent” (Agosin 92). In the poet’s own words: “Poetry is like bread, and it must be shared by everyone” (Dutt 65). Thus, the poet must disseminate his ideals so they may be emulated, such as the one claimed in The Way Spain Was: “How in the depths of me / grows the lost flower of your villages” (Dutt 8).* * *In the essay, Pure and Impure Poetry, Robert Penn Warren traces the dogma of pure poetry through various sources ranging from Sidney to Poe. However, he avers, “Poetry wants to be pure, but poems do not” (229). In realizing this individuality of a literary work and its relation to the circumstances of creation, Warren further quotes George Santayana to justify the intrusion of ‘impure’ aspects into a poem: “Philosophy, when a poet is not mindless, enters inevitably into his poetry, since it has entered into his life. . . . Poetry is an attenuation, a rehandling, an echo of crude experience; it is itself a theoretic vision of things at arm’s length” (249-50).Thereafter, Warren presents his own view of poetry: “the good poem must, in some way, involve the resistances; it must carry something of the context of its own creation . . . a good poem involves the participation of the reader; it must, as Coleridge puts it, make the reader into ‘an active creative being’” (251). These ideas correspond to those of Neruda, and in fact, one might be tempted to say that Neruda took them a step further due to his impassioned dedication.Works ConsultedAgosin, Marjorie. Canto General: The Word and the Song of America. Neruda, Walcott and Atwood: Poets of the Americas. Ed. Ajanta Dutt. Delhi: Worldview-Book Land, 2010. 87-95. Print.Ajanta Dutt, ed. Neruda, Walcott and Atwood: Poets of the Americas. Delhi: Worldview-Book Land, 2010. Print. All quotations are taken from this edition.Bowers, Maggie Ann. Magic(al) Realism. London: Routledge-Taylor, 2007. Print.Dey, Susnigdha. Chilean Poetry: From the Epic to the Mundane. Neruda, Walcott and Atwood: Poets of the Americas. Ed. Ajanta Dutt. Delhi: Worldview-Book Land, 2010. 24-31. Print.—. Pablo Neruda: The Poet. Neruda, Walcott and Atwood: Poets of the Americas. Ed. Ajanta Dutt. Delhi: Worldview-Book Land, 2010. 36-48. Print.Márquez, Gabriel García. Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech. 1982. Trans. Marina Castaneda. Background Prose Readings. Comp. Ajay Malhotra. Delhi: Worldview-Bookland, 2002. 181-86. Print.Neruda, Pablo. Toward an Impure Poetry. 1935. Web. 12 Oct. 2011.
Nature’s Heartache and Despair in Neruda’s “Girl Lithe and Tawny”
Pablo Neruda’s “Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair” use nature as a common motif to express his feelings of love towards a woman and the loneliness he feels being with her. An example of such work is found in his poem, “Girl Lithe and Tawny”. In each stanza, Neruda uses stylistic imagery of nature and its powerful beauty to help express his love and appreciation for an absent woman that he loves.Beauty in the world can often be seen in nature, which is both powerfully dark and frightening, yet at the same time also pleasant and lovely. The natural world is beautiful simply because it is natural; it has existed before the beginnings of human kind and does not follow the ways of humanity, but instead influences and affects man. It has the ability to captivate humanity by its stunning beauty, but at the same time it is also able to destroy. It is an all-powerful force that can occasionally, by its own will, take the lives of human beings, destroy surroundings, and evoke feelings of pain and despair. In his poetry, Neruda combines these seemingly opposite perspectives of nature to symbolically express the feelings he has towards his lover, who brings him joy and adoration, yet at the same time causes him pain and sadness.In the first stanza of the poem “Girl Lithe and Tawny”, Neruda says “and your mouth has the smile of the water”. Neruda compares the woman’s smile to “the water” symbolically in order to help the reader understand the depth of the woman’s beauty in his eyes. In this case, he is comparing her smile to water, which is vast, deep and powerful. Water is also essential to the human body, which helps Neruda explain the extent of his love for her in the fact that he needs her smile like the human body needs water. On the other hand, water can easily also be deadly in many different ways to humankind, bringing pain and anguish. By comparing the “girl” of the poem and her smile to water, Neruda is exposing both sides of his lover: both the beauty and depth of her smile that he adores, but also the deep despair and pain it brings him.In the second stanza, Neruda again uses a powerful image of nature to express the opposing combination of love and pain he feels, this time comparing his lover to a black sun; “a black yearning sun is braided into the strands of your black mane, when you stretch your arms”. Neruda takes an object of nature that is cheery and bright, and makes it dark and mysterious. A sun is usually perceived to be pleasant and warm, which Neruda uses to express the beauty of her “black mane.” At the same time, however, the girl has taken a sun and made it black, a color of darkness and death. Using such a melancholy color as black for an object so radiant as the sun helps Neruda express the seemingly contradictory feelings of joy and sadness he feels for his lover. The fact that the sun is extremely powerful as the universal source of life for human beings helps Neruda explain the depth of influence this woman and her beauty have on him. She is capable, through her beauty (in this case, her black hair), of influencing him and bringing life to him. She is so significantly powerful in his life, however, that she is also capable of virtually destroying him.In the third stanza, Neruda compares the woman of the poem to “the frenzied youth of the bee”. A bee is significant in the existence of nature; it helps flowers bloom and grow. A bee is responsible for making the flowers and plants around it successfully bloom, making the natural world thrive beautifully. In this sense, Neruda is saying that his lover is like a bee to him; her presence helps him thrive, grow and survive. A bee, however, is also dangerous; it is easily capable of inflicting pain when it feels threatened in any way. By comparing the girl of the poem to a bee, he is saying that he is livened through the presence she has in his life, but that she also brings him pain and anguish, a recurring theme Neruda uses in the poem in his images of nature.In the final stanza, Neruda uses another seemingly contradictory natural image to express the various feelings he has towards his beloved. In the third line, he states “dark butterfly, sweet and definitive…” A common perception of a butterfly is a pleasant and beautiful little creature that lightly decorates nature with its presence. It does not, in any way, bring harm or pain to anyone by its presence. Neruda, however, brings a variation to this common perception by describing his lover as a “dark butterfly”. By using the word “dark,” Neruda immediately adds a feeling of mystery and dread to a creature of sweet beauty. The word “dark” inflicts a sense of sadness and hopelessness, an emotion which Neruda seems to imply throughout the poem in talking about his lover. Although he believes the woman of the poem to be sweet and beautiful like a butterfly, he is hindered in his joy with a feeling of sadness, the darkness that brings him pain even in his love.Neruda’s use of nature as a poetic expression of the coexisting feelings of love and sadness he feels towards his lover are profound in the understanding of the poem. By relating his lover to seemingly contradictory images such as “dark butterfly” and “black yearning sun,” he is able to explain the depths of his emotion for the mentioned woman. His indirect symbolic imagery leaves the interpretation up to the reader, but the feelings he expresses are obvious and powerful and strongly convey Neruda’s passion for the woman he loves and the deep heartache he suffers.
A Battle between Love and Despair: “Tonight I Can Write” by Pablo Neruda
Love and despair do not look alike at first, someone could think that when you are in love you do not feel despair and when you feel desperation is because you may have lost the one you loved. Although for Pablo Neruda, love and despair go together, love can drive someone madness and despair can strengthen the love you felt. Neruda’s most famous work Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair (1924), collides two huge feelings that all lovers have felt once throughout time. This verse collection is composed of twenty love poems and one song of despair that unites all common themes of the previous poems. Throughout the twenty poems, it can be seen a changed in theme as it began describing the sensuality and passion towards one of the author’s lovers and towards the last poems it changes to a melancholy tone, feeling regret and loneliness, and to close “A Song of Despair”, is bitter and hopeless as the poetic voice has a constant reminder of the loss of his lover.
Poem XX, “Tonight I Can Write”, joins love and despair as the poetic voice goes through an internal battle about his current feelings towards his lover while he realizes she is gone. “Tonight I Can Write”, brings out all the past romantic feelings from the previous poems, realizing that the poetic voice is alone with only memories of what his lover once was. The scenario of the poem is a cold and clear night, where the sky is full of stars and nothing can listen but the poetic voice laments, “Tonight I can write the saddest lines. / Write, for example, ‘The night is shattered / and the blue stars shiver in the distance.’”(1-3), the first three lines introduces the readers to a melancholy mood, as the poetic voice begins saying “Tonight I can write the saddest lines” (1), stating that he is no longer with his lover, and that even the night is broken because she has left and the small hope left is starting to dispel as the blue stars in the distance, with this two lines the reader can have a vivid image of the place the speaker is in, realizing everything is arrange for the speaker to have a constant reminder of the love he has lost, as the blue stars bring coldness and sadness to the line and the fact he sees the stars shivering in the distance he may be hallucinating due to the pain he feels (Saunders). There is a repetition of the first line (“Tonight I can write the saddest lines” (5)), keeping the sorrow the speaker feels as he realizes how lonely his life has become with the absence of his lover. In line 6 after the repetition, the speaker declares how much he loved the unnamed woman but he still feels heartbroken as he would never know if she loved him back as much as he did. The night described by the poetic voice is later going to be compared by the time the speaker was with his lover, “Through nights like this one I held her in my arms / I kissed her again and again under the endless sky.” (7-8), now the sky seems as infinity where time does not fly only because he is with his lover, but once she left, the night is a constant reminder of his loneliness and emptiness (lines 2-3). From line 1-10, the speaker makes the first comparison between having his lover with him and not being with her, “How could one not have loved her great still eyes.” (10), exposing how lonely and bleak he feels without her, and only having his memories to survive. Along these lines, Neruda expose the constant relation of love and despair, as he still loves his beloved which made him be in constant madness knowing she is not coming back.
According to Saunders, Neruda finds his way to express in the most sincere and direct way how his heart cries for his beloved, using unadorned simplicity of expressions, in contrast to the poems before, Poem XX is meant to be direct and implicit, sending a direct message to the reader of the broken soul of the poetic voice.“ Tonight I can write the saddest lines./ To think that I do not have her. To feel that I have lost her.” (11-12), again in line 11, there is a repetition of the opening line, which turns into a plaintive refrain, stating afterward his despair of not being with her, seeing the night immense and the loneliness even more. Line 14 has a simile “And the verse falls to the soul like dew to the pasture.” (14), comparing the nature to his pain, the speaker enhances his pain and does not let go the departure of his beloved, the speaker uses the verses to express all the love he feels and how each time it increases as he realizes she is not coming back. Along the verses Neruda is going through the process of understanding and accepting slowly that he would never be with his lover again, for this he compares repetitively himself to nature, as “The night is [shattered] starry and she is not with me.” (16), bringing darkness and sorrow and later introducing the emptiness of his soul. Throughout this poem the speaker finds himself tied to his lover as he permanently states he cannot believe she is not there, “My soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.” (18), driving himself insane which only intensifies his melancholy and love towards her. Neruda uses nature to compare his pain or passion in his poems, in Poem XX nature is a constant reminder of darkness and loneliness, as he describes a cold clear night sky where his only companions are the stars that even start to fade off.
The poetic voice is going through a process of acceptance of his loneliness, as he still looks for her without any success, from line 19-21 Neruda add the speaker sense and the reader can start feeling the desperation once again as it says “My sight tries to find her as though to bring her closer. / My heart looks for her, and she is not with me.” (20-21), the poetic voice goes in circles trying to catch her when he knows she is not there, he is slowly surrendering to the fact he lost her but before he would try to bring her back with all he remembers about her. He tries to keep normality as he compares his memories to the night, seeing everything keeps the same but his soul. Slowly he is letting her go, freeing himself of the pain and letting the pain go, “I no longer love her, that’s certain, but how I loved her.” (24). So close of letting go the speaker contradicts himself again as saying he still loves her but it would take a lot to forget her. Every time a similar scenario as the lonely night comes by (“Because through nights like this one I held her in my arms / my sould is not satisfied that it has lost her.” (31-32)), he would remember her and he would go through all the pain and love again just to find out she will not come back. The speaker would go through a cycle of love, pain, and contradiction to survive the loneliness he lives in. After he has admitted he misses her and nature has heard his sorrows, the only person he cares about and needs to hear him is her beloved that would never know how much he misses her (Saunders), “My voice tried to find the wind to touch her hearing.” (25), that is his only request and need, that her lover hears him. The last two lines conclude all the pain Neruda has expressed from the first to the last line, he states he would let her go only to free himself of the pain only to know that he would continue suffering every lonely night.
Neruda goes through passion and sensuality from the first poems to feeling sorrow and pain for the same lover leaving him behind. This last poem before the song of despair joins all the feeling towards her lover to say goodbye to her, but before letting her go he feels every kind of pain as he compares his nowadays life to what he lived with her. Poem XX is the goodbye to sadness an attachment as Neruda last wrote: “Though this is the last pain that she makes me suffer / and these the last verses that I write for her.” (33-34), he would leave behind his melancholy to free himself of a broken heart. his will was that his lover heard his verses to feel his sadness but instead every reader felt how his loud love drove him insane and how moments of despair remembered him how much he loved her. “Tonight I Can Write” is a constant contradiction of letting go but fearing to forget the true love he once had.
Neruda, Pablo. Twenty Poems of Love and a Song of Despair. Penguin, 1924. Saunders, Cliff. “Critical Essay on ‘Tonight I Can Write’.” Poetry for Students, edited by Elizabeth Thomason, vol. 11, Gale, 2001. Literature Resource Center, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/H1420035975/LitRC?u=morg77564&sid=LitRC&xid =7aee52e3. Accessed 11 Nov. 2018.