Sunday, March 11, 2007

Sunday Poet: Pablo Neruda

I haven't done a Sunday Poet in a while, but I have been reading Pablo Neruda's Love Sonnets of late and thought I'd post a few here. I've been using his work as a model for the unconventional love sonnets that I began last weekend.

I found these here.

Sonnet XXV

Before I loved you, Love, nothing was my own;
I wavered through the streets, among objects:
nothing mattered or had a name:
the world was made of air, which waited.

I knew rooms full of ashes,
tunnels where the moon lived,
rough warehouses that growled Get lost,
questions that insisted in the sand.

Everything was empty, dead, mute,
fallen, abandoned, and decayed:
inconceivably alien, it all

belonged to someone else-to no one:
till your beauty and your poverty
filled the autumn plentiful with gifts.

Sonnet XLIV

You must know that I do not love and that I love you,
because everything alive has its two sides;
a word is one wing of silence,
fire has its cold half.

I love you in order to begin to love you,
to start infinity again
and never to stop loving you:
that's why I do not love you yet.

I love you, and I do not love you, as if I held
keys in my hand: to a future of joy-
a wretched, muddled fate-

My love has two lives, in order to love you:
that's why I love you when I do not love you,
and also why I love you when I do.

Sonnet XLV

Don't go far off, not even for a day, because-
because-I don't know how to say it: a day is long
and I will be waiting for you, as in an empty station
when the trains are parked off somewhere else, asleep.

Don't leave me, even for an hour, because
then the little drops of anguish will all run together,
the smoke that roams looking for a home will drift
into me, choking my lost heart.

Oh, may your silhouette never dissolve on the beach;
may your eyelids never flutter into the empty distance.
Don't leave me for a second, my dearest,

because in that moment you'll have gone so far
I'll wander mazily over all the earth, asking,
Will you come back? Will you leave me here, dying?

Sonnet XCIV

If I die, survive me with such a pure force
you make the pallor and the coldness rage;
flash your indelible eyes from south to south,
from sun to sun, till your mouth sings like a guitar.

I don't want your laugh or your footsteps to waver;
I don't want my legacy of happiness to die;
don't call to my breast: I'm not there.
Live in my absence as in a house.

Absence is such a large house
that you'll walk through the walls,
hang pictures in sheer air.

Absence is such a transparent house
that even being dead I will see you there,
and if you suffer, Love, I'll die a second time.

Sonnet LXXX

My Love, I returned from travel and sorrow
to your voice, to your hand flying on the guitar,
to the fire interrupting the autumn with kisses,
to the night that circles through the sky.

I ask for bread and dominion for all;
for the worker with no future ask for land.
May no one expect my blood or my song to rest!
But I cannot give up your love, not without dying.

So: play the waltz of the tranquil moon,
the barcarole, on the fluid guitar,
till my head lolls, dreaming:

for all my life's sleeplessness had woven
this shelter in the grove where your hand lives and flies,
watching over the night of the sleeping traveler.

Sonnet LXXXI

And now you're mine. Rest with your dream in my dream.
Love and pain and work should all sleep, now.
The night turns on its invisible wheels,
and you are pure beside me as a sleeping amber.

No one else, Love, will sleep in my dreams. You will go,
we will go together, over the waters of time.
No one else will travel through the shadows with me,
only you, evergreen, ever sun, ever moon.

Your hands have already opened their delicate fists
and let their soft drifting signs drop away;
your eyes closed like two gray wings, and I move

after, following the folding water you carry, that carries
me away. The night, the world, the wind spin out their destiny.
Without you, I am your dream, only that, and that is all.


As we close this nocturnal door, my love,
come with me, through the shadowy places.
Close your dreams, Love, enter my eyes with your skies,
spread out through my blood like a wide river.

Good-bye to cruel daylight, which dropped
into the gunneysack of the past, each day of it.
Good-bye to every ray of watches or of oranges.
O shadow, my intermittent friend, welcome!

In this ship, or water, or death, or new life,
we are united again, asleep, resurrected:
we are the night's marriage in the blood.

I don't know who it is who lives or dies, who rests or wakes,
but it is your heart that distributes
all the graces of the daybreak, in my breast.


It's good to feel you close in the night, Love,
invisible in your sleep, earnestly nocturnal,
while I untangle my confusions
like bewildered nets.

Absent, your heart sails through dreams,
but your body breathes, abandoned like this,
searching for me without seeing me, completing my sleep,
like a plant that propogates in the dark.

When you arise, alive, tomorrow, you'll be someone else:
but something is left from the lost frontiers of the night,
from that being and nothing where we find ourselves,

something that brings us close in the light of life,
as if the seal of the darkness
branded its secret creatures with a fire.


Once again, Love, the day's net extinguishes
work, wheels, fire, snores, good-byes,
and we surrender to the night the waving wheat
that noon took from the light and from the earth.

Only the moon, in the center of its white page,
supports the columns of the heaven's harbor,
the bedroom takes on the slowness of gold,
and your hands move, beginning to prepare the night.

O love, O night, O dome surrounded by a river
of impenetrable waters in the shadows of a sky
that lights and sinks its stormy grapes:

till we are only one dark space,
a chalice filling with celestial ashes,
a drop in the pulse of a long slow river.


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 once more:
I want to feel the softness that changed my destiny.

I want you to live while I wait for you, asleep.
I want your ears still to hear the wind, I want you
to sniff the sea's aroma that we loved together,
to continue to walk on the sand we walk on.

I want what I love to continue to live,
and you whom I love and sang above everything else
to continue to flourish, full-flowered:

so that you can reach everything my love directs you to,
so that my shadow can travel along in your hair,
so that everything can learn the reason for my song.

Sonnet XCI

Age covers us like drizzle;
time is interminable and sad;
A salt feather touches your face;
a trickle ate through my shirt.

Time does not distinguish between my hands
and a flock of oranges in yours;
with snow and picks life chips away
at your life, which is my life.

My life, which I gave to you, fills
with years like a swelling cluster of fruit.
The grapes will return to the earth.

And even down there time
continues, waiting, raining
on the dust, eager to erase even absence.

Sonnet XCII

My love, if I die and you don't -,
My love, if I die and you don't -,
lets not give grief an even greater field.
No expanse is greater than where we live.

Dust in the wheat, sand in the deserts,
time, wandering water, the vague wind
swept us on like sailing seeds.
We might not have found one another in time.

This meadow where we find ourselves,
O little infinity! we give it back.
But Love, this love has not ended:

just as it never had a birth, it has
no death: it is like a long river,
only changing lands, and changing lips.

Sonnet XCIII

If some time your breast pauses, if something stops
moving, stops burning through your veins,
if the voice in your mouth escapes without becoming word,

Matilde my love, leave your lips half-open:
because that final kiss should linger with me,
it should stay still, forever, in your mouth,
so that it goes with me, too, in my death.

I will die kissing your crazy cold mouth,
caressing the lost buds of your body,
looking for the light of your closed eyes.

And so when the earth received our embrace
we will go blended in a single death, forever
living the eternity of a kiss.

Sonnet XCVI

I think this time when you loved me
will pass away, and another blue will replace it;
another skin will cover the same bones;
others eyes will see the spring.

None of those who tried to tie time down -
those who dealt in smoke,
bureaucrats, businessmen, transients - none
will keep moving, tangled in their ropes.

The cruel gods wearing spectacles will pass away,
the hairy carnivore with the book,
the little green fleas and the pitpit birds.

And when the earth is freshly washed,
others eyes will be born in the water,
the wheat will flourish without tears.

1 comment:

Tony said...

Neruda's sonnets are always good reading. He is one of the truly great poets of the last century. I actually have a friend who's working on an amazing Pablo Neruda project. Check it out at