Pablo Neruda is one of my favorite poets. He’s not from the eighteenth or nineteenth centuries, when man of my favorite poets write. Lord Byron. John Keats. Alexander Pope. William Wordsworth. Just to name a few examples.
Neruda was a Chilean diplomat who wrote an array of poetry in an array of styles. One of his contemporaries, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, said he’s “the greatest poet of the twentieth century in any language.” With him, I agree.
He writes with a passion and vitality read in rarity. He’s eloquent in his raw emotions, and he doesn’t shy from it. In all honesty, I believe he’s an underappreciated poet. Most poets are, as a generality, but he surpasses this stigma.
Let me share a few of Neruda’s poems and judge for yourself. Write your thoughts in the comments, please.
I am not jealous
of what came before me.
Come with a man
on your shoulders,
come with a hundred men in your hair,
come with a thousand men between your breasts and your feet,
come like a river
full of drowned men
which flows down to the wild sea,
to the eternal surf, to Time!
Bring them all
to where I am waiting for you;
we shall always be alone,
we shall always be you and I
alone on earth
to start our life!
I Remember You As You Were
I remember you as you were in the last autumn.
You were the grey beret and the still heart.
In your eyes the flames of the twilight fought on.
And the leaves fell in the water of your soul.
Clasping my arms like a climbing plant
The leaves garnered your voice, that was slow and at peace.
Bonfire of awe in which my thirst was burning.
Sweet blue hyacinth twisted over my soul.
I feel your eyes traveling, and the autumn is far off:
Grey beret, voice of a bird, heart like a house
Towards which my deep longings migrated
And my kisses fell, happy as embers.
Sky from a ship. Field from the hills:
Your memory is made of light, of smoke, of a still pond!
Beyond your eyes, farther on, the evenings were blazing.
Dry autumn leaves revolved in your soul.
Entrance of the Rivers
Beloved of the rivers, beset
By azure water and transparent drops,
Like a tree of veins your spectre
Of dark goddess biting apples:
And then awakening naked
To be tattooed by the rivers,
And in the wet heights your head
Filled the world with new dew.
Water rose to your waist,
You are made of wellsprings
And lakes shone on your forehead.
From your sources of density you drew
Water like vital tears
And hauled the riverbeds to the sand
Across the planetary night,
Crossing rough, dilated stone,
Breaking down on the way
All the salt of geology,
Cutting through forests of compact walls
Dislodging the muscles of quartz.
Just as on the cool stone
Of the spring, the water
Opens a wide flash of foam,
So is the smile of your face,
With delicate hands and slender feet
Like a silver pony,
Walking, flower of the world,
Thus I see you,
With a nest of copper entangled
On your head, a nest
The colour of dark honey
Where my heart burns and rests,
Your eyes are too big for your face,
Your eyes are too big for the earth.
There are countries, there are rivers,
In your eyes,
My country is your eyes,
I walk through them,
They light the world
Through which I walk,
Your breasts are like two loaves made
Of grainy earth and golden moon,
My arm shaped it like a river when
It flowed a thousand years through your sweet body,
There is nothing like your hips,
Perhaps earth has
In some hidden place
The curve and the fragrance of your body,
Perhaps in some place,
Lovely one, my lovely one,
Your voice, your skin, your nails,
Lovely one, my lovely one,
Your being, your light, your shadow,
All that is mine, lovely one,
All that is mine, my dear,
When you walk or rest,
When you sing or sleep,
When you suffer or dream,
When you are near or far,
You are mine, my lovely one,
A Song of Despair
The memory of you emerges from the night around me.
The river mingles its stubborn lament with the sea.
Deserted like the wharves at dawn.
It is the hour of departure, oh deserted one!
Cold flower heads are raining over my heart.
Oh pit of debris, fierce cave of the shipwrecked.
In you the wars and the flights accumulated.
From you the wings of the song birds rose.
You swallowed everything, like distance.
Like the sea, like time. In you everything sank!
It was the happy hour of assault and the kiss.
The hour of the spell that blazed like a lighthouse.
Pilot’s dread, fury of a blind diver,
turbulent drunkenness of love, in you everything sank!
In the childhood of mist my soul, winged and wounded.
Lost discoverer, in you everything sank!
You girdled sorrow, you clung to desire,
sadness stunned you, in you everything sank!
I made the wall of shadow draw back,
beyond desire and act, I walked on.
Oh flesh, my own flesh, woman whom I loved and lost,
I summon you in the moist hour, I raise my song to you.
Like a jar you housed the infinite tenderness,
and the infinite oblivion shattered you like a jar.
There was the black solitude of the islands,
and there, woman of love, your arms took me in.
There were thirst and hunger, and you were the fruit.
There were grief and the ruins, and you were the miracle.
Ah woman, I do not know how you could contain me
in the earth of your soul, in the cross of your arms!
How terrible and brief was my desire of you!
How difficult and drunken, how tensed and avid.
Cemetery of kisses, there is still fire in your tombs,
still the fruited boughs burn, pecked at by birds.
Oh the bitten mouth, oh the kissed limbs,
oh the hungering teeth, oh the entwined bodies.
Oh the mad coupling of hope and force
in which we merged and despaired.
And the tenderness, light as water and as flour.
And the word scarcely begun on the lips.
This was my destiny and in it was the voyage of my longing,
and in it my longing fell, in you everything sank!
Oh pit of debris, everything fell into you,
what sorrow did you not express, in what sorrow are you not drowned!
From billow to billow you still called and sang.
Standing like a sailor in the prow of a vessel.
You still flowered in songs, you still broke in currents.
Oh pit of debris, open and bitter well.
Pale blind diver, luckless slinger,
lost discoverer, in you everything sank!
It is the hour of departure, the hard cold hour
which the night fastens to all the timetables.
The rustling belt of the sea girdles the shore.
Cold stars heave up, black birds migrate.
Deserted like the wharves at dawn.
Only the tremulous shadow twists in my hands.
Oh farther than everything. Oh farther than everything.
It is the hour of departure. Oh abandoned one.