Love in the Time of Neruda

I have a few of my favorite poems framed and hung in my room.  Sometimes, I forget they’re there, walk right past them, because I’m in a hurry or I’m focused on something else or whatever.  Today, I stopped and actually read a few of them.  It’s been a while, but their impact is always the same, which is the reason they’re my favorites in the first place.  Let’s see… I’ve got a Tennyson one up, two by Frost, two or three of Noyes’, and two Neruda, both of which are those I’ve chosen to include.
There is something especially interesting in poetry that has been translated from another language (Spanish, in this case).  The translator himself has to be lyrical too. It takes at least two people to convey the words, and more importantly, their meaning.

Sonnet XVII

I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,
Or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
In secret, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that never blooms
But carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;
Thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,
Risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
So I love you because I know no other way

Than this: where I does not exist, nor you,
So close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
So close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.

Saddest Poem

I can write the saddest poem of all tonight.

Write, for instance: “The night is full of stars,
and the stars, blue, shiver in the distance.”

The night wind whirls in the sky and sings.
I can write the saddest poem of all tonight.

I loved her, and sometimes she loved me too.
On nights like this, I held her in my arms.

I kissed her so many times under the infinite sky.
She loved me, sometimes I loved her.

How could I not have loved her large, still eyes?
I can write the saddest poem of all tonight.

To think I don’t have her. To feel that I’ve lost her.
To hear the immense night, more immense without her.

And the poem falls to the soul as dew to grass.
What does it matter that my love couldn’t keep her.

The night is full of stars and she is not with me.
That’s all. Far away, someone sings. Far away.

My soul is lost without her.
As if to bring her near, my eyes search for her.

My heart searches for her and she is not with me.
The same night that whitens the same trees.

We, we who were, we are the same no longer.
I no longer love her, true, but how much I loved her.

My voice searched the wind to touch her ear.
Someone else’s. She will be someone else’s. As she once
belonged to my kisses.

Her voice, her light body. Her infinite eyes.
I no longer love her, true, but perhaps I love her.

Love is so short and oblivion so long.
Because on nights like this I held her in my arms,
my soul is lost without her.

Although this may be the last pain she causes me,
and this may be the last poem I write for her.

These two poems have something so sad and darkened about them.  I find that I often get a sense of that artistic, melancholy love in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s novels (Love in the Time of Cholera and One Hundred Years of Solitude are the two I have in mind) in Neruda’s poetry, which makes me wonder about his and Marquez’s common Spanish heritage.  I love the humanity and desperation so genuinely portrayed in both their works.  Is that how the Spanish view love?  Or at least how they personify it in literature?  I suppose I have some more reading to do.
On a much happier, vaguely related note, today’s weather was fantastic.  True fall, finally.  I love Nashville in autumn, but reading foreign work always makes me think of foreign places.  Like beautiful, beautiful Heidelberg.

just a bit of the castle

the city and its river

downtown Heidelberg

pastries galore



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