He renacido muchas veces, desde el fondo

Here is a poem from Pablo Neruda, reflecting on death and what it will mean (written many years before his own real death I think).

LA MUERTE

HE renacido muchas veces, desde el fondo
de estrellas derrotadas, reconstruyendo el hilo
de las eternidades que poblé con mis manos,
y ahora voy a morir, sin nada más, con tierra
sobre mi cuerpo, destinado a ser tierra.
No compré una parcela del cielo que vendían
los sacerdotes, ni acepté tinieblas
que el metafísico manufacturaba
para despreocupados poderosos.
Quiero estar en la muerte con los pobres
que no tuvieron tiempo de estudiarla,
mientras los apaleaban los que tienen
el cielo dividido y arreglado.
Tengo lista mi muerte, como un traje
que me espera, del color que amo,
de la extensión que busqué inútilmente,
de la profundidad que necesito.
Cuando el amor gastó su materia evidente
y la lucha desgrana sus martillos
en otras manos de agregada fuerza,
viene a borrar la muerte las señales
que fueron construyendo tus fronteras.

From <http://www.neruda.uchile.cl/obra/obracantogeneral60.html&gt;

The first few lines contrast the pet’s past where he has been reborn or reinvented himself many times, through his poetic imagination. Now death is approaching for real and earth will be heaped on his body, which will eventually become one with the earth. So here death is foreseen in physical terms as the disposal of a body and its reintegration into the elemental matter which the world is made of. There is no spiritual or mystical element here.

The next several lines explain that he has never accepted the doctrines of priests promising a place in heaven, or the shadowy fates foreseen by mystics and metaphysicists. These are frivolous speculations for the rich and powerful who have nothing better to do.

Instead, the poet wishes to confront death like those poor people who never had time to think about it, since they were toiling on behalf of the said rich and powerful.

The final few lines is Neruda expressing his acceptance of death for which he is ready; and which will erase the traces of love and struggle which have dominated his life – these are transient, while only death will be permanent.

This sounds like a pessimistic poem, focussing on the futility of life, and the inevitability of death as a permanent state, but I think the poem reveals a certain calm and detachment which allows the poet to face death without fear or stress, and so focus on the affairs of life while they are available.

The Poetry Dude

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