Today we have a love sonnet from Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. The title, 66, comes from the fact that it is number 66 in a collection of 100 love sonnets. That in itself is almost a Shakespearean endeavour, although it still represents a relatively small part of his lifelong poetic output.
The interesting thing about this sonnet is that it directly refers back to the Spanish golden age poetry of people like Garcilaso, Gongora and Quevedo in its expression, choice of words and images. I think if it as a tribute to Spanish poetic heritage, even though it is clearly from a more modern era.
NO TE QUIERO sino porque te quiero
y de quererte a no quererte llego
y de esperarte cuando no te espero
pasa mi corazón del frío al fuego.
Te quiero sólo porque a ti te quiero,
te odio sin fin, y odiándote te ruego,
y la medida de mi amor viajero
es no verte y amarte como un ciego.
Tal vez consumirá la luz de enero,
su rayo cruel, mi corazón entero,
robándome la llave del sosiego.
En esta historia sólo yo me muero
y moriré de amor porque te quiero,
porque te quiero, amor, a sangre y fuego.
The intent of the poem is revealed in the very first line with the opposition of “I don’t love you” and “I love you”, linked by a cause and effect clause. This is very typical of sixteenth century wordplay, and the same paradoxical constructions are repeated in the second, third and fifth lines. Then in the fourth line that old standby of fire and cold come in.
At the end of the second stanza, Neruda introduces the idea that he would like to love like a blind man, so as not to be dazzled his lover’s beauty. Finally, he plays out the notion that loving will bring his death, as the force of his passion can only be resolved by dying. His love is made up of blood and fire and there is no relief possible other than the poet’s own death.
Although this sonnet is full of the poetic devices of the Spanish Golden Age, it does not read like a parody, it is more of a tribute or homage to Neruda’s forebears. In this, it succeeds.
The Poetry Dude