Continuarán viajando cosas

Written when the two major powers of the world were waking up to the potential of outer space, beginning to launch satellites and sputniks, talking of the possibility to put a man on the moon, the poet Pablo Neruda pts forward a counterpoint to this – on this earth there is beauty and fulfilment enough and he has no desire to travel towards another planet.

El perezoso, de Pablo Neruda

Continuarán viajando cosas
de metal entre las estrellas,
subirán hombres extenuados,
violentarán la suave luna
y allí fundarán sus farmacias.

En este tiempo de uva llena
el vino comienza su vida
entre el mar y las cordilleras.

En Chile bailan las cerezas,
cantan las muchachas oscuras
y en las guitarras brilla el agua.

El sol toca todas las puertas
y hace milagros con el trigo.

El primer vino es rosado,
es dulce como un niño tierno,
el segundo vino es robusto
como la voz de un marinero
y el tercer vino es un topacio,
una amapola y un incendio.

Mi casa tiene mar y tierra,
mi mujer tiene grandes ojos
color de avellana silvestre,
cuando viene la noche el mar
se viste de blanco y de verde
y luego la luna en la espuma
sueña como novia marina.

No quiero cambiar de planeta.

(Estravagario, 1958)

From <https://primeralluvia.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/el-perezoso-de-pablo-neruda/&gt;

The first stanza describes the emerging obsession of men to put metal into outer space, to conquer the moon and make it a place for human settlement.

The reset of the poem enumerates the rich and inspiring surroundings of Neruda’s own life in Chile, where the grapes are ripening to make fine wine, cherries are in bloom and girls sing to the sound of guitars under the sun. Each type of wine is different fro the previous one, and all bring great pleasure.

The poet describes his house, near the sea and the land, and his wife with beautiful hazel eyes. The sea outside at night has beautiful white surf and the moon is reflected on the waves.

All is beauty and harmony, hence the final line pulls it all together with the declaration that the poet does not want to change places for another planet.

Beautiful poem

The Poetry Dude

PUEDO escribir los versos más tristes esta noche.

From Neruda’s famed collection from the 1920s, “20 love poems and a song of despair”, this is the 20th and final love poem in the collection. Perhaps because it is the last love poem and the immediate precursor of the song of despair, it is a poem about looking back at a former love, with a mixture of sadness, denial and acceptance, the mixed emotions of knowing that one who you loved has now begun a new life on her own or perhaps with someone else. Does love survive or it will it naturally be forgotten? This poem explores the emotional and psychological journey of the poet trying to come to terms with a love affair that has ended.

Some versions of this poem that I have seen run all the lines together as if it were one long stanza. However I think it makes more sense to show the poem on the page as a series of short one or two line stanzas, as it is in the edition on my bookshelf. The spacing between these min-stanzas does indeed add to the meaning, giving pause between each expression of emotion or confusion, giving rhythmic presence to the poet’s inner journey.

 
20

PUEDO escribir los versos más tristes esta noche.

Escribir, por ejemplo: “La noche está estrellada,
y tiritan, azules, los astros, a lo lejos”.

El viento de la noche gira en el cielo y canta.

Puedo escribir los versos más tristes esta noche.
Yo la quise, y a veces ella también me quiso.

En las noches como ésta la tuve entre mis brazos.
La besé tantas veces bajo el cielo infinito.

Ella me quiso, a veces yo también la quería.
Cómo no haber amado sus grandes ojos fijos.

Puedo escribir los versos más tristes esta noche.
Pensar que no la tengo. Sentir que la he perdido.

Oir la noche inmensa, más inmensa sin ella.
Y el verso cae al alma como al pasto el rocío.

Qué importa que mi amor no pudiera guardarla.
La noche está estrellada y ella no está conmigo.

Eso es todo. A lo lejos alguien canta. A lo lejos.
Mi alma no se contenta con haberla perdido.

Como para acercarla mi mirada la busca.
Mi corazón la busca, y ella no está conmigo.

La misma noche que hace blanquear los mismos
árboles.
Nosotros, los de entonces, ya no somos los mismos.

Ya no la quiero, es cierto, pero cuánto la quise.
Mi voz buscaba el viento para tocar su oído.

De otro. Será de otro. Como antes de mis besos.
Su voz, su cuerpo claro. Sus ojos infinitos.

Ya no la quiero, es cierto, pero tal vez la quiero.
Es tan corto el amor, y es tan largo el olvido.

Porque en noches como ésta la tuve entre mis
brazos,
mi alma no se contenta con haberla perdido.

Aunque éste sea el último dolor que ella me causa,
y éstos sean los últimos versos que yo le escribo.

From <http://www.neruda.uchile.cl/obra/obra20poemas5.html&gt;

The opening line announces that the poet’s mood is to write a sad poem, implying, but not guaranteeing that this poem will be sad, but also leaving open the possibility that it might not be. The next three lines represent almost a false start to the poem, as Neruda seems to try out an image of sadness based on a starry night, with the wind blowing. But then it as if Neruda starts again for real in the stanza beginning on the 5th line. Here he repeats the first line, but expands it by going straight to the reason for his sadness, “I loved her, and sometimes she also loved me”, all in the past tense, and the word sometimes indicating her love was not as strong as his.

The two line stanzas that follow to the end of the poem are full of regret, of memories of loving moments, of the pain of the poet losing his lover, of his doubts about whether she loved him as much as he loved her, about whether she now loves another. In two places he acknowledges he no longer loves her, the affair is over, but the second time, on line 27, he is not even sure of this, “I don’t love her any more, for sure, but perhaps I love her”, and the next line would be familiar to anyone getting over a love affair, “Being in love is so short, forgetting it is so long”.

As so often with a Neruda, there is a physical side to the love affair which comes to the fore when he remembers holding her in his arms on a night like this night when he writes the poem. Writing it is part of the process of recovery and healing, as hinted at by the last line of the piece, announcing this might be the past poem he writes for his lover.

Usually there is a distance between an emotion and the poem that it inspires, in this case that distance seems very close, rendering the emotional force that much stronger.

The Poetry Dude

Enfermo en Veracruz, recuerdo un día

Pablo Neruda wrote an awful lot of poems in his fairly long life, but it seems to me that there are really about four dominant themes which he deals with – love, particularly physical, sensual love; the history, culture and traditions of the countries of the Americas; political activism; and exile. Today’s poem belongs to the fourth category. Neruda was exiled from his native Chile for several lengthy periods during his life, and in these periods he would write of his nostalgia and yearning for his native land.

The title sums up the entire theme of the poem, “I want to return to the South”.

Quiero volver al sur: 1941

Enfermo en Veracruz, recuerdo un día
del Sur, mi tierra, un día de plata
como un rápido pez en el agua del cielo.
Loncoche, Lonquimay, Carahue, desde arriba
esparcidos, rodeados por silencio y raíces,
sentados en sus tronos de cueros y maderas.
El Sur es un caballo echado a pique
coronado con lentos árboles y rocío,
cuando levanta el verde hocico caen las gotas,
la sombra de su cola moja el gran archipiélago
y en su intestino crece el carbón venerado.
Nunca más, dime, sombra, nunca más, dime, mano,
nunca más, dime, pie, puerta, pierna, combate,
trastornarás la selva, el camino, la espiga,
la niebla, el frío, lo que, azul, determinaba
cada uno de tus pasos sin cesar consumidos?
Cielo, déjame un día de estrella a estrella irme
pisando luz y pólvora, destrozando mi sangre
hasta llegar al nido de la lluvia!
Quiero ir
detrás de la madera por el río
Toltén fragante, quiero salir de los aserraderos,
entrar en las cantinas con los pies empapados,
guiarme por la luz del avellano eléctrico,
tenderme junto al excremento de las vacas,
morir y revivir mordiendo trigo.
Océano, tráeme
un día del Sur, un día agarrado a tus olas,
un día de árbol mojado, trae un viento
azul polar a mi bandera fría!

From <http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/laureates/1971/neruda-poetry-south_sp.html&gt;

The poet is lying sick in bed in Veracruz, on the coast of Mexico, and as he lies there, he gets to thinking about the places, sights and sounds of his native region in the south of Chile. He names several towns but then says they are surrounded by silence and roots, a vast countryside of rain and mist. He compares this region of the South to a horse being spurred along, spraying out rain and developing coal in its intestines (that is a very curious metaphor, although Chile is a coal-producing country).

There follow a series of lines which cry out the poet’s despair at the possibility that never again, “nunca mas” will he return to tread the countryside of the south, with its fog, its cold, its wheatfields. The repetition of “nunca mas” reinforces the sense of longing and frustration experienced by the poet. He cries out to heaven to let him travel from star to star, even if it brings about his own destruction, to return to the land where rain comes from.

The final two stanzas are two different pleas to end his exile. Either to travel back to the Tolten river, visit the bars with his feet wet from the rain, lie down beside the cowdung, die and live again chewing wheat from the fields. Or perhaps the Ocean can bring a day from the South to him, where he lies in Veracruz, a cold, windy polar day, to make him feel at home.

The Poetry Dude

Todo ha florecido en

Neruda, writing a poem whose title evokes springtime and the great 16th century poet, Quevedo, manages to be remarkably downbeat here. This is certainly not one of those uplifting springtime poems where the vitality and renewal of nature are uplifting for the human soul. Quite the opposite, in fact. It is the beauty of spring which reminds the poet of his inner melancholy and despair. Perhaps the reference to Quevedo in the title is a clue, as Quevedo’s later poems could be quite pessimistic. Is there any Quevedo poem specifically on this theme? I don’t know of one.

Pablo Neruda
Con Quevedo, en primavera

 
Todo ha florecido en
estos campos, manzanos,
azules titubeantes, malezas amarillas,
y entre la hierba verde viven las amapolas.
El cielo inextinguible, el aire nuevo
de cada día, el tácito fulgor,
regalo de una extensa primavera.
Sólo no hay primavera en mi recinto.
Enfermedades, besos desquiciados,
como yedras de iglesia se pegaron
a las ventanas negras de mi vida
y el sólo amor no basta, ni el salvaje
y extenso aroma de la primavera.

Y para ti qué son en este ahora
la luz desenfrenada, el desarrollo
floral de la evidencia, el canto verde
de las verdes hojas, la presencia
del cielo con su copa de frescura?
Primavera exterior, no me atormentes,
desatando en mis brazos vino y nieve,
corola y ramo roto de pesares,
dame por hoy el sueño de las hojas
nocturnas, la noche en que se encuentran
los muertos, los metales, las raíces,
y tantas primaveras extinguidas
que despiertan en cada primavera.

From <http://www.poemas-del-alma.com/con-quevedo.htm&gt;

For the first seven lines of the poem we are indeed in the world of the beauties of spring, the resurgence of natural vitality, the flowers, fruits, butterflies, the exhilaration of renewal, and all the joys of spring. But then, halfway through the first stanza, Neruda abruptly changes the mood – there is no spring in his living space, just sickness, loneliness and blackness.
the second stanza is evidently addressed to the poet’s loved one, asking what the joys of spring can mean to her. The poet is tormented by the external signs of spring, he yearns for night, darkness, death and the end of spring. The tension is between the external world and the poet’s internal state, disappointed in love, dominated by melancholy and dark thoughts.
This poem is the counterweight in many ways to Keats’ ” A Thing of Beauty”, posted here two days ago (May 25th). This is one for the glass half-empty brigade.

 
The Poetry Dude

Otra vez, otra mil vez retorno

Pablo Neruda’s political views and activities throughout his life, as a Communist Party supporter and promoter, earned him a number of fairly lengthy periods of exile from his homeland, Chile, which went through many episodes of authoritarian, sometimes military government. But exile was followed by return, and this poem, from the late 1950s, deals with his return to the south of Chile by train, and reveals a deep affection for the landscapes of his homeland, but a sense of loss that the people and the villages he knew well when young are no longer there, because of migration to urban centres, changing patterns of rural life, or perhaps because the experience of belonging that he once had is no longer available to him, as an exile or wanderer.
Cautin is a province in the southern half of Chile.

ESCRITO EN EL TREN CERCA DE CAUTIN, EN 1958

Otra vez, otra mil vez retorno
al Sur y voy viajando
la larga línea dura,
la interminable patria custodiada
por la estatua infinita de la nieve,
hacia el huraño Sur donde hace años
me esperaban las manos y la miel.

Y, ahora,
nadie en los pueblos de madera. Bajo
la lluvia tan tenaz como la yedra,
no hay ojos para mí, ni aquella boca,,
aquella boca en que nacio mi sangre.
Y a no hay más techo, mesa, copa, muros,
para mí en la que fue mi geografía,
y eso se llama irse, no es un viaje.

Irse es volver cuando sólo la lluvia,

sólo la lluvia espera.

Y ya no hay puerta, ya no hay pan. No hay nadie.

 

Pablo Neruda – Navegaciones y regresos

From <https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=688289641269858&id=612771805488309&gt;

The first stanza depicts the poet returning once again to the south by an interminably long rail journey, the harsh and magnificent landscapes unfolding before his eyes , and his eagerness to reconnect with the world of his youth when he was surrounded here by hands and honey – human solidarity and sustenance, for the body and the soul.

The second stanza reveals his disappointment and disillusion when he sees that the villages are empty, and the buildings, people and all that was important to his sense of belonging are no longer there.

The poem finishes with three isolated lines, reinforcing his final solitude. There is only the rain which awaits him, no welcoming door, no bread, nobody. The hands and honey of his memory have become a barren environment.

I think this reflects Neruda’s state of mid just as much as a real experience – he must have often wondered whether it was worth it to have become rootless and drifting, rather than remain anchored to his origins.

But we have many fine poems which came out of this.

The Poetry Dude

No te quiero sino porque te quiero

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.

 
LXVI

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.

From <http://www.neruda.uchile.cl/obra/obraciensonetos5.html&gt;

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

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