Pablo Neruda
Chile recently  celebrated the birthday of Pablo Neruda (1904-1973) on the 12th of July, perhaps the country’s most well-known national poet. Born Ricardo Eliezer Neftalí Reyes Basoalto in the Maule Region (1904), Pablo Neruda lived a colourful life serving in various diplomatic posts that took him to faraway places such as Barcelona, Burma and Ceylon. He was a staunch supporter of the Communist Party throughout his life becoming Senator for Antofogasta in 1943. After the Communist Party was banned in Chile, Neruda went into hiding, travelled to Valdivia and eventually crossed the Andes mountains to neighbouring Argentina. From here he began a life in exile travelling around the world. On returning to Chile several years later Neruda was appointed Ambassador to France before his health deteriorated, dying of cancer in 1973. After several near misses (losing out to philosopher Jean-Paul Satre in 1968) Pablo Neruda was awarded the Nobel prize for literature in 1971.

Below is a taste of Neruda’s magical writing skills and we highly recommend exploring more of his work. The following poems are tasters from Veinte poemas de amor y una canción deseperada, perhaps his best-known work. The full translated work (W.S. Merwin)  is available from Jonathan Cape publishers. You can hear Neruda reciting Poema Veinte in the player below. This recording is taken from the digital archive memoriachilena. You can find an extended biography on Pablo Neruda at the Poetry Foundation and more information in Spanish at the University of Chile’s website on Neruda.


Puedo Escribir

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
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
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.


Tonight I can write

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.

Write, for example, ‘The night is starry
and the stars are blue and shiver in the distance.’

The night wind revolves in the sky and sings.

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
I loved her, and sometimes she loved me too.

Through nights like this one I held her in my arms.
I kissed her again and again under the endless sky.

She loved me, sometimes I loved her too.
How could one not have loved her great still eyes.

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.

To think that I do not have her.To feel that I have
   lost her.
To hear the immense night, still more immense
  without her.
And the verse falls to the soul like dew to the pasture.

What does it matter that my love could not keep her.
The night is starry and she is not with me.

This is all. In the distance someone is singing. In the
My soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.

My sight tries to find her as though to bring her closer.
My heart looks for her, and she is not with me.

The same night whitening the same trees.
We, of that time, are no longer the same.

I no longer love her, that’s certain, but how I loved
My voice tried to find the wind to touch her hearing.

Another’s. She will be another’s. As she was before my

Her voice, her bright body. Her infinite eyes.

I no longer love her, that’s certain, but maybe I love
Love is so short, forgetting is so long.

Because through nights like this one I held her in my

my soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.

Though this be the last pain that she makes me suffer
and these the last verses that I write for her.


Poema Siete


Inclinado En Las Tardes

Inclinado en las tardes tiro mis tristes redes
a tus ojos oceánicos.
Allí se estira y arde en la más alta hoguera
mi soledad ques da vueltas los brazos como un
Hago rojas señales sobre tus ojos ausentes
que olean como el mar a la orilla de un faro.
Sólo guarda tinieblas, hembra distante y mía,
de tu mirada emerge a veces la costa del espanto.
Inclinado en las tardes echo mis tristes redes
a ese mar que sacude tus ojos oceánicos.
Los pájaros nocturnos picotean las primeras
que centellean como mi alma cuando te amo.
Galopa la noche en su yegua sombría
desparramando espigas azules sobre el campo.


Leaning Into The Afternoons

Leaning in the afternoons I cast my sad nets
towards your oceanic eyes.
There in the highest  blaze my solitude lengthens and
its arms turning like a drowning man’s.
I send out red signals across your absent yees
that move like the sea near a lighthouse.
You keep only darkness, my distant female,
from your regard sometimes the coast of dread
Leaning into the afternoons I fling my sad nets
to that sea that beats on your marine eyes.
The birds of nights peck at the first stars
that flash like my soul when I love you.
the night gallops on its shadowy mare
shedding blue tassels over the land.


Pablo Neruda. Twenty Love Poems and a song of despair. Translated by W.S. Merwin. Jonathan Cape, London. (2004). Available from many outlets.


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