Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Poetry Tuesday: 100 Love Sonnets by Pablo Neruda

I have blogged about many Neruda Poems in the several years I have been blogging. I have 5 volumes of his poetry which I pick up regularly to re-read a poem or two. You might laugh, but I still haven't finished his biography which I started last year, but I read a bit now and again, so eventually I will get it finished.  We are approaching poetry month and with it I my thoughts are turning lyrical.  So time to blog about another Neruda poem or two.

Neruda spent 3 years writing the 100 love poems to Matilde Urrutia. He wrote many hundreds - even thousands of poems in his lifetime, many of them political and perhaps in violent opposition to popular political thought.  Putting those aside, his love poems expose another side of the man. One cannot read his deeply loving and sensual poems and conclude anything but, this man had found his one true love.

I was moved by the dedication "To Matilde Urrutia: ... Now that I have declared the foundations of my love, I surrender this century to you: wooden sonnets that rise only because you gave them life."

In writing the 100 Love Sonnets Neruda divided them into groupings, Morning Afternoon, Evening and Night representing the early passionate stages of love, from the more maturing love represented by Afternoon and Evening from the final stage - Evening.  One poem I am including in this blog is from morning,  the other two are from Night.  The poems from Morning are erotic, sensual and full of fire while the poems of Night are haunting and sad - dealing with separation, the end of love and death.  Notice the difference in the two poems - does that not strike you that the first is a fresh love - in the morning of a relationship and the second a deepening love which one might see in an elderly couple who have loved long - through both good and bad times?

Sonnet XII - Full Woman, Carnal Apple, Hot Moon

Full woman, carnal apple, hot moon,
thick smell of seaweed, crushed mud and light,
what obscure clarity opens between your columns?
What ancient night does man touch with his senses?

Ah, loving is a voyage with water and with stars,
with suffocating air and brusque storms of flour:
loving is a battle of lightning bolts,
and two bodies, overcome by one honey.

Kiss by kiss I travel across your small infinity,
your images, your rivers, your diminutive villages,
and the genital fire transformed into delight

runs through the narrow trails of the blood
until it plunges itself, like a nocturnal carnation,
until it is and is nothing more but a ray in the shadows.

Sonnet XCI - Age Covers Us Like Drizzle

Age covers us like drizzle;
time is interminable and sad;
a salt feather touches your face;
a trickle ate through my shirt.

Time does not distinguish between my hands
and a flock of oranges in yours;
with snow and picks life chips away
at your life, which is my life.

My life, which I gave you, fills
with years like a swelling cluster of fruit.
The grapes will return to the earth.

And even down there time
continues, waiting, raining
on the dust, eager to erase even absence.

Sonnet LXVI - I Do Not Love You Except Because I Love You
One of the more famous poems from the Night section of 100 Sonnets is Sonnet LXVI or “I Do Not Love You except Because I Love You”.  In it Pablo Neruda plays with the paradox that sometimes both love and hate can exist at the same time and each can swing to the forefront in a strong bond. 

Neruda is deeply in love but also feels hate, perhaps in the loss of control - "stealing the key to true calm" that is is part and parcel of a particularly wild and passionate love affair.   Neruda spent many years in a clandestine affair with Matilde before he left his wife to live with and eventually marry her.  Knowing that, I expect that the love he felt was at times wrapped in hatred for the complications that it entailed.

I have to explain this You Tube - although it is a recital of the poem - it is in Italian.  The other recitals I found were all trite and amateur - except for one which was orally quite fine, but I was put off by the man with very sad eyes who kept staring motionless into the camera, which drew closer and closer to his face as the narrator spoke in the background. It was unnerving.

This Italian video has wickedly great visuals, wherein love is represented by heavenly figures and hate is represented by a winged devil. I am really not seeing why the last image of a child is there.  But no matter - up to that point the video is great.

I Do Not Love You- Except Because I Love You

I do not love you except because I love you;
I go from loving to not loving you,
from waiting to not waiting for you
my heart moves from the cold into

the fire. I love you only because it's you
I love; I hate you no end, and hating you
bend to you, and the measure of my changing love for you
is that I do not see you but love you

blindly. Maybe the January light will consume
my heart with its cruel
ray, stealing my key to true

calm. In this part of the story I am the one who
dies, the only one, and I will die of love because I love you,
because I love you, Love, in fire and blood.

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  1. All right, Peggy. You have convinced me -- sort of ....

    I do not agree with and, in fact, adamantly disagree with the political viewpoints held and promoted by Pablo Neruda, but I will read some his poetry and see where it might lead.

    Keep on smiling!

  2. thank you. just thank you.

  3. i have always thought of pablo as a child. his child never went away. perhaps that is the image.

    "my love is a child crying, reluctant to leave your arms"

    words to matilde in his evening.b

  4. Thank you so much for your comments my 2 (or 1?) Anonymous friend(s). It is a great gift to be able to stay in touch with your inner child. There is nothing as wonderful as the unconditional love of a child and I presume that it was the same with Neruda and Matilde.


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