Pablo Neruda, the Chilean poet, was endowed with the Nobel; Prize for Literature in 1971. The writer’s original name being Neftali Ricardo Reyes Basoalto, he assumed the pseudonym Pablo Neruda for about 20 years before legalizing the same in 1946. Neruda is said to be the most popular amongst the Spanish American poets His writings exhibit a preoccupation with the 1940s political struggle of the left. His works also reflect the socio-historical developments in South America. He also penned numerous love poems.
The poet puts across all the set standards for measuring love. He starts with ‘salt’ that has been a benchmark in many legends. Especially in Shakespeare’s King Lear, Cordelia’s reply to Lear was that he is to her as important as salt. The poet uses ‘salt’as a hyperbole here,and in the process may also regard to it as an essential element of life-forms. “Rose” was generally used in the 17th century poems with the ‘carpe diem’ motif. The image of rose stood for the brevity of Life, and to love as long as life lasted. The poet means to say here that he does not love her because Life is short ,but for the sake of love itself. Topaz has been a symbol of beauty and splendour. Therefore, the speaker implies that he loves her not for her ephemeral beauty. These apocalyptic (topaz) stones were professed to serve as a shield against enemies. The poet also refuses to compare his love with the fire (passion) of the arrow of carnations. Carnations are a popular choice for flowers, and the different colors pertain to the different shades of love
Carnation (General) – fascination, woman’s love
Pink Carnation – I’ll never forget you, woman’s love, always on my mind
Red Carnation – my heart aches for you, passion
Purple Carnation – capriciousness
Solid Color Carnation – yes
Striped Carnation – refusal
White Carnation – innocence, pure love
Yellow Carnation – you disappoint me, rejection, disdain
He claims that his life is not so flamboyant in it being colourful. It is deep and dark and secretive, and therefore an enigma. Its beauty lies in its inscrutable quality. Its proximity is between the shadow (reflection) and soul(essence).
He loves her as the plant that never blooms. The quintessence of love in such a context would lie in its not having blossomed yet-there always remains room for blossoming and fruition. It carries in itself the light of hidden flowers, the essence of which is yet to be realized. The poet ascertains that he is grateful to his lady-love’s love for now he is characterized by a “solid fragrance,” Note that he marries here air and substance, and the visual and the olfactory. This aspect emanating from the earth and residing ‘darkly’ in his body. Note that while other poets attributed such feelings to a heavenly descent, Pablo Neruda prefers to keep it earthly.
Furthermore, he loves her without any time constraints, without any regard to her history, present or future. He adores her regardless of stature and regionalism, marginalizing boundaries. He does not want to “rationalize” his love by prefixing the tags ‘how’ and ‘when’. The speaker conveys the most honest emotions divorced of superficiality or prejudices. More significantly, he loves her because for him, that is the only option that exists.
In the last stanza, the poet eliminates all distinctions-physical and spiritual as they form a union-that is at once neutral ,stable and in complete harmony:
than this: where I does not exist, nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.
©Rukhaya MK 2010
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