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Neruda on Love

June 18, 2010

I took literature in high school and while I studied haikus and the metaphysical poets, I was introduced to and fell in love with Pablo Neruda, a Chilean writer who was once called “the greatest poet of the 20th century in any language by novelist, Gabriel García Márquez.

In my favorite compilation “20 Love Poems and a Song of Despair”, he is deeply romantic and sensual. Yet, his content spanned a historical and political spectrum as well. In 1971, he won the Nobel Prize for Literature. In addition to his literary achievements, he served in the Chilean government as an ambassador to many countries throughout his tenure, including in my hometown of Singapore.

I just found a reading on Youtube of my favorite Neruda poem “Tonight I Can Write”. To put it in context, this is the last of the twenty love poems before the writer segues into his Song of Despair. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

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 around 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 distance.

My soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.


The same night whitening the same trees.

We, of the time, are no longer the same.


I no longer love her, that’s certain, but how I loved her.

My voice tried to find the wind to touch her hearing.


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

Her voice, her bright body. Her infinite eyes.


I no longer love her, that’s certain, but maybe I love her.

Love is so short, forgetting is so long.


Because through nights like this one I held her in my arms

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.

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