Table of Contents
Tonight I Can Write Questions and Answers
1. Examine “Tonight I Can Write” by Pablo Neruda as a Battle between Love and Despair.
Love and despair do not look alike at first; someone could think that when you are in love you do not feel despair and when you feel desperation is because you may have lost the one you loved. Although for Pablo Neruda, love and despair go together, love can drive someone madness and despair can strengthen the love you felt. Neruda’s most famous work Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair (1924) collides two huge feelings that all lovers have felt once throughout time. This verse collection is composed of twenty love poems and one song of despair that unites all common themes of the previous poems. Throughout the twenty poems, it can be seen a changed in theme as it began describing the sensuality and passion towards one of the author’s lovers and towards the last poems it changes to a melancholy tone, feeling regret and loneliness, and to close “A Song of Despair”, is bitter and hopeless as the poetic voice has a constant reminder of the loss of his lover.
Poem XX, “Tonight I Can Write”, joins love and despair as the poetic voice goes through an internal battle about his current feelings towards his lover while he realizes she is gone. “Tonight I Can Write”, brings out all the past romantic feelings from the previous poems, realizing that the poetic voice is alone with only memories of what his lover once was. The scenario of the poem is a cold and clear night, where the sky is full of stars and nothing can listen but the poetic voice laments, “Tonight I can write the saddest lines. / Write, for example, ‘The night is shattered / and the blue stars shiver in the distance.’, the first three lines introduces the readers to a melancholy mood, as the poetic voice begins saying “Tonight I can write the saddest lines”, stating that he is no longer with his lover, and that even the night is broken because she has left and the small hope left is starting to dispel as the blue stars in the distance, with this two lines the reader can have a vivid image of the place the speaker is in, realizing everything is arrange for the speaker to have a constant reminder of the love he has
lost, as the blue stars bring coldness and sadness to the line and the fact he sees the stars shivering in the distance he may be hallucinating due to the pain he feels. There is a repetition of the first line, keeping the sorrow the speaker feels as he realizes how lonely his life has become with the absence of his lover. In line 6 after the repetition, the speaker declares how much he loved the unnamed woman but he still feels. heartbroken as he would never know if she loved him back as much as he did. The night described by the poetic voice is later going to be compared by the time the speaker was with his lover, “Through nights like this one I held her in my arms / I kissed her again and again under the endless sky.” Now the sky seems as infinity where time does not fly only because he is with his lover, but once she left, the night is a constant reminder of his loneliness and emptiness. From line 1-10, the speaker makes the first comparison between having his lover with him and not being with her, “How could one not have loved her great still eyes.”, exposing how lonely and bleak he feels without her, and only having his memories to survive. Along these lines, Neruda expose the constant relation of love and despair, as he still loves his beloved which made him be in constant madness knowing she is not coming back.
According to Saunders, Neruda finds his way to express in the most sincere and direct way how his heart cries for his beloved, using unadorned simplicity of expressions, in contrast to the poems before, Poem XX is meant to be direct and implicit, sending a direct message to the reader of the broken soul of the poetic voice.” Tonight I can write the saddest lines. To think that I do not have her. To feel that I have lost her.”, again in line 11, there is a repetition of the opening line, which turns into a plaintive refrain, stating afterward his despair of not being with her, seeing the night immense and the loneliness even more. Line 14 has a simile “And the verse falls to the soul like dew to the pasture.” comparing the nature to his pain, the speaker enhances his pain and does not let go the departure of his beloved, the speaker uses the verses to express all the love he feels and how each time it increases as he realizes she is not coming back. Along the verses Neruda is going through the process of understanding and accepting slowly that he would never be with his lover again, for this he compares repetitively himself to nature, as “The night is shattered starry and she is not with me.” bringing darkness and sorrow and later introducing the emptiness of his soul. Throughout this poem the speaker finds himself tied to his lover as he permanently states he cannot believe she is not there, “My soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.” Driving himself insane which only intensifies his melancholy and love towards her. Neruda uses nature to compare his pain or passion in his poems, in Poem XX nature is a constant reminder of darkness and loneliness, as he describes a cold clear night sky where his only companions are the stars that even start to fade off.
The poetic voice is going through a process of acceptance of his loneliness, as he still looks for her without any success, from line 19. 21 Neruda add the speaker sense and the reader can start feeling the desperation once again as it says “My sight tries to find her as though to bring her closer. / My heart looks for her, and she is not with me.” The poetic voice goes in circles trying to catch her when he knows she is not there, he is slowly surrendering to the fact he lost her but before he would try to bring her back with all he remembers about her. He tries to keep normality as he compares his memories to the night, seeing everything keeps the same but his soul. Slowly he is letting her go, freeing himself of the pain and letting the pain go, “I no longer love her, that’s certain, but how I loved her.” So close of letting go the speaker contradicts himself again as saying he still loves her but it would take a lot to forget her. Every time a similar scenario as the lonely night comes by “Because through nights like this one I held her in my arms / my soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.” He would remember her and he would go through all the pain and love again just to find out she will not come back. The speaker would go through a cycle of love, pain, and contradiction to survive the loneliness he lives in. After he has admitted he misses her and nature has heard his sorrows, the only person he cares about and needs to hear him is her beloved that would never know how much he misses her, “My voice tried to find the wind to touch her hearing.” That is his only request and need, that her lover hears him. The last two lines conclude all the pain Neruda has expressed from the first to the last line, he states he would let her go only to free himself of the pain only to know that he would continue suffering every lonely night.
Neruda goes through passion and sensuality from the first poems to feeling sorrow and pain for the same lover leaving him behind. This last poem before the song of despair joins all the feeling towards her lover to say goodbye to her, but before letting her go he feels every kind of pain as he compares his nowadays life to what he lived with her. Poem XX is the goodbye to sadness an attachment as Neruda last wrote: “Though this is the last pain that she makes me suffer / and these the last verses that I write for her.” He would leave behind his melancholy to free himself of a broken heart. his will was that his lover heard his verses to feel his sadness but instead every reader felt how his loud love drove him insane and how moments of despair remembered him how much he loved her. “Tonight I Can Write” is a constant contradiction of letting go but fearing to forget the true love he once had.
2. Give a summary of the poem.
“Tonight I can write the saddest lines,” he suggests that he could not previously. We later learn that his overwhelming sorrow over a lost lover has prevented him from writing about their relationship and its demise. The speaker’s constant juxtaposition of past and present illustrate his inability to come to terms with his present isolated state. Neruda’s language here, as in the rest of the poem, is simple and to the point, suggesting the sincerity of the speaker’s emotions. The sense of distance is again addressed in the second and third lines as he notes the stars shivering “in the distance.” These lines also contain images of nature, which will become a central link to his memories and to his present state. The speaker contemplates the natural world, focusing on those aspects of it that remind him of his lost love and the cosmic nature of their relationship. He begins writing at night, a time when darkness will match his mood. The night sky filled with stars offers him no comfort since they “are blue and shiver.” Their distance from him reinforces the fact that he is alone. However, he can appreciate the night wind that “sings” as his verses will, describing the woman he loved.
Neruda repeats the first line in the fifth and follows it with a declaration of the speaker’s love for an unnamed woman. The staggered repetitions Neruda employs throughout the poem provide thematic unity. The speaker introduces the first detail of their relationship and points to a possible reason for its demise when he admits “sometimes she loved me too.” He then reminisces about being with her in “nights like this one.” The juxtaposition of nights from the past with this night reveals the change that has taken place, reinforcing his sense of aloneness. In this section, Neruda links the speaker’s lover with nature, a technique he will use throughout the poem to describe the sensual nature of their relationship. In the eighth line, the speaker remembers kissing his love “again and again under the endless sky” a sky as endless as, he had hoped, their relationship would be. An ironic reversal of line six occurs in line nine when the speaker states, “She loved me, sometimes I loved her too.” The speaker may be offering a cynical statement of the fickle nature of love at this point. However, the eloquent, bittersweet lines that follow suggest that in this line he is trying to distance himself from the memory of his love for her and so ease his suffering. Immediately, in the next line he contradicts himself when he admits, “How could one not have loved her great still eyes.” The poem’s contradictions create a tension that reflects the speaker’s desperate attempts to forget the past.
In line eleven Neruda again repeats his opening line, which becomes a plaintive refrain. The repetition of that line shows how the speaker is struggling to maintain distance, to convince him that enough time has passed for him to have the strength to think about his lost love. But these lines are “the saddest.” He cannot yet escape the pain of remembering. It becomes almost unbearable “to think that I do not have her. To feel that I have lost her.” His loneliness is reinforced by “the immense night, still more immense without her.” Yet the poetry that he creates helps replenish his soul, “like dew to the pasture.”
In line fifteen the speaker refuses to analyze their relationship. What is important to him is that “the night is starry and she is not with me” as she used to be on similar starry nights. “This is all” that is now central to him. When the speaker hears someone singing in the distance and repeats “in the distance,” he reinforces the fact that he is alone. No
one is singing to him. As a result, he admits “my soul is not satisfied.”
In these lines the speaker expresses his longing to reunite with his love. His sight and his heart try to find her, but he notes, “she is not with me.” He again remembers that this night is so similar to the ones they shared together. Yet he understands that they are no longer the same.” He declares that he no longer loves her, “that’s certain,” in an effort to relieve his pain, and admits he loved her greatly in the past. Again linking their relationship to nature, he explains that he had “tried to find the wind to touch her hearing” but failed. Now he must face the fact that “she will be another’s.” He remembers her “bright” body that he knows will be touched by another and her “infinite eyes” that will look upon a new lover.
The speaker reiterates, “I no longer love her, that’s certain,” but immediately contradicts himself, uncovering his efforts at self deception when he admits, “but maybe I love her.” With a world-weary tone of resignation, he concludes, “love is so short, forgetting is so long.” His poem has become a painful exercise in forgetting. In line twenty-nine he explains that because this night is so similar to the nights in his memory when he held her in his arms, he cannot forget. Thus he repeats, “my soul is not satisfied.” In the final two lines, however, the speaker is determined to erase the memory of her and so ease his pain.
3. Evaluate Neruda as a poet in terms of the poem.
“No writer of world renown is perhaps so little known in Europe as Chilean poet Pablo Neruda,” observed New York Times Book Review critic Selden Rodman. Numerous critics have praised Neruda as the greatest poet writing in the Spanish language during his lifetime, although many readers in the United States have found it difficult to disassociate Neruda’s poetry from his fervent commitment to communism. An added difficulty lies in the fact that Neruda’s poetry is very hard to translate; his works available in English represent only a small portion of his total output. Nonetheless, declared John Leonard in the New York Times, Neruda “was, I think, one of the great ones, a Whitman of the South.”
Born Ricardo Eliezer Neftali Reyes y Basoalto, Neruda adopted
the pseudonym under which he would become famous while still in his early teens. He grew up in Temuco in the backwoods of southern Chile. Neruda’s literary development received assistance from unexpected sources. Among his teachers “was the poet Gabriela Mistral, who would be a Nobel laureate years before Neruda,” reported Manuel Duran and Margery Safir in Earth Tones: The Poetry of Pablo Neruda. “It is almost inconceivable that two such gifted poets should find each other in such an unlikely spot. Mistral recognized the young Neftali’s talent and encouraged it by giving the boy books and the support he lacked at home ” By the time he finished high school; Neruda had published in local papers and Santiago magazines, and had won several literary competitions. In 1921 he left southern Chile for Santiago to attend school, with the intention of becoming a French teacher but was an indifferent student. While in Santiago, Neruda completed one of his most critically acclaimed and original works, the cycle of love poems titled Veinte poemas de amor y una canción desesperada published in English translation as Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair. This work quickly marked Neruda as an important Chilean poet. Veinte poemas also brought the author notoriety due to its explicit celebration of sexuality, and, as Robert Clemens remarked in the Saturday Review, “established him at the outset as a frank, sensuous spokesman for love.” While other Latin American poets of the time used sexually explicit imagery, Neruda was the first to win popular acceptance for his presentation. Mixing memories of his love affairs with memories of the wilderness of southern Chile, he creates a poetic sequence that not only describes a physical liaison, but also evokes the sense of displacement that Neruda felt in leaving the wilderness for the city. “Traditionally,” stated Rene de Costa in The Poetry of Pablo Neruda, “love poetry has equated woman with nature. Neruda took this established mode of comparison and raised it to a cosmic level, making woman into a veritable force of the universe.”
“In Veinte poemas,” reported David P. Gallagher in Modern Latin American Literature, “Neruda journeys across the sea symbolically in search of an ideal port. In 1927, he embarked on a real journey, when he sailed from Buenos Aires for Lisbon, ultimately bound for
Rangoon where he had been appointed honorary Chilean consul.” Duran and Safir explained that “Chile had a long tradition, like most Latin American countries, of sending her poets abroad as consuls or even, when they became famous, as ambassadors.” The poet was not really qualified for such a post and was unprepared for the squalor, poverty, and loneliness to which the position would expose him. “Neruda travelled extensively in the Far East over the next few years,” Gallagher continued, “and it was during this period that he wrote his first really splendid book of poems, Residencia en la tierra, a book ultimately published in two parts, in 1933 and 1935.” Neruda added a third part, Tercera residencia, in 1947.
Residencia en la tierra, published in English as Residence on Earth, is widely celebrated as containing “some of Neruda’s most extraordinary and powerful poetry,” according to de Costa. Born of the poet’s feelings of alienation, the work reflects a world which is largely chaotic and senseless, and which in the first two volumes-offers no hope of understanding. De Costa quoted Spanish poet García Lorca as calling Neruda “a poet closer to death than to philosophy, closer to pain than to insight, closer to blood than to ink. A poet filled with mysterious voices that fortunately he himself does not know how to decipher.” With its emphasis on despair and the lack of adequate answers to mankind’s problems, Residencia en la tierra in some ways foreshadowed the post-World War II philosophy of existentialism. “Neruda himself came to regard it very harshly,” wrote Michael Wood in the New York Review of Books. “It helped people to die rather than to live, he said, and if he had the proper authority to do so he would ban it, and make sure it was never reprinted.”
Residencia en la tierra also marked Neruda’s emergence as an important international poet. By the time the second volume of the collection was published in 1935 the poet was serving as consul in Spain, where “for the first time,” reported Duran and Safir, “he tasted international recognition, at the heart of the Spanish language and tradition. At the same time. . . poets like Rafael Alberti and Miguel Hernandez, who had become closely involved in radical politics and the Communist movement, helped politicize Neruda.” When the Spanish
Civil War broke out in 1936, Neruda was among the first to espouse the Republican cause with the poem España en el Corazon a gesture that cost him his consular post. He later served in France and Mexico, where his politics caused less anxiety.
4. How can you say that communism rescued Neruda from the despair he survived?
Communism rescued Neruda from the despair he expressed in the first parts of Residencia en la tierra, and led to a change in his approach to poetry. He came to believe that the work of art and the statement of thought when these are responsible human actions, rooted in human need are inseparable from historical and political context,” reported Salvatore Bizzarro in Pablo Neruda: All Pocts the Poet. “He argued that there are books which are important at a certain moment in history, but once these books have resolved the problems they dea! with they carry in them their own oblivion. Neruda ſejt that the belief that one could write solely for eternity was romantic posturing.” This new attitude led the poet in new directions; for many years his work, both poetry and prose, advocated an active role in social change rather than simply describing his feelings, as his earlier oeuvre had done.
This significant shift in Neruda’s poetry is recognizable in Tercera residencia, the third and final part of the “Residencia” series. Florence L. Yudin noted in Hispania that the poetry of this volume was overlooked when published and remains neglected due to its overt ideological content. “Viewed as a whole,” Yudin wrote, “Tercera residencia illustrates a fluid coherence of innovation with retrospective, creativity with continuity that would characterize Neruda’s entire career.” According to de Costa, as quoted by Yudin, “The new posture assumed is that of a radical nonconformist. Terra residencia must, therefore, be considered in this light, from the dual perspective of art and society, poetry and politics.”
“Las Furias y las penas,” the longest poem of Tercera residencia, embodies the influence of both the Spanish Civil War and the works of Spanish Baroque poet Francisco Gomez de Quevedo y Villegas on Neruda. The poem explores the psychic agony of lost love and its
accompanying guilt and suffering, conjured in the imagery of savage eroticism, alienation, and loss of self-identity. Neruda’s message, according to Yudin, is that “what makes up life’s narrative are single, unconnected events, governed by chance, and meaningless. Man is out of control, like someone hallucinating one-night stands in sordid places “Yudin concluded that, “Despite its failed dialectic, ‘Las Furias y las penas’ sustains a haunting beauty in meaning and tone” and “bears the unmistakable signature of Neruda’s originality and achievement.”
Neruda expanded on his political views in the poem Canto general, which, according to de Costa, is a “lengthy epic on man’s struggle for justice in the New World.” Although Neruda had begun the poem as early as 1935 when he had intended it to be limited in scope only to Chile he completed some of the work while serving in the Chilean senate as a representative of the Communist Party. However, party leaders recognized that the poet needed time to work on his opus, and granted him a leave of absence in 1947. Later that year, however, Neruda returned to political activism, writing letters in support of striking workers and criticizing Chilean President Videla. Early in 1948 the Chilean Supreme Court issued an order for his arrest, and Neruda finished the Canto general while hiding from Videla’s forces.
“Canto general is the flowering of Neruda’s new political stance,” Don Bogen asserted in the Nation. “For Neruda food and other pleasures are our birthright not as gifts from the earth or heaven but as the products of human labor.” According to Bogen, Canto general draws its “strength from a commitment to nameless workers the men of the salt mines, the builders of Macchu Picchu and the fundamental value of their labor. This is all very Old Left, of course.” Commenting on Canto general in Books Abroad, Jaime Alazraki remarked, “Neruda is not merely chronicling historical events. The poet is always present throughout the book not only because he describes those events, interpreting them according to a definite outlook on history, but also because the epic of the continent intertwines with his own epic.”
Although, as Bizzarro noted, “In, Neruda was to reflect some of the party’s basic ideological tenets,” the work itself transcends propaganda. Looking back into American prehistory, the poet examined the land’s rich natural heritage and described the long defeat of the Native Americans by the Europeans. Instead of rehashing Marxist dogma, however, he concentrated on elements of people’s lives common to all people at all times. Nancy Willard wrote in Testimony of the Invisible Man, “Neruda makes it clear that our most intense experience of impermanence is not death but our own isolation among the living…. If Neruda is intolerant of despair, it is because he wants nothing to sully man’s residence on earth.”
“In the Canto,” explained Duran and Safir, “Neruda reached his peak as a public poet. He produced an ideological work that largely transcended contemporary events and became an epic of an entire continent and its people.” According to Alazraki, “By bringing together his own odyssey and the drama of the continent, Neruda has simultaneously given to Canto general the quality of a lyric and an epic poem. The lives of conquistadors, martyrs, heroes, and just plain people recover a refreshing actuality because they become part of the poet’s fate, and conversely, the life of the poet gains new depth because in his search one recognizes the continent’s struggles. Canto general is, thus, the song of a continent as much as it is Neruda’s own song.”
Neruda returned to Chile from exile in 1953, and, said Duran and Safir, spent the last twenty years of his life producing “some of the finest love poetry in One Hundred Love Sonnets and parts of Extravagaria and La Barcarola; he produced Nature poetry that continued the movement toward close examination, almost still shots of every aspect of the external world, in the odes of Navegaciones y regresos, in The Stones of Chile, in The Art of Birds, in Una Casa en la arena and in Stones of the Sky. He continued as well his role as public poet in Canción de geste, in parts of Cantos ceremoniales, in the mythical La Espada encendida, and the angry Incitement to Nixonicide and Praise for the Chilean Revolution.”
In 2003, thirty years after Neruda’s death, an anthology of 600 of Neruda’s poems arranged chronologically was published as The Poetry of Pablo Neruda. The anthology draws from thirty-six different translators, and some of his major works are also presented in their original Spanish. Writing in the New Leader, Phoebe Pettingell pointed
out that, although some works were left out because of the difficulty in presenting them properly in English, “an overwhelming body of Neruda’s output is here… and the collection certainly presents a remarkable array of subjects and styles.” Reflecting on the life and work of Neruda in the New Yorker, Mark Strand commented, “There is something about Neruda about the way he glorifies experience, about the spontaneity and directness of his passion that sets him apart from other poets. It is hard not to be swept away by the urgency of his language, and that’s especially so when he seems swept away.”
5. Examine the uniqueness of “Tonight I can Write the Saddest Lines” as a confessional love poem.
Or, Compare the treatment of the theme of parting in “Tonight I can write the Saddest Lines” with that of “When We Two Parted” and “Valediction Forbidding Mourning”
Pablo Neruda is the great poet of Chile. He was a communist and a revolutionary poet. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971. “Tonight I can write the Saddest Lines’ is one of the most celebrated and original of the poems of Neruda. It is a monologue written in a confessional mood, lamenting the loss of love of a jilted lover. The lover contemplates the natural world, the night, the stars, and the wind, everything that reminds him of his lost love. The night and the darkness match his sad mood. The lover confesses that tonight he is writing the saddest lines and thereby he is ritually killing his lady love with his pen which becomes his mighty sword.
The poet uses nature image and symbolism to express the lost love. Words such as “The night is shattered and the blue stars shiver in the distance”. The lover says “my heart looks for her”; at the same time he says” she loved me, sometimes. This tone is repeated in an opposite style “I loved her, and sometimes she loved me too”. Thus he confesses that their love was not genuine or sincere. But he again confesses that her love gave him maximum pleasure. This is why even when she left him to become another man’s wife, he says “My sight searches for her, My heart looks for her, My voice tried to find the wind to touch her hearing”. But the beauty of their love reaches when the lover confesses “Love is short, but forgetting so long”. Thus the love poem reaches universal level. Pablo Neruda gives all of us our love poem which we hug to our heart with great satisfaction and whisper every line of it in our solitude. This is genuine love poem meant for every human being who is born to love and be loved.
Let us compare this love poem with “When We Two Parted”. It is a love poem written by Lord Byron. The speaker calls to mind how his heart used to swell with joy in the company of his lady love. Soon the lover comes to know that the reputation of his lady love is lost because she had an affair with another man and the public knew it. It was a rude shock to the lover and they were separated silently and in tears. The whole poem is a recollection of his past lost love for her.. When she became a subject of gossip, the lover did not know how to face her. The loss of her good name was stronger than the loss of her love for him. There is one similarity between the two poems. The love is very short but forgetting is very, very long.
John Donne’s poem “A Valediction Forbidding Mourning” is also a love poem addressed by the poet to his wife. It is metaphysical poem and love is elevated to spiritual, ideal level. In the poem love compared to the peaceful death of a good man, the expansion of pure gold and stiff but twin compasses. The startling images and hyperboles and other shocking ideas distinguish this poem from the other two love poems. But common man loves Pablo Neruda’s love poem “Tonight I can write the Saddest Lines” because of its familiar day today images and ideas.
6. What do you think is the reason for the poet’s sadness?
Pablo Neruda is a much acclaimed writer from Chile. This poem was written in Spanish in 1924 and later translated into English in 1969. This poem is celebrated for its imagery and symbols to present the pain of jilted lover. It is about memories of a lost love and the pain they can cause. Throughout the poem the speaker recalls the details of his love that is now broken. He continually juxtaposes the past with his ladylove with the loneliness he experiences in the present. It is written in the style of monologue with the repetition of the line “Tonight I can write the saddest lines” three times to emphasize his sorrow.
The first line of the poem leaves the readers with a curiosity to know the reason for the poet’s sadness. The images like shattered night and shivering of the blue stars in the distance indicate his melancholic mood. He decides to write a poem at night which brings a dark imagery and his sad mood. The shattered night and the shivering stars project the turmoil the poet experiences in his life. The night wind becomes his companion as it revolves in the sky and sings. Moreover the night. enables him to write which he could not write till then. He confesses that he loved her and the unnamed woman also loved him for some time. His memory takes him back to a similar night when he held her in his arm. He admits that he was in love with her deeply and says that her great still eyes will make anyone to fall in love with her.
The writer feels that he can write the saddest lines that night as he knows that she is no longer with him. Without her the night seems to be immensely lonely. But his writing replenishes his soul like dew drops to the pasture. He feels upset that in spite of everything, his love could not have her and without her his soul is lost. The night is traumatized as she is not with him. He hears someone singing in the distance, which also indicates that he is alone as he could hear it from the distance. Now he mentions his longing to get reunited with his ladylove as; his sight searches for her, to go to her and his heart too looks for her. Again he mentions that night is similar to the other night when they were together. Suddenly he declares that he does not love her but he loved her greatly earlier. He even tried to send the wind to touch her hearing. But she is another’s now and to express his pain of losing her, the poet states it that her voice, body and infinite eyes will be another’s. Again he declares that he no longer loves her but contradicts himself by stating that he may love her. His words, love is short but forgetting is long, reveals his love for her. The night leaves him with the memory of his ladylove and her loss leaves his soul disturbed. He concludes the poem with a determination that this is the last pain she gives him and this is the last poem he writes for her. He hopes that with this painful attempt of writing he wishes to get out of her memory.
1. Write a note on the element of love in the poem “Tonight I can Write the Saddest Lines” by Pablo Neruda.
The poet in this poem is talking about his lost love. He feel that the immense sorrow he feels will enable him to write the saddest lines ever written. He uses night imagery to convey his sorrow. He feels that the night is shattered like his heart. He imagines that it is the night wind that is singing the song for him. Although the poet is sure about his love for his lover, he expresses doubts about his lover’s love by saying that she loved him sometimes. This suggests that the poet’s lover was not very constant in her love for the poet. The night reminds him of the times that he spent with his lover. He says that no one can resist loving her beautiful eyes. The poet feels sad that they are no longer in love with each other. His song is fuelled by the sorrow that lost love has caused him. He projects his sorrow on nature and feels that the night is as sad as him. He is unable to come to terms with the loss and his eyes keep searching for her even though he knows that she is no longer with him. He feels that they were different from what they are now. The absence of love has changed the lovers. The poet feels that he is no longer in love with her. However he cannot forget the way he loved her. He is also sad that she will from now on belong to someone else. Everything that he once loved about her will also belong to someone else. The poet is not sure whether he is still in love with her or not. He feels that although love is short, it is difficult to forget the love that we once had. The night reminds him of the time that he spent with her. He has decided to move on in life and forget his love. He feels certain that this poem is the last he will write for her. However, his soul cannot come to terms with the loss.
2. Write a short note on the collection form which the poem has been taken as well as the collection itself.
“Tonight I Can Write” was published in 1924 in a collection of poems by Pablo Neruda titled Veinte poemas de amor y una cancion desesperada. The collection was translated into English in 1969 by W.
S. Merwin as Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair. Although some reviewers were shocked by the explicit sexuality in the poems, the collection became a best seller and was translated into several languages. Marjorie Agosin writes in her article on Neruda, “One of the reasons that Twenty Love Poems draws the reader so powerfully is the sobriety of expression and the economy of the images.” René de Costa in his article on Neruda notes that all the poems in this collection contain a highly charged confessional intimacy that challenged and charmed the sensibility of its reader, creating in the process a contemporary stil nuovo which continues to resonate in the language of love.” The poems chart a love story from the initial infatuation to the release of passion, and finally to a separation. Tonight I Can Write,” the penultimate poem in the poetic sequence, expresses the pain the speaker feels after losing his lover. The bittersweet sentiment recalls their passionate relationship and his recognition that “love is so short, forgetting is so long.”
3. There is deliberate juxtaposition of the emotions accompanied by adjectives that make us believe that it is the woman’s rejection that becomes the poet’s inspiration to write. Elucidate in reference to the poem.
There is deliberate juxtaposition of the emotions accompanied by adjectives that make us believe that it is the woman’s rejection that becomes the poet’s inspiration to write; it is the pain that produces poetry. The reiteration of the word “last” in the final lines of the poem are again the young man’s need for some kind of revenge, his poem a gift to her for leaving behind the memories that allow him to compose.
The woman can be seen as the condescending one and the personification of poetic inspiration. The poems in the collection. were the outcome of two actual love affairs where Neruda’s focus shifts between one who is beautiful and the one who is distant and threatening. From the conventional poet that he was in his first two books, Song of the Fiesta (1921) and Crepuscular (1923), here in Twenty Love Poems he is certainly breaking away from tradition and attempting to find a new voice. The tone is modernista simple, evocative and, at times, meditative. The collection does not have a personalized theme of a man who is not a hero, nor yet do a public figure.
Pablo Neruda employs vivid nature imagery to express the loss of his love in this poem probably the last time he is writing about the woman he once loved and lost. There is a growing feeling of solitariness in the poet that, although nature and the environment have remained unchanged over the years, he has lost the woman he once loved. The expression is intensely lyrical and full of agony when he says: The night is shattered and the blue stars shiver in the distance. The poignancy of the situation is further heightened when he realises: I loved her,/and sometimes she loved me too. And equally, she loved me,/sometimes I loved her too./How could one not have loved her great still eyes.
Now that the poet experiences the pangs of separation, the night is “shattered” and the stars seem to be shivering. The night wind “revolving” round the sky is whistling a sad tune. “Tonight I can write the saddest lines.” The saddest lines are about his lost love… “She is not with me” and My sight searches for her as though to go to her./ My heart looks for her, and she is not with me. “This is all”, the poet sumps up his present situation. But is this really all? The poet misses her: The same night whitening the same trees./We, of that time, are no longer the same.
She is now “another’s” and he still miss “Her voice. Her bright body. Her infinite eyes.” He might have loved her for a short time, but forgetting her has taken too long; his soul still searches for her, the pangs of separation still pierce his heart; and the poet vows that this is “the last time” he writes for her. He doesn’t appear to be so sure, however, nor are we. And this lends universality to Tonight I Can Write.
4. Give a short Summary of Tonight I Can Write the Saddest Lines by Pablo Neruda.
The speaker of the poem says that that night he could write the saddest lines. He loved a girl and the girl loved him back too, but only at some times. That night was like the nights in which he held her and kissed her. He loved her great still eyes. But now he does not have her, he lost her. He knew the nights were immense but without her they seemed more immense than ever. The verse of his poems fell
to his soul like dew to the pasture. His love could not hold her back. He could hear someone singing somewhere but no song could satisfy him now. His eyes and heart seek her but she is nowhere to be seen. The nights they lived through remained the same though but they themselves changed. He says he no longer loved her but he used to love her and how; he tried to find the wind just to hear her voice. And soon she will be another’s. He no longer loves but thinking again, maybe he still docs. Their love existed for a short time but the forgetting part is taking so long. Because nights like that night reminded him of all the time he spent with her. He ends the poem by saying that these will be the last verse her writes for her and he will no longer be subjected to suffering due to her.
5. Is this a love poem? Give reasons.
One theme, the main theme, is the emptiness caused by lost love in an immense universe. The two ideas of love and universe are tied inseparably together in Neruda’s poem. The poetry “falls” into his soul because of the immense night, more immense without her.” The night wind revolves and sings and the stars shiver, so that on this night he can write the saddest poem. Tonight, he can write the saddest lines about stars and immensity because he feels he has lost her.
His soul, however, is not satisfied to think that “it has lost her.” In the distant immensity of stars and night, his soul is not satisfied, and stills his eyes and heart search for her. On other starry nights, he used to hold her, and maybe he still loves her, but now, under a night sky, with singing in the distance and starlight falling on the same trees, his soul is not satisfied without her.
There are multiple English translations of “Tonight I Can Write,” including one by American poet and Pulitzer Prize winner W. S. Merwin, who lived in Spain and was a prolific translator: 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.
These lines emphasize the role of the immense universe, “more immense without her,” in the feeling of loss and emptiness the poet feels: “my soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.”
VERY SHORT QUESTIONS
1 .Who is the speaker in the poem?
In “Tonight I can write the saddest lines” the speaker is viewed as if he is reminiscing or indulging the memory of a lover that has gone with another. It seems fair to say that we won’t judge him of his remembrance of her as it seems to us that the time in which they had was one of the best for him.
2. What is the imagery used in the poem?
The poem uses Imagery to appeal your sense of sight such as The night is shattered and the blue stars shiver in the distance”. Pablo Neruda also incorporates imagery that appeals to your sense of hearing “The night wind revolves in the sky and sings”.
3. Note the use of figurative language in the poem.
Figurative language is used mainly as personification in the poem such as “the night wind revolves in the sky and sings.” giving the wind human qualities. It also personifies the stars in the third line “… the blue stars shiver in the distance”.
4. What is the tone of the poem?
The poem overall has a longing and heartbroken tone. He explains the moments he used to have with his lover and how they are now long gone as he says “She loved me sometimes, and I loved her too. How could one not have loved her great still eyes?” But he also puts in a tone of longing such as in “What does it matter that my love could not keep her. The night is shattered and she is not with me.”
5. What is the theme of the poem in short?
The overall theme of this poem is of lost love and how he longs to have it again. While in the beginning of the poem he starts to talk about the love they used to have and how now its long gone. Though it is still ever so present in him the love he had for her, this is especially shown when he writes “love is so short, forgetting so long.”.
6. What is the context of the poem?
Chile has an interesting political background owing to its Spanish Heritage and the way the country has been governed up until the late 19th century the country was primarily run by a group of wealthy landowners, but this prompted much unrest and eventually civil war. Eventually a conservative regime was established but later this was superceded by a liberal movement that would have been prominent when this poem was written.
7. How famous is the poem?
Pablo Neruda, poet to Tonight I Can Write, belonged to the Generation of 1927, a group of Spanish poets. Different people have opined differently about Neruda, but the truth is that he won the hearts of millions by virtue of his poetry.
8. What was the popularity of the poet?
Neruda became a much greater poet than Vallejo who deserved recognition more. Though he lacked the ability to be critical and discerning yet, he was at times quite perceptive about his country and its poets. Besides he was also regarded as a generous man but he also had to face a lot of derision of his critics due to his loyalty to Commission. His readers still regard him as their most favourite poets.
9. Where did Neruda published some of his early poems?
Pablo Neruda published some of his early poems in the 1920s in the student magazine Claridad at the Santiago University. However, it was Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair that made him the much-quoted Latin American poet.
10. How popular was he?
His popularity far surpassed any of his contemporaries in his own or even in other countries. Neruda’s poetry has been translated into several languages, and in India alone he has been translated into Hindi, Bangla, Urdu and other regional languages.
11. How does the poem begin?
The poem, Tonight I Can Write, which can be read in full here, egins with the single line ‘Tonight I can write the saddest lines’, which is its recurring theme, and is repeated all through the poem. The poem consist of night imagery, and the alliteration of’s’ all through the lines reflect the quiet night. The night could be both treacherous and beautiful, and this could also reflect the persona’s relationship.
12. Which poems brought Neruda into limelight?
The poems that brought Pablo Neruda into the limelight are essentially love poems where he makes use of vivid nature imagery and symbolism to express him. In the poem, Tonight I Can Write, the poet is extensively lyrical and the very verbs he uses in the lines.
13. Does it seem that the poet realizes love?
It does not seem as though he realised what it was to love until he starts writing about her. In fact, it is the idea of love that he loves more than the woman, and thus he can write “the saddest lines”. Such sentiments immediately charmed the young people who were themselves experiencing similar emotions, and they were able to identify with Neruda and appropriate his words in their own love affairs.
14. What makes Neruda a poet of the common people?
This is what makes Neruda so much a poet of the common people. As the poor fisherman’s son who brings him his letters in the movie II Postino petulantly tells him, poetry does not belong to the poet composes it; it belongs to those who need to use it, especially lovers seeking to win the beloved through words.
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