How can I ever write about poetry without mentioning my favorite poet Pablo Neruda? Over the years, this Chilean poet’s poems have spoken to me, strengthened my resolve whenever it hit rock bottom, renewed my faith in true love and basically helped me grow as a person emotionally.
Here is what Wikipedia has to say about this poet: “Pablo Neruda was the pen name and, later, legal name of the Chilean poet-diplomat and politician Neftali Ricardo Reyes Basoalto. He chose his pen name after the Czech poet Jan Neruda. In 1971 Neruda won the Nobel Prize for Literature.”
Couple of years back I was fortunate enough to visit two of Pablo’s residences in Chile. La Chascona was the Santiago home of Neruda that he shared with his wife Matilde from 1955 until 1973. Neruda named the home “La Chascona” (“tangled-haired woman”) after Matilde. Excellently restored, and full of Neruda’s personal possessions, La Chascona was really fascinating. I also went to Valparaíso, where I visited another of his houses – La Sebastiana. The walk to the house through the rolling hills of Valpo (Valparaíso) with views of the colorful city from Neruda’s home were simply breathtaking. Valpo is a city of hills and a walk through these cerros (Spanish for “hills”) provided stunning ocean views, made all the more intriguing by the curious architecture and colors of the houses dotting the landscape. Listening to the Guides talking about Pablo and his personal life, while actually being right there was an exhilarating experience for me.
I will surely keep posting more of Pablo’s poems here in the coming days but let me start with one that I really like –
If You Forget Me by Pablo Neruda
I want you to know
You know how this is:
if I look
at the crystal moon, at the red branch
of the slow autumn at my window,
if I touch
near the fire
the impalpable ash
or the wrinkled body of the log,
everything carries me to you,
as if everything that exists,
aromas, light, metals,
were little boats
toward those isles of yours that wait for me.
if little by little you stop loving me
I shall stop loving you little by little.
you forget me
do not look for me,
for I shall already have forgotten you.
If you think it long and mad,
the wind of banners
that passes through my life,
and you decide
to leave me at the shore
of the heart where I have roots,
that on that day,
at that hour,
I shall lift my arms
and my roots will set off
to seek another land.
if each day,
you feel that you are destined for me
with implacable sweetness,
if each day a flower
climbs up to your lips to seek me,
ah my love, ah my own,
in me all that fire is repeated,
in me nothing is extinguished or forgotten,
my love feeds on your love, beloved,
and as long as you live it will be in your arms
without leaving mine.
There are various interpretations and reviews on this famous poem but for me, it basically talks about true love. While it starts off with the promise of a deep bond existing between the lovers, it quickly touches upon the inherent vulnerability in any relationship. Then it goes on to proclaim how the lover is bracing himself to face the possibility of a separation, even to the extent of warning his lover that he will move on faster than her. Finally he ends up emphasizing that if she were to give in to him completely, then his love for her will be eternal. I think this poem is an honest portrayal of True Love.