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. Conceptually, this poem expresses Neruda’s longing for his lost love, and the pain he feels in her absence. As he observes the vastness of the night sky, he is reminded of the nights they spent together beneath the same sky, and as he remembers, his pain intensifies. 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.” 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.”

 

THEMES OF THE POEM  

Memory and Reminiscence

“Tonight I Can Write” is a poem about memories of a lost love and the pain they can cause. Throughout the poem the speaker recalls the details of a relationship that is now broken. He continually juxtaposes images of the passion he felt for the woman he loved with the loneliness he experiences in the present. He is now at some distance from the relationship and so acknowledges, “tonight I can write the saddest lines,” suggesting that the pain he suffered after losing his lover had previously prevented any reminiscences or descriptions of it. While the pain he experienced had blocked his creative energies in the past, he is now able to write about their relationship and find some comfort in “the verse [that] falls to the soul like dew to the pasture.”

Love and Passion

Throughout the poem, the speaker expresses his great love for a woman with whom he had a passionate romance. He remembers physical details: “her great still eyes,” “her voice, her bright body,” “her infinite eyes.” He also remembers kissing her “again and again under the endless sky” admitting “how I loved her.” His love for her is still evident even though he states twice “I no longer love her, that’s certain.” The remembrance of their love is still too painful to allow him to admit the depth of his love for her, especially when he thinks, “Another’s. She will be another’s. As she was before my kisses,” imagining her “bright body” under someone else’s caress.

Physical and Spiritual

Neruda employs nature imagery to suggest the speaker’s conception of the spiritual nature of his relationship with his lover. When he describes them kissing “again and again under the endless sky,” he describes his physical relationship with her in cosmic terms. He also uses this type of imagery to describe his lover, creating a connection between her and nature. “Traditionally,” states René de Costa in The Poetry of Pablo Neruda, “love poetry has equated women with nature. Neruda took this established a mode of comparison and raised it to a cosmic level, making women into a veritable force of the universe.” The speaker compares his lover’s “great still” and “infinite eyes” to the “endless sky.” He also uses nature to communicate his love for her. His voice tries “to find the wind to touch her hearing.”

Alienation and Loneliness

The speaker juxtaposes memories of his passionate relationship with his lover with his present state of alienation and loneliness without her. The speaker employs the imagery of nature to reflect his internal state. He writes his “saddest lines” on a night that is similar to the nights he spent with his lover. Yet the darkness and the stars that “shiver at a distance” in this night suggest his loneliness. The “immense night” becomes “still more immense without her,” especially when he notes, “to think that I do not have her. To feel that I have lost her.” He compounds his suffering when he remembers “nights like this one” when he held her in his arms. The speaker expresses his loneliness when he notes that he hears someone in the distance singing and repeats, “in the distance.” No one now sings for him. He admits, “my sight tries to find her as though to bring her closer,” and “my heart looks for her, and she is not with me.” As a result, his soul is not satisfied. In an effort to assuage the loneliness he feels, he tries to convince himself, “I no longer love her, that’s certain,” but then later acknowledges, “maybe I love her.” With a world- weary tone of resignation, he concludes, “love is so short, forgetting is so long.” Determined to end his sense of alienation and loneliness, the speaker insists that these will be “the last verses that I write for her.”

In this love poem, ‘Tonight I can write’, Pablo Neruda probes the complex feeling of love, by singing about the loss of his lady and his attempt to give poetic utterance to the loss. The lady whom he has loved is going to be another’s and the poet thinks that he can voice his loss in the most poignant terms. He can express it in the conventional way, that the night is shattered and the blue stars shiver in the distance. The wind revolves in the sky and sings. He remembers that he loved his lady. Perhaps she also loved him, but he is not sure. He held her with his arms, through the night like the present one and kissed her under the endless sky. She certainly loved him, maybe he also loved her, for no one could have missed her great still eyes. Perhaps he can write the saddest lines when he thinks that he does not have her and feels that he has lost her forever, and the night is more fierce without her. His verse may fall to the soul like dew drops to the green pasture.

The poem also challenges the convention of traditional love poetry and the very conception of romantic love. Mutability is presented as a reality in a love relationship and it is suggested that the grief caused will soon be forgotten and will lead to a revival of love.

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