A Look at Neruda’s Love Poems

100 love sonnets

Publisher: University of Texas Press; 9th.PAPERBACK PRINTING edition (1986)

Language: English, Spanish

ISBN-10: 0292760280

ISBN-13: 978-0292760288

By: Diane Sahms-Guarnieri

Sonnets ninety-three and ninety-four are about two extremes in life – love and death.

Briefly before you read these sonnets, it is of some interest to know that Pablo Neruda wrote some of his most famous love poems while in France on a scholarship to study French literature.  According to Alastair Reid,* it was in France that Neruda moved from the isolation of Chile into an artist’s underworld of close friendships, night long conversations, and passionate sexual love at which time he discovered the poems of Rimbaud and Baudelaire.

So, while living in France, with a head full of Rimbaud and Baudelaire, this angst-ridden, twenty year old, romantic poet experienced sex and relationships with women for the first time, writing love poems that were “remarkable in their erotic intensity, in their startling sensual directness, and in their fresh extravagance of imagery.”(Reid)  These erotic love poems appeared as his second book, Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair.   My favorite poem from this collection is Body of a Woman, because of its descriptive imagery and extremely sensual, but tender language that is probably more fitting for young people, as it was written by a younger Neruda.

It wasn’t until thirty years later when an older, more mature Pablo Neruda, in his early 50s, met Matilde Urrutia and wrote 100 Love Sonnets for herShe became his third wife and Neruda lived the remaining years of his life with her in lsla Negra, a seaside village on the Pacific coast of Chile.   Pablo died in 1974, twelve years before Matilde.

Sonnets 93 and 94 are a couplet so to speak, like Pablo Neruda and Matilde Urrutia.

Sonnet 93

If some time your breast pauses, if something stops
moving, stops burning through your veins,
if the voice in your mouth escapes without becoming word,

Matilde my love, leave your lips half-open:
because that final kiss should linger with me,
it should stay still, forever, in your mouth,
so that it goes with me, too, in my death.

I will die kissing your crazy cold mouth,
caressing the lost buds of your body,
looking for the light of your closed eyes.

And so when the earth received our embrace
we will go blended in a single death, forever
living the eternity of a kiss.

Sonnet 94

 If I die, survive me with such a  pure force
you make the pallor and the coldness rage;
flash your indelible  eyes from south to south,
from sun to sun, till your mouth sings like a  guitar.
I don’t want your laugh or your footsteps to waver;
I don’t  want my legacy of happiness to die;
don’t call to my breast: I’m not  there.
Live in my absence as in a house.
Absence is such a large house that
you’ll walk through  the walls,
hang pictures in sheer air.
Absence is such a transparent house
that even being  dead I will see you there,
and if you suffer, Love, I’ll die a second  time.

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somerset-poetry-bridgewater-new-jersey-003Diane Sahms-Guarnieri is the poetry editor of The Fox Chase Review

One response to “A Look at Neruda’s Love Poems

  1. Thanks! I do love so much of Neruda’s work…

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