‘Don’t Go Far Off’ by Pablo Neruda is a four stanza poem which is separated into two sets of three lines, or tercets, and two sets of four lines, or quatrains. Neruda’s text does not follow a specific pattern of rhyme or rhythm. A reader will notice though that there is a similarity in the line lengths. Generally, the entire piece is structured with lines that are about nine-ten words long. There are some moments in which it varies, but this technique has given the text a sense of unity on the page.
Summary of Don’t Go Far Off
The poem begins with the speaker asking that his lover not “go far off” from where he is. If this was to happen, he does not know how he would live without this person. He tells his listener that he would shut down, like a train at night. His pleas continue throughout the following lines, becoming more and more desperate. By the end of the poem he is informing his listener, he will wander the earth seeking them out if they are separated.
Analysis of Don’t Go Far Off
Don’t go far off, not even for a day, because —
because — I don’t know how to say it: a day is long
and I will be waiting for you, as in an empty station
when the trains are parked off somewhere else, asleep.
In the first stanza of this piece, the speaker begins by utilizing the title. It is clear from the first line that the speaker has a listener in mind. This person is very dear to him, and for one reason or another, makes him feel as if he is soon to be alone. With this in mind as a starting point, a reader can infer that the speaker’s words are spoken in a kind of desperation. He is emotionally tied to this person and is begging them not to “go far off.”
Neruda’s speaker does not want his listener to leave him, “even for a day.” Any amount of time is too long. The following phrase further emphasizes the intensity of the speaker’s emotions. He is trying so hard to explain himself to his lover that he cannot think of the words. The speaker actually states that he is having trouble coming up with the words to express himself. This is a technique utilized by Neruda to make the speaker’s plight more realistic and relatable.
The speaker decides to go back to the beginning of his emotions and try to explain what a day is like without his lover. As he waits for this person to come back to him the day will be “long” and he will be “waiting.” There is nothing else he can do to occupy his time aside from sitting, waiting, and hoping this person will return to him.
In an effort to make the speaker’s feelings clearer, Neruda utilizes a metaphor relating the speaker’s emotional state while waiting to that of an “empty station.” This refers particularly to a train station in which empty trains are parked, “asleep.” They wait quietly for the morning when the passengers will return. This is when they will come to life.
Don’t leave me, even for an hour, because
then the little drops of anguish will all run together,
the smoke that roams looking for a home will drift
into me, choking my lost heart.
In the second quatrain of this piece, the speaker goes back his repeating himself. He is asking, over and over, that his lover not “leave” him “even for an hour.” If this did happen, his emotions would be out of control. The “little drops of anguish” which are normally spaced out over small separations would “run together.”
The impact of these “anguish[ing]” thoughts and feelings would result in something that is like smoke. He cannot help but breathe it in and create a home for it within his body. The smoke has been “roam[ing]” as he would be mentally. It eventually makes its way to his “lost heart” and chokes him.
Oh, may your silhouette never dissolve on the beach;
may your eyelids never flutter into the empty distance.
Don’t leave me for a second, my dearest,
Neruda’s speaker’s words are starting to become even more poetic. The metaphors are more frequent and the emotions even more present. He is looking towards the future and imagining a terrible time in which his lover’s silhouette might “dissolve on the beach.” This metaphor is so dark it references death more than it does a general departure or separation.
Within the next line, the speaker asks that his listener “never flutter into the empty distance.” While it is not explicitly stated, these lines also read as a reference to death. The “empty distance” could be the afterlife, a place the speaker could never reach no matter how far he walks. It is possible for the poem to be referencing both a physical separation via distance or via realms of existence.
because in that moment you’ll have gone so far
I’ll wander mazily over all the earth, asking,
Will you come back? Will you leave me here, dying?
The final three lines take the narrative back to its beginning in which Neruda’s speaker asked to be spared a single moment of separation. He contemplates what would happen if he was eventually taken away from his lover. When this person has “gone so far” the speaker says he will wander all over the earth looking for “you.” He will never stop and never rest. His wanderings will appear maze-like in their complicated patterns and crisscrossing sections.
Throughout this imagined, distressing time in his life, he will be asking for the listener’s return. His life will steadily be leaving him the longer they are apart.