‘Every Day You Play’ by Pablo Neruda is an eight stanza poem that is divided into six sets of four lines, or quatrains, one set of five lines, and one set of six lines. The poem does not follow a structured or consistent pattern of rhyme. Instead, there are moments in which end words are half, if not full or complete rhymes. These instances are scattered throughout the poem. One occurs between “eyes” and “cry” in the fifth stanza, “butterflies” in the sixth, and “eyes” in the seventh.
There are also distinct moments of repetition. The word ‘universe” appears at the end of two lines and contributes to the theme of nature that Neruda’s speaker returns to frequently. He describes the world in natural terms and with poignant metaphors. The listener is consistently related to nature, such as when he states that his “happiness bites the plum of [their] mouth”. You can read the full poem here.
Summary of Every Day You Play
The poem begins with the speaker describing how his love has elevated the listener beyond all others. This person is a part of every element of the world and empowers him to face the struggles of everyday life. There have been times in their relationship, especially at the beginning, in which things were not perfect. It took the listener a period of time to get used to the speaker’s personality.
Now that the “shadow” is mostly gone from the listener’s eyes, the speaker asks that he be allowed to be their caretaker. He hopes to comfort and nurture this person until they bloom like a cherry tree.
Analysis of Every Day You Play
Every day you play with the light of the universe.
as a bunch of flowers, every day, between my hands.
In the first stanza of this piece the speaker begins by utilizing the line that would become the title of the poem, “Every day you play.” This is a vague statement that could refer to any number of situations. After finishing the line, a reader comes to understand that the speaker is not describing something frivolous. He is instead interested in the relationship that someone he loves has with the universe. He sees this person as playing an important role in the world.
While they might be incredibly important, they do not act like it. Their actions are instead “Subtle.” This person comes and goes from the speaker’s life. They travel through the “bunch of flowers” in his hand, to the “water” that they consume. In fact, this person is “more” than anything he could list out. They are integral to the workings of the “universe.”
You are like nobody since I love you.
Oh let me remember you as you were before you existed.
In the second set of lines, the speaker declares that he does in fact “love” this person. This is part of the reason why they seem so incredible to him. There is “nobody,” he states, like this person. Throughout the rest of this stanza, the speaker is trying to find a way to know this person before they “existed.” He is so involved with them that he seeks to relish in their being, find his way to their origin, and spread them out “among yellow garlands.”
It is clear the speaker is on the verge of worship. The lover has been put on a pedestal beyond the reach of any other.
Suddenly the wind howls and bangs at my shut window.
The rain takes off her clothes.
The third stand begins with an interruption to the speaker’s contemplation. He was in a state of peace that is then disrupted by the “wind howl[ing]” at his window. It “bangs shut” the shutters and when he looks up into the sky he sees that it is “crammed with shadowy fish.” This is a very interesting metaphor used to describe storm clouds. They are wet, dark, and moving chaotically above him.
In the sky, the speaker knows that the “wind” will let go of the “shadowy fish” eventually. This stanza is one of the more imagistic of ‘Every Day You Play’. The speaker is describing elements of his surroundings in an effort to evoke particular emotions rather than denote something specific that’s happening. In the final line, he states that the “rain takes off her clothes.” This likely refers to the rain no longer holding back. Perhaps it is unclothed as it pours from the shadowed sky.
The birds go by, fleeing.
and turns loose all the boats that were moored last night to the sky.
The fourth stanza is a quintain, meaning that it contains five lines. Here, the speaker describes how the “birds” are “fleeing” from the scene. He repeats the words, “The wind” twice in the second line. This is in an effort to accurately portray its strength. He is amazed by what it can do. Due to the nature of the relationship he is in, he is the only one who can,
[…] contend against the power of men.
After this line, one might be more willing to read the “storm” as being a metaphor for life itself. Rather than fighting against the elements, the speaker is dealing with humankind and the nature of living in modern society. “The storm” can throw everything it wants at him but it doesn’t matter. He can stand up against it for the person he loves.
You are here. Oh, you do not run away.
Even so, a strange shadow once ran through your eyes.
Within the fifth stanza of ‘Every Day You Play’, the speaker directs his words right at the lover. He first states that “You are here.” He is pleased to be with this person and wishes that they would not “run away.” It is his wish that they depend on him when they are “frightened” and “Curl round” him when they need to.
In the final line of this stanza, the speaker is reminded of a, “strange shadow [that] once ran through” his lover’s eyes. Everything has not been perfect between the two. In the past, there might have been something that came between them.
Now, now too, little one, you bring me honeysuckle,
I love you, and my happiness bites the plum of your mouth.
In the sixth stanza, the speaker goes on to describe the power that his lover has over him. While there is the power of men to contend with, the speaker is able to channel the love, innocence, and beauty of his lover to strengthen him. First, he states that this person is there to “bring [him] honeysuckle.” The smell of the flower is all-encompassing. Even “your breasts smell of it.”
This simple action and the emotions that go with it accompany the harsher elements of the world. These include the “sad wind” that “goes slaughtering butterflies.” No matter what else is going on the speaker loves the listener and his “happiness” is determined by their interactions.
How you must have suffered getting accustomed to me,
and over our heads the grey light unwinds in turning fans.
In the seventh stanza, ‘Every Day You Play’ begins its conclusion. The speaker looks back to a time before they were as happy as they are now. It is these days that are likely the “strange shadow” in the listener’s eyes. This person had, the speaker says, a difficult time getting “accustomed to” him. There was a struggle to understand his,
[…] savage, solitary soul, [his] name that sends them all running.
The listener did not completely understand what the relationship was going to be like at first, but eventually, they came to love one another. In the following lines, the speaker reminisces on the “many times: that they woke up to the “morning star…kissing [their] eyes.”
My words rained over you, stroking you.
I want to do with you what spring does with the cherry trees.
The final stanza of the poem is a sestet, meaning that it contains six lines. Here, the speaker concludes his loving words to the listener. In another reference to his ability to comfort the listener, he describes how his “words rained” overtop of “you.” He has loved this person in every way possible. So much so, that he believed that the listener “own[s] the universe.” The speaker is able to recognize the outlandish nature of these emotions, and accept them for what they are. He feels as he does, and nothing can change it.
In the last three lines, he describes how throughout the rest of the time he will bring his lover “happy flowers.” These will be of a wide variety such as “bluebells/ dark hazels” and will be accompanied by “rustic baskets of kisses.” The final line of the poem is one of the best known of Neruda oeuvre,
I want to do with you what spring does with the cherry trees.
He seeks to nurture his lover until any trace of that strange shadow is gone from their eyes. By the time he is done with them, they will be as beautiful as a blooming cherry tree.