P Pablo Neruda

I Like For You To Be Still by Pablo Neruda

Neruda’s ‘I Like For You To Be Still’ is one of the many striking love poems he wrote throughout his lifetime. 

I Like For You To Be Still’ was published when Neruda was only nineteen years old. It appeared in his collection Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair in 1924. It was this collection that made Neruda’s name and solidified his reputation. Some considered the book controversial for the erotic subject matter featured in some of the poems. To this day, it is the best-selling poetry book in the Spanish language.

I Like For You To Be Still by Pablo Neruda

 

Summary of I Like For You To Be Still

I Like For You To Be Still’ by Pablo Neruda is an image-filled poem in which the speaker addresses his lover’s stillness and brightness.

He uses the lines of ‘I Like For You To Be Still’ to describe how and why he likes his lover to “be still” and distant. He takes pleasure in knowing that she’s there, contemplatively, filled with his love and his soul. The speaker likes to imagine her like a distant star, shining brightly in the sky. But, he also likes to hear her speak and know that she’s still there, still alive, and still a part of his life. 

 

Themes in I Like For You To Be Still

In ‘I Like For You To Be Still,’ Neruda engages with themes of relationships. The relationship on display in this piece is confusing at first and might still seem strange and hard to comprehend by the end of the poem. But, Neruda depicts it beautifully. Readers are only treated to the male perceptive in this text, forcing them to consider what the woman thinks of this “stillness” and if she too feels as he does about this sensual distance between them. 

 

Structure and Form of I Like For You To Be Still 

I Like For You To Be Still’ by Pablo Neruda is a three-stanza poem divided into uneven sets of lines. The first stanza has twelve, the second: fourteen, and the third: seven. These lines are translated from the original Spanish, something that’s important to keep in mind when analyzing the rhyme and rhythm. As is the case with most translations, the original rhyme and rhythm is lost. But, in this English version, readers can find several end rhymes that should convey something of the poet’s original intent. The repetition on its own is suggestive of Neruda’s use of words. 

 

Literary Devices in I Like For You To Be Still

Neruda makes use of several literary devices in ‘I Like For You To Be Still.’ These include but are not limited to enjambment, repetition, and anaphora. The latter is a type of repetition that occurs when the poet repeats the same word or phrase at the beginning of multiple lines. For example, “And” begins lines three and four, as well as six and twelve of the first stanza. It is also a common beginning in the second stanza. 

More generally, Neruda uses repetition at the end of poems, known as epistrophe. For example, lines three and five of the first stanza are the same as are lines seven, nine, and ten. 

Enjambment is a common formal device that occurs when the poet cuts off a line before its natural stopping point. For example, the transition between lines one and two of the first stanza as well as lines three and four of the second stanza. N fact, more lines are enjambed in ‘I Like For You To Be Still’ than are end-stopped. 

 

Analysis of I Like For You To Be Still 

Stanza One 

I like for you to be still

It is as though you are absent

And you hear me from far away

And my voice does not touch you

(…)

Filled with my soul

You are like my soul

A butterfly of dream

And you are like the word: Melancholy

In the first stanza of ‘I Like For You To Be Still,’ the poet begins with the line that would later be used as the title of the poem. He directs his words to his lover, telling them that he likes them to be “still / …as though you are absent.” Their demeanor should suggest they can hear him from far away and that his voice does not touch them. This is an interesting and provocative beginning to a poem. It does not truly suggest where the poem is going to go next, something that should encourage the reader to keep reading and find out. Why one should ask at this point: is it better for his lover to be distant? 

When the lover is silent, and still, the speaker likes to imagine that they are “filled with [his] soul” and are “like” his soul, “A butterfly of dream.” In these moments, his lover resembles “Melancholy.” The images in these lines are quite powerful. They suggest a state of being that’s incredibly personal and sexual. 

 

Stanza Two

I like for you to be still

And you seem far away

It sounds as though you are lamenting

(…)

Simple, as a ring

You are like the night

With its stillness and constellations

Your silence is that of a star

As remote and candid

The second stanza should help readers better understand what it is about silence that’s so interesting to the speaker. He compares his lover’s silence to “a star / As remote and candid” and “A butterfly cooing like a dove.” He uses repetition in these lines to reiterate his thoughts in regard to her not hearing him and his voice not reaching her. He asks that he be allowed to “be still” in her “silence” and enjoy it, as “bright as a lamp” and like a star in the night. There is something elegant in the way this person carries themselves. They don’t need to do much too and out in the sky. 

 

Stanza Three 

I like for you to be still

It is as though you are absent

Distant and full of sorrow

(…)

Happy that it’s not true

The third stanza is much shorter than the two previous. In these lines, the speaker uses the same opening phrase, “I like for you to be still.” He adds to this another reason why he likes her stillness. When she moves or smiles and talks, he’s “happy.” This proves to him that she’s still there, still a part of his life, and hasn’t died. 

 

Similar Poetry

Readers who enjoyed ‘I Like For You to Be Still’ should also consider reading some of Neruda’s other best-known poems. For example, 

  • Tonight I Can Write’is an emotional poem in which the speaker depicts his feelings of loneliness. He describes how easy it is for him to write sadly, as he’s living those emotions right at that moment. 
  • If You Forget Me’includes a warning to the speaker’s lover that if she forgets him then he’s going to forget her. But, if she loves him, he’ll do the same. 
  • The Way Spain Was’ describes Spain’s dueling natures during the Spanish Civil War, a period that was heavily influential in Neruda’s life. 

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Emma graduated from East Carolina University with a BA in English, minor in Creative Writing, BFA in Fine Art, and BA in Art Histories. Literature is one of her greatest passions which she pursues through analyzing poetry on Poem Analysis.
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