‘Ode to Enchanted Light’ by Pablo Neruda is a three-stanza poem that utilizes alliteration, word choices, and metaphor to express the vast possibilities that come with change. Bad and good consequences can surface due to change, but the result of varying conditions can lead to pleasant circumstances. Regardless of what the reader is facing, Neruda seems to indicate that they should look for the good things and take comfort in knowing that while many may not notice the change or stress of others, people, in general, share the same tendency for change and adapting. Essentially, change can be beautiful, and it is common enough to unite us in a crystal-clear “glass.” you can read the full poem here.
Ode to Enchanted Light Analysis
Under the trees light
has dropped from the top of the sky,
drifting down like clean
The narrative of ‘Ode to Enchanted Light’ is a simple story of “light” “shining” “from the top of the sky,” though the first two lines hint that this process is a negative concept. This idea is particularly of note in the choice of the verb, “dropped.” A verb like “descends” would have a more poetic connotation, and something like “streamed” would sound much more positive. As it currently stands, “dropped” is akin to plummeting or losing something.
This “drop” is a far one since the “light” “has [come] from the top of the sky,” which furthers this feeling of negativity. In essence, the “light” started so high and “dropped” to the common world in which the reader lives. Without question, this notion feels like a loss, as if the “light” has suffered some horrific catastrophe to ruin its situation.
However, once the “light” begins this travel, the narrative colors its journey with words that depict beauty and wonder, like the “latticework of branches” it mimics and “every leaf” its “shining” reaches. In fact, even the verb choice for the latter parts of this stanza shifts from something as plummet-like as “dropped” to something as soft and gentle as “drifting” to represent its movements.
As it “drift[s],” it does so “like clean white sand” as if it were “green latticework,” which sounds beautiful, refreshing, and calming. This is not only true because of the word choices, but also in the sounds of the stanza—such as all the soft “l” sounds that begin so many words within the stanza. That sound is a striking contrast to the verbs, “dropped” and “drifting,” which implies that while the fall is real and unstoppable, the new circumstances arriving because of the fall are not unpleasant.
When applied to life, this holds the theme that even though people endure hardships and things out of their control, they can still find beauty, wonder, and good places as life changes around them. Like the “light” that fell all the way from “the top of the sky,” people, too, can find the beauty of “latticework” and “clean[ness]” in the aftermath of their “drop[s].”
A cicada sends
high into the empty air.
This stanza of ‘Ode to Enchanted Light’ blends the concept of the negativity of falling from “the top of the sky” and the beauty that surfaces through the “drop” by providing a setting detail that is both positive and negative. A “song” can be calming, soothing, and welcoming, particularly when it stretches “high.” Unfortunately, though, this “song” does lack a bit of grace because it is a “sawing song.”
This alliteration brings the two concepts together in physical and audible ways as they begin with similar sounds, and by doing does, the juxtaposition is strengthened. There is nothing smooth or melodious about a “saw” sound, but this is the description that is used to describe the “song” the “cicada” sings.
What this entails is that while there is beauty found as the “light” “drift[s] down,” the process is still not what the “light” wanted, which makes the otherwise pleasant circumstance bittersweet. Basically, the scenario is lovely and filled with “song,” but there is a rough edge, like the cutting of a “saw,” from having choice taken away and losing the previous place of being. Since this “song” goes “into the empty air,” it indicates as well that no one is listening to it, as if the descent is irrelevant to all within hearing distance.
Not only does this stanza then address the already mentioned idea of good being found in change, but also that the deep changes within our own selves are often overlooked by those around us. This is true, according to the stanza, whether the changes are good or bad since neither the “song” nor its “sawing” quality has drawn attention. People can change without commentary from others, and those changes can come with good and bad elements.
The world is
With the vast number of changes that go overlooked, as was noted in the previous stanza, it is sensible that the narrator claims that “[t]he world is” “overflowing.” There are so many elements that change and shift—aspects of good and bad intermingling within them—that so much is constantly happening. Even the element utilized to express this “overflowing” is an ambivalent concept: “water.” People need “water” to live, but an overabundance can be catastrophic. This is a perfect parallel to reflect the overall theme of ‘Ode to Enchanted Light’—that good and bad can be found in varying situations. Just as “water” can be lethal, change can be inconvenient and “saw[like]” while still granting beauty and “song” to life.
The choice to showcase this “water” in “a glass” is telling as well since “a glass” can be transparent or translucent. This reveals that the poem’s theme is an undisturbed look into the human mindset and condition, as these ideas are so clear that little to nothing hinders seeing them as they are. As well, placing all of humanity within this “glass” indicates unity in that everyone deals with change. This similarity of circumstance, as it happens, could be taken as another beauty of change. We all must endure it, but even if we bear it quietly into “empty air,” others still understand what we face because everyone within the “glass” is connected in enduring change.
Overall, Neruda is telling his readers that change is good and bad, but common and filled with potential. If a person in the midst of change tries, even if the change is a sudden “drop,” beauty of “song” and “latticework” can be located within the new situation.
About Pablo Neruda
Pablo Neruda was a poet from Chile who was born in 1904. He penned poetry on a wide range of topics, particularly the political edge that many of his works could employ. He passed away in 1973, and some of his later works are noted for expressing feelings in regard to his worsening health and pending end. During his life, he earned a Nobel Prize.