‘Ode to My Suit’ is a beautiful example of Pablo Neruda’s poetry. It is one of several odes in which the poet focuses on everyday, seemingly mundane things. He praises them for what they give to his life while elevating them so other people can see what he sees in them. Others include a pair of socks and a tomato. Through his depictions of these everyday things, he can address broader, more universal themes: the soul, death, the meaning of life, and nostalgia. The poem was published in Neruda’s 1954 collection, Elementary Odes.
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Summary of Ode to My Suit
In the first lines of ‘Ode to My Suit,’ the speaker begins by describing the first moments of his day. He wakes up, climbs into the legs and sleeves of the suit, and goes for a morning walk. The suit is there, dependable as always, waiting for him. In the second half of the poem, the speaker starts thinking about his death and what’s going to happen to the suit when he dies. He determines that the suit will also meet its end, lowered into the ground with him after a long sickness, or stained with blood from a bullet.
You can read the full poem here.
Themes in Ode to My Suit
Within ‘Ode to My Suit,’ Neruda addresses themes of death and change/transformation, and the “everyday”. The “everyday” refers to the bits and pieces of everyday life that everyone takes for granted as they move from one worry or activity to the next. Neruda is not that kind of person. This poem, and others, focus in on what those everyday things give him and what he gives back to them. He takes nothing for granted. In this particular poem, he uses one everyday thing, the suit, to talk about death and change. It transforms, as he does, with age and wear and tear. His elbows stretch out the fabric and his knees wear the pant legs then. This is the same way that life wears out his body, bringing him closer to death.
Structure and Form
‘Ode to My Suit’ by Pablo Neruda is a seventy-line poem that is contained within a single stanza of text. It’s quite obvious from an initial glance that this poem is structured slightly unusually. The lines are all quite short, with many of them only one of two words in length.
Before looking at any possible rhyme scheme, it is important to consider the fact that this poem was originally written in Spanish. That being said, in this English version, as well as in the Spanish version, there was no rhyme scheme or metrical pattern that united the text, meaning the poem was written in free verse. The title tells readers a little bit more about the poem before one even gets to the first word. It’s going to be an “ode,” or a poem in devotion or appreciation to something or someone, and it’s going to be about the speaker’s suit.
Neruda makes use of several literary devices in ‘Ode to My Suit’. These include but are not limited to examples of enjambment, caesurae, and personification. The latter, personification, is very clearly linked to Neruda’s depiction of the suit. He addresses it as though it has emotions and describes it as flapping and humming. This technique is related to another in the poem, an apostrophe. This occurs when a speaker talks to someone or something that is incapable of hearing them or responding. In this case, of course, the suit.
Enjambment is a formal technique that is present in ‘Ode to My Suit’ despite the translation from Spanish to English. It can be seen when the poet using line breaks in untraditional places, encouraging the reader to move down to the next line of the poem. For example, the transition between lines three and four as well as between lines six, seven, and eight.
Caesurae are also present in the text. This technique appears when a poet uses punctuation, or meter, to create a pause within a line. These pauses might occur at the beginning, middle, or end of a line. For example, line fifty-four reads: “with me, with my body”. Another example is in line thirty-seven. It reads: “abandoned, at nighttime”.
Analysis of Ode to My Suit
Every morning, suit,
you are waiting on a chair
I take my morning walk,
work my way into my poetry;
In the first lines of ‘Ode to My Suit,’ Neruda begins with his speaker using an apostrophe to addresses his suit. He continues to speak directly to it throughout the seventy lines of the poem. The first quality that the suit exhibits is steadfastness and dependability. It is always there when the speaker wakes up, sitting on his chair waiting to be filled by the speaker’s arms and legs. Rather than directly state this though, he says that it’s waiting to be filled with “my vanity, my love”. This is a beautiful way of desiring the speaker’s nature, his positive and negative character traits.
The speaker moves through his morning routine, steps into the suit legs, and pulls on the sleeves and he’s prepared for his “morning walk” and his “poetry”. He enters back into the pattern of his life with the suit there, dependable as always.
from my windows I see
and so your life grows
in the image of my own.
When the speaker looks out at the world and all the people he knows and doesn’t know, he thinks about how they are shaped by one another and how they shape him. Their struggles and his struggles, their lives, and his life. Just as these events change the speaker, he changes the suit by “poking out your elbows” and “wearing you threadbare”. Days pass, and the suit comes to resemble the speaker—his body and his habits.
Lines 31- 45
In the wind
will stain you with my blood,
The speaker continues to talk directly to his suit in the next lines of ‘Ode to My Suit’. Here, he uses a simile to compare his suit to his soul. It flaps and hums in the wind “as if [it] were [his] soul”. It sticks with him and is altered by the bad moments and the good. All this goes on during the day. Then, at night, the suit is “abandoned” to its dreams and the speaker’s. He thinks about his future and his death, depicting it as a “bullet” staining the suit with the speaker’s blood. The enjambment in these lines is particularly effective as the poet builds up to an image of his speaker’s death.
you would die with me,
we will be lowered
into the earth.
The suit, the speaker says, will die with him when he dies. The bullet would piece both of them. Or, the speaker might get ill and they’d both be lowered into a grave together. The short lines are also quite effective in this instance, even mimicking the feeling of moving down, one line, or one foot, into the ground at a time. Sickness is the simpler, less dramatic way to die and he knows that the suits ill “grow ill” with him.
maybe, maybe, one day, still.
The speaker, after taking the reader, and his suit, through the ways that he is tied to it, concedes the poem with ten lines. He explains that his future death, the suit’s death, and their bond to one another, is the reason that he treats the suit with “respect” every day. The suit, in turn, embraces the speaker. It’s at this moment that their separate dissolves and they are “one being”.
Neruda uses a technique called accumulation at the end of the poem. He lists out the ways and places that the two are joined together. They have, and will again, make it though the “wind” and the “night”. There will be “struggles” but they’ll overcome them.
Readers who enjoyed ‘Ode to My Suit’ should also look into reading some of Pablo Neruda’s other poems. One of the obvious and most related choices is ‘Ode to My Socks’. In this particular poem, which is similar in content and structure to ‘Ode to My Suit,’ Neruda describes the divine beauty of a simple pair of knitted socks. Some of Neruda’s most popular poems include ‘If You Forget Me,’ ‘I Do Not Love You,’ and ‘The Way Spain Was’. The latter is one of several poems Neruda wrote that deals with Spain during the years of the Spanish Civil War.