Neruda’s ‘You are the daughter of the sea’ is a wonderful love poem based on the beauty and power found in the natural world.
‘You are the daughter of the sea’ is filled with is a great example of Neruda’s skill with imagery and figurative language, particularly similes and metaphors. These two techniques make up the bulk of the poem as his speaker paints a picture of his lover, how he views her, and the power she has in the world.
Explore You are the daughter of the sea
Throughout this poem, Neruda’s speaker compares his lover to the ocean, in its smooth purity and flowing waters, as well as to the soil and its bounty. She’s capable of creating life just as she’s able to control the movements of the sea. She has a beautiful power about her, something that only a woman could have, and he’s entranced by it. In the end, the poet concludes with his speaker describing her safe in his arms. Despite her power, he’s there to protect her and allow her to rest in her dreams.
In ‘You are the daughter of the sea,’ the poet engages with themes of love, life, and nature. Neruda uses natural imagery, such as that of the sea and soil, to depict his speaker’s lover. This person is an embodiment of the female image of bounty and beauty. She creates life purely and with all the beauty that a man would like a woman to have. She’s also like the sea, he says, in her movements, her body, and the power she has over him and the rest of the world.
Structure and Form
‘You are the daughter of the sea’ by Pablo Neruda is a four stanza poem, the first two stanzas of which contain four lines and the final two contain three. These are known respectively as quatrains and tercets. It’s important to note before beginning any Neruda poem that his pieces were originally written in Spanish and have since been translated by multiple translators into English. This means that some structure and formal elements, such as rhyme and rhythm will not be the same. Due to this, there is no single rhyme scheme or metrical pattern in this English translation.
Despite the fact that this poem has been translated from Spanish, it’s still possible to point out several literary devices in ‘You are the daughter of the sea.’ These include but are not limited to metaphors, imagery, and caesura. The latter is a formal device that occurs when the poet inserts a pause into the middle of a line. For example, the final line of the poem reads: “vegetables, seaweed, herbs: the foam of your dreams.” There is another example in line two of the first stanza, it reads: “Swimmer, your body is pure as the water.” These pauses are created either through punctuation or pauses in the meter.
Imagery is one of the most important literary devices that a poet can use. Through vibrant and memorable images, poets make successful poems. For example, these lines from the first stanza: “your body is pure as the water; / cook, your blood is quick as the soil.” These two lines are also examples of similes.
Metaphors are similar to similes except that they say one thing is another, not that it’s “like” or “as” another. For example, when the poet’s speaker calls his lover the “daughter of the sea” and “oregano’s first cousin.”
Analysis, Stanza by Stanza
You are the daughter of the sea, oregano’s first cousin.
Swimmer, your body is pure as the water;
Everything you do is full of flowers, rich with the earth.
In the first stanza of ‘You are the daughter of the sea,’ the speaker begins by using the line that later came to be used as the title of the poem. He describes his lover as having some of the sea’s characteristics, as if it’s her father or mother. Her body resembles water in its purity and its flow. Her blood is “quick as the soil,” allowing her to bloom and vibrate with life. That life is’ “rich” and “full of flowers,” as bountiful as any garden, “rich with the earth.” This first stanza, like those which follow, is packed full of images.
Your eyes go out toward the water, and the waves rise;
your hands go out to the earth and the seeds swell;
conjoined in you like a formula for clay.
In the second stanza, the speaker explores the water imagery more. He depicts his lover as having the ability t control the water, something that would make her incredibly powerful. This is how he sees her in his mind. She knows the “essence of water and the earth.” Together, they are a “formula for clay” conjoined in the lover’s body. From these lines and the previous, it’s possible to consider that Neruda’s speaker is thinking more generally about a woman’s ability to bear children and create life in a way men can’t.
Naiad: cut your body into turquoise pieces,
This is how you become everything that lives.
He calls his lover a “Naiad” at the beginning of the third stanza. This is a water nymph found in Greek mythology. They inhabit rivers, springs, or waterfalls. He describes her body as a thing of life, once more. If she were to cut it into “turquoise pieces,( a reference to the water again), then it would “bloom resurrected in the kitchen.” This is, he adds, how she becomes “everything that lives.” Once more, the speaker is emphasizing how filled with life and the capacity to create life this person is.
And so at last, you sleep, in the circle of my arms
vegetables, seaweed, herbs: the foam of your dreams.
In the final three lines of ‘You are the daughter of the sea,’ the speaker concludes by bringing in more intimate imagery of his lover sleeping in his arms. They “push back the shadows” so that she can rest. The final line is a collection of the previously related images, gardens, life, the sea, and more. They are the “foam of your dreams,” he says. These lines all work together to convey to the reader, and perhaps to the lover as well, how he sees her.
Readers who enjoyed ‘You are the daughter of the sea’ should also consider reading some of Pablo Neruda’s other best-known poems. For example,
- ‘Here I Love You’ – is another example of one of Neruda’s best love poems. It explores long-distance relationships and a speaker’s fear of losing his lover.
- ‘If You Forget Me’ – contains a speaker’s warning to his lover not to forget him or he’s going to forget her in return.
- ‘Ode to Tomatoes’ – is one of Neruda’s famed odes in regard to mundane, seemingly unimportant things. Other examples include his suit and socks.