Tonight I Can Write by Pablo Neruda

Pablo Neruda, poet to Tonight I Can Write, belonged to the Generation of 1927, a group of Spanish poets. Different people have opined differently about Neruda, but the truth is that he won the hearts of millions by virtue of his poetry. Neruda became a much greater poet than Vallejo who deserved recognition more.  Though he lacked the ability to be critical and discerning yet, he was at times quite perceptive about his country and its poets. Besides he was also regarded as a generous man but he also had to face a lot of derision of his critics due to his loyalty to Commission. His readers still regard him as their most favourite poets.

Pablo Neruda published some of his early poems in the 1920s in the student magazine Claridad at the Santiago University. However, it was Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair that made him the much-quoted Latin American poet. His popularity far surpassed any of his contemporaries in his own or even in other countries. Neruda’s poetry has been translated into several languages, and in India alone he has been translated into Hindi, Bangla, Urdu and other regional languages.

 

Context

Chile has an interesting political background owing to its Spanish Heritage and the way the country has been governed up until the late 19th century the country was primarily run by a group of wealthy landowners, but this prompted much unrest and eventually civil war. Eventually a conservative regime was established but later this was superceded by a liberal movement that would have been prominent when this poem was written.

 

Tonight I Can Write Analysis

The poem, Tonight I Can Write, which can be read in full here, begins with the single line ‘Tonight I can write the saddest lines’, which is its recurring theme, and is repeated all through the poem. The poem consist of night imagery, and the alliteration of ‘s’ all through the lines reflect the quiet night. The night could be both treacherous and beautiful, and this could also reflect the persona’s relationship.

The poems that brought Pablo Neruda into the limelight are essentially love poems where he makes use of vivid nature imagery and symbolism to express himself. In the poem, Tonight I Can Write, the poet is extensively lyrical and the very verbs he uses in the lines like: The night is shattered/and the blue stars shiver in the distance, they emphasise the pent-up passion that inspires his poetry. The significance of the love affair lies in the fact that he has lost her, for he admits that while: She loved me/sometimes I loved her too.

It does not seem as though he realised what it was to love until he starts writing about her. In fact, it is the idea of love that he loves more than the woman, and thus he can write “the saddest lines”. Such sentiments immediately charmed the young people who were themselves experiencing similar emotions, and they were able to identify with Neruda and appropriate his words in their own love affairs. This is what makes Neruda so much a poet of the common people. As the poor fisherman’s son who brings him his letters in the movie II Postino petulantly tells him, poetry does not belong to the poet composes it; it belongs to those who need to use it, especially lovers seeking to win the beloved through words.

Neruda’s poems are full of easily understood images which makes them no less beautiful. To hear him talk about “verse (that) falls to the soul like dew to the pasture” makes the whole process of writing poetry so comprehensive. Similarly, the deliberate repetition of certain words and images such as: My sight searches for her…/My heart looks for her. Emphasises the over-wrought condition of the crazed lover. The poet is a jealous lover who imagines that “She will be another’s”. However, the ordinariness of this love affair that almost anyone can identify with surely reaches a profoundly universal level when he confesses: Love is so short, forgetting is so long.

There is deliberate juxtaposition of the emotions accompanied by adjectives that make us believe that it is the woman’s rejection that becomes the poet’s inspiration to write; it is the pain that produces poetry. The reiteration of the word “last” in the final lines of the poem  are again the young man’s need for some kind of  revenge, his poem a gift to her for leaving behind the memories that allow him to compose.

The woman can be seen as the condescending one and the personification of poetic inspiration. The poems in the collection were the outcome of two actual love affairs where Neruda’s focus shifts between one who is beautiful and the one who is distant and threatening. From the conventional poet that he was  in his first two books, Song of the Fiesta (1921) and Crepuscular (1923, here in Twenty Love Poems he is certainly breaking away from tradition and attempting to find a new voice. The tone is modernista –simple, evocative and, at times, meditative. The collection has a personalised theme of a man who is not a hero, nor yet a public figure.

Pablo Neruda employs vivid nature imagery to express the loss of his love in this poem – probably the last time he is writing about the woman he once loved and lost. There is a growing feeling of solitariness in the poet that, although nature and the environment have remained unchanged over the years, he has lost the woman he once loved. The expression is intensely lyrical and full of agony when he says:… The night is shattered/and the blue stars shiver in the distance. The poignancy of the situation is further heightened when he realises: I loved her,/and sometimes she loved me too. And equally, she loved me,/sometimes I loved her too./How could one not have loved her great still eyes.

Now that the poet experiences the pangs of separation, the night is “shattered” and the stars seem to be shivering. The night wind “revolving” round the sky is  whistling a sad tune. “Tonight I can write the saddest lines.” The saddest lines are about his lost love… “she is not with  me” and My sight searches for her as though to go to her./My heart looks for her, and she is not with me. “This is all”, the poet sumps up his present situation. But is this really all? The poet misses her: The same night whitening the same trees./We, of that time, are no  longer the same.

She is now “another’s” and he still misses “Her voice. Her bright body. Her infinite eyes.” He might have loved her for a short time, but forgetting her has taken too long; his soul still searches for her, the pangs of separation still pierce his heart; and the poet vows that this is “the last time” he writes for her. He doesn’t appear to be so sure, however, nor are we. And this lends universality to Tonight I Can Write.

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6 Comments

  1. Elena May 14, 2018
    • mm Lee-James Bovey May 14, 2018
  2. tanisha March 19, 2019
    • mm Lee-James Bovey March 26, 2019
  3. caro April 10, 2019
    • mm Lee-James Bovey April 10, 2019

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