My annotations of Pablo Neruda’s poems were a little shaky at first, because I was unable to account for reoccurring themes. The sheer volume of poems did not leave time for backtracking, and I often did not begin to star a common device until the second or third time it was iterated. As I neared the end of the packet, however, I had begun to recognize three motifs that appeared often to draw my interest and two major articles that Neruda seems to base his metaphors on in nearly every included poem. My noted motifs include diction dealing with gemstones and knives, while his metaphors seem to be divided mainly between water and earth.
While I cannot say for sure what he means by these images, I noticed Neruda mention gemstones in several poems, namely “Piano” , “Black Pantheress” , and “The Poet” . I am not sure whether this added description is meant to signify color or the worth of what is being described. I suspect that in both cases belonging to “Black Pantheress,” Neruda is speaking of the panther’s eyes glinting in the “darkness made perfect” (Neruda 249)- that is to say, the night. Neruda could be choosing gemstones to describe this in order to make note of how one must look hard to find both a valuable stone and to discover such an elusive beast. As for “The Poet,” I believe that the leaflet is composed of quartz to signify the worth of it- Neruda’s diction convinces me of this. As for “Piano,” I am tempted to compare the described emerald to light, if only because Neruda notes immediately before this jewel is mentioned that “light fell” (Neruda 283).
My analysis of Neruda’s use of knives is comparatively insecure. I first began to make note of instances in which he mentions them upon annotating “Savor” . I then made note of it in “Fantom” , “Walking Around” , “Ode with a Lament” , “Some Beasts” , “The Beggars” , “Youth” , and “Black Pantheress” .
Albeit somewhat coarse to simplify each of these instances, I believe that Neruda mentions knives to signify power. It should be noted, however, that knives are not the focal point of any of these poems; they are simply images blended with other descriptions that add to the overall effect. I draw my conclusion of blades signifying power only because this seems to be the most logical explanation given the circumstances in which they are mentioned. “The Beggars,” for example, speaks of remaking ‘you’ with qualities similar to that of a blade. To my understanding, the entire poem deals with the notion that everyone is poor in their beginnings- “ prefigure us” (Neruda 153)- and that we “trample them under” (Neruda 153) if we’ve seen that we’ve gained higher standing than they have. We are given this ‘power’ after we’ve been remade.
Neruda himself speaks of power even more metaphorically, relating it to either earth or water. I did not begin to become blatantly sure of this until I reached the first division, entitled “Residence on Earth.” The first 80 or so poems that preceded this barrier were all very similar in tone and subject, and I’d become used to the earthy comparisons he so often made between his mate and nature. I did not think this was much more to comment on than in passing until I reached the last few poems of this section; “Tonight I Can Write” and “The Song of Despair.”
These poems took on a much different tone than those preceding them. Far from going on about how his love is like “a butterfly cooing / like a dove” (Neruda 57), Neruda notes that “tonight can write the saddest lines” (Neruda 77). Perhaps I was too soon to judge, but I immediately recognized that Neruda and his mate had suffered some sort of estrangement. Throughout these poems, Neruda pines over his lost love, citing that “there were thirst and hunger, and you were the fruit” (Neruda 85) in order to exemplify how much he misses her.
The sudden absence of comparisons of a woman’s body to the earth made me make note of when metaphors involving nature returning- but this time relating to water. These first occur, as I noticed, in “A Song of Despair,” in which Neruda compares his lost love to a siren- “From billow to billow you still called and sang. / Standing like a sailor in the prow of a vessel.” (Neruda 87). Many of the poems that follow this one deal with similar imagery- “Fantom” speaks of “Your eyes struggling like oarsmen” (Neruda 49) and “Walking Around” of “a big wooly swan / awash on an ocean” (Neruda 77), for example.
I believe that this change of setting for his metaphors reflects his change of perspective. While he was involved with the woman his first set of poems were about, he imagined her to be like the earth. Once he’s distanced himself from her, however, he’s realized she is not at all like what he’d thought. In a later section of the poem, Neruda himself speaks along these lines in the poem “Sonata With Some Pines.” At this point, I believe that he has moved past not only seeing her as a forest, but also as a body of water. Now he proclaims “let us talk with the roots / and the malcontent waves” (Neruda 317). I took the roots in this expression to mean his relationship as it was during it length, and the malcontent waves to be how he reacted to her absence. By talking with each of theme, Neruda is reflecting on his past relationship.