The HyperTexts

Pablo Neruda: English Translations of Spanish Poems
Pablo Neruda Quotes and Epigrams


Pablo Neruda (1904–1973) was the pen name of the great Chilean poet Neftalí Ricardo Reyes Basoalto. Neruda won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971 and is generally considered to be one of the world's best poets. Indeed, he was called "the greatest poet of the 20th century in any language" by Gabriel García Márquez. Neruda wrote nearly 3,500 poems in a wide range of genres. He is probably most famous for his passionate love sonnets such as those in his 1924 book Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair. But he also wrote free verse, odes, historical epics, surrealist poems, political poems and manifestos, and a prose autobiography. Neruda published 39 books over five decades from 1923 to 1973. He was also a diplomat and politician who served as a Chilean senator. He was married three times, to spouses Marijke Antonieta Hagenaar Vogelzang, Delia del Carril and Matilde Urrutia.

Neruda always wrote in green ink, the color of esperanza (hope). For instance:

Love! Love until the night collapses!—Pablo Neruda

Some of Pablo Neruda's most famous poems and quotations appear in English translations on this page. Translators' names are provided when the translators are known. All poems, quotes and epigrams on this page were the original creations of Pablo Neruda.

You can crop all the flowers but you cannot detain spring.—Pablo Neruda, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Every Day You Play (Excerpt)
by Pablo Neruda
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Every day you play with Infinity’s rays.
Exquisite visitor, you arrive with the flowers and the water!
You are vastly more than this immaculate head I clasp lovingly
like a cornucopia, every day, with ecstatic hands ...

As if you were set on fire from within,
the moon whitens your skin.
—Pablo Neruda, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The Book of Questions

by Pablo Neruda
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Is the rose nude
or is that just how she dresses?

Why do trees conceal
their spectacular roots?

Who hears the confession
of the getaway car?

Is there anything sadder
than a train standing motionless in the rain?

While nothing can save us from death,
still love can redeem each breath.
—Pablo Neruda, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

In El Salvador, Death
by Pablo Neruda
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Death still surveils El Salvador.
The blood of murdered peasants has never clotted;
time cannot congeal it,
nor does the rain erase it from the roads.
Fifteen thousand were machine-gunned dead
by Martinez, the murderer.
To this day the coppery taste of blood still flavors
the land, bread and wine of El Salvador.

Please understand that when I awaken weeping
it's because I dreamed I was a lost child
searching the leaf-heaps for your hands in the darkness.
—Pablo Neruda, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Love Sonnet LXVI
by Pablo Neruda
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I love you only because I love you;
I am torn between loving and not loving you,
between apathy and desire.
My heart vacillates between ice and fire.

I love you only because you’re the one I love;
I hate you deeply, but hatred makes me implore you all the more
so that in my inconstancy
I do not see you, but love you blindly.

Perhaps January’s frigid light
will consume my heart with its cruel rays,
robbing me of the key to contentment.

In this tragic plot, I murder myself
and I will die loveless because I love you,
because I love you, my Love, in fire and in blood.

I'm no longer in love with her, that's certain ...
yet perhaps I love her still.
Love is so short, forgetting so long!
—Pablo Neruda, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Love Sonnet XI
by Pablo Neruda
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I crave your mouth, your voice, your hair.
I stalk the streets, silent and starving.
Bread does not satisfy me; dawn does not divert me
from my relentless pursuit of your fluid spoor.

I long for your liquid laughter,
for your sunburned hands like savage harvests.
I lust for your fingernails' pale marbles.
I want to devour your breasts like almonds, whole.

I want to ingest the sunbeams singed by your beauty,
to eat the aquiline nose from your aloof face,
to lick your eyelashes' flickering shade.

I pursue you, snuffing the shadows,
seeking your heart's scorching heat
like a puma prowling the heights of Quitratue.

I am the owner of my own darkness.—Pablo Neruda

Love Sonnet XVII
by Pablo Neruda
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I do not love you like coral or topaz,
or the blazing hearth’s incandescent white flame;
I love you as obscure things are embraced in the dark ...
secretly, in shadows, unrevealed & unnamed.

I love you like shrubs that refuse to blossom
while pregnant with the radiance of mysterious flowers;
now, thanks to your love, an earthy fragrance
lives dimly in my body’s odors.

I love you without knowing—how, when, why or where;
I love you forthrightly, without complications or care;
I love you this way because I know no other.

Here, where “I” no longer exists ... so it seems ...
so close that your hand on my chest is my own,
so close that your eyes close gently on my dreams.

For now, I ask no more than the justice of eating.—Pablo Neruda

If You Forget Me
by Pablo Neruda
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I need you to know one thing ...

You know
how it goes:
if I gaze up at the glowing moon,
if observe the blazing autumn’s reddening branches from my window,
if I touch the impalpable ash of the charred log’s wrinkled body ...
everything returns me to you,
as if everything that exists
—all aromas, sights, solids—
were small boats
sailing toward those isles of yours that await me.

However ...
if little by little you stop loving me
then I shall stop loving you, little by little.

And if you suddenly
forget me,
do not bother to investigate,
for I shall have immediately
forgotten you
also.

If you think my love strange and mad—
this whirlwind of streaming banners
gusting through me,
so that you elect to leave me at the shore
where my heart lacks roots,
just remember that, on that very day,
at that very hour,
I shall raise my arms
and my roots will sail off
to find some more favorable land.

But
if each day
and every hour,
you feel destined to be with me,
if you greet me with implacable sweetness,
and if each day
and every hour
flowers blossom on your lips to entice me, ...
then ah my love,
oh my only, my own,
all that fire will be reinfernoed in me
and nothing within me will be extinguished or forgotten;
my love will feed on your love, my beloved,
and as long as you live it will be me in your arms ...
as long as you never leave mine.

Laughter is the soul's language.—Pablo Neruda

Sonnet XLV
by Pablo Neruda
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Don't wander far away, not even for a day, because—
how can I explain? A day is too long ...
and I’ll be waiting for you, like a man in an empty station
where the trains all stand motionless.

Don't leave me, my dear, not even for an hour, because—
then despair’s raindrops will all run blurrily together,
and the smoke that drifts lazily in search of a home
will descend hazily on me, suffocating my heart.

Darling, may your lovely silhouette never dissolve in the surf;
may your lashes never flutter at an indecipherable distance.
Please don't leave me for a second, my dearest,

because then you'll have gone far too far
and I'll wander aimlessly, amazed, asking all the earth:
Will she ever return? Will she spurn me, dying?

I want to do with you what spring does with the cherry trees.—Pablo Neruda

My Dog Died
by Pablo Neruda
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

My dog died;
so I buried him in the backyard garden
next to some rusted machine.

One day I'll rejoin him, over there,
but for now he's gone
with his shaggy mane, his crude manners and his cold, clammy nose,
while I, the atheist who never believed
in any heaven for human beings,
now believe in a paradise I'm unfit to enter.

Yes, I somehow now believe in a heavenly kennel
where my dog awaits my arrival
wagging his tail in furious friendship!

But I'll not indulge in sadness here:
why bewail a companion
who was never servile?

His friendship was more like that of a porcupine
preserving its prickly autonomy.

His was the friendship of a distant star
with no more intimacy than true friendship called for
and no false demonstrations:
he never clambered over me
coating my clothes with mange;
he never assaulted my knee
like dogs obsessed with sex.

But he used to gaze up at me,
giving me the attention my ego demanded,
while helping this vainglorious man
understand my concerns were none of his.

Aye, and with those bright eyes so much purer than mine,
he'd gaze up at me
contentedly;
it was a look he reserved for me alone
all his entire sweet, gentle life,
always merely there, never troubling me,
never demanding anything.

Aye, and often I envied his energetic tail
as we strode the shores of Isla Negra together,
in winter weather, wild birds swarming skyward
as my golden-maned friend leapt about,
supercharged by the sea's electric surges,
sniffing away wildly, his tail held erect,
his face suffused with the salt spray.

Joy! Joy! Joy!
As only dogs experience joy
in the shameless exuberance
of their guiltless spirits.

Thus there are no sad good-byes
for my dog who died;
we never once lied to each other.

He died, he's gone, I buried him;
that's all there is to it.

Let us forget with generosity those who cannot love us.—Pablo Neruda

Tonight I will write the saddest lines
by Pablo Neruda
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Tonight I will write the saddest lines.
I will write, for example, “The night is less bright
and a few stars shiver in the distance
as I remember her unwarranted light ...”

Tonight I will write her the saddest lines:
that I loved her as she loved me too, sometimes,
all those long, lonely nights when I held her tight
and filled her ears with indecipherable rhymes ...

Then she loved me too, as I also loved her,
compelled by the spell of her enormous eyes.
Tonight I will write her the saddest lines
as I ponder love’s death and our mutual crimes.

Outside I hear night—silent, cold, dark, immense—
as these delicate words fall, useless as dew.
Oh, what does it matter that love came to naught
if love was false, or perhaps even true?

And yet I hear songs being sung in the distance.
How can I forget her, so soon since I lost her?
I seek to regain her, somehow bring her closer.
But my heart has been blinded; she will not appear!

Now moonlight and starlight whiten dark trees.
We also are ghosts, by love’s failing light.
My love has failed me, but how I once loved her!
My voice ... this cursed wind ... what use to recite?

Another’s. She will soon be another’s.
Her body, her voice, her infinite eyes.
I no longer love her! And why should I love her
when love is sad, short, mad, fickle, unwise?

Because of cold nights we clung through so closely,
I’m not satisfied to know she is gone.
And while I must end this hell I now suffer,
It’s sad to remember all love left undone.

If nothing saves us from death, at least love should save us from life.—Pablo Neruda

Religion in the East
by Pablo Neruda
translated by Anthony Kerrigan

There in Rangoon I realized that the gods
were enemies, just like God,
of the poor human being.
Gods
in alabaster extended
like white whales,
gods gilded like spikes,
serpent gods entwining
the crime of being born,
naked and elegant buddhas
smiling at the cocktail party
of empty eternity
like Christ on his horrible cross,
all of them capable of anything,
of imposing on us their heaven,
all with torture or pistol
to purchase piety or burn our blood,
fierce gods made by men
to conceal their cowardice,
and there it was all like that,
the whole earth reeking of heaven,
and heavenly merchandise.

Let us sit down soon to eat with all those who have not eaten. Let us set tables with strawberries in the snow and a plate like the moon itself from which all can eat. For now, I ask no more than the justice of eating.—Pablo Neruda

Cat's Dream
by Pablo Neruda
translated by Alastair Reid

How neatly a cat sleeps,
sleeps with its paws and its posture,
sleeps with its wicked claws,
and with its unfeeling blood,
sleeps with all the rings—
a series of burnt circles—
which have formed the odd geology
of its sand-colored tail.

I should like to sleep like a cat,
with all the fur of time,
with a tongue rough as flint,
with the dry sex of fire;
and after speaking to no one,
stretch myself over the world,
over roofs and landscapes,
with a passionate desire
to hunt the rats in my dreams.

I have seen how the cat asleep
would undulate, how the night
flowed through it like dark water;
and at times, it was going to fall
or possibly plunge into
the bare deserted snowdrifts.
Sometimes it grew so much in sleep
like a tiger's great-grandfather,
and would leap in the darkness over
rooftops, clouds and volcanoes.

Sleep, sleep cat of the night,
with episcopal ceremony
and your stone-carved moustache.
Take care of all our dreams;
control the obscurity
of our slumbering prowess
with your relentless heart
and the great ruff of your tail.

So I wait for you like a lonely house till you will see me again and live in me. Till then my windows ache.—Pablo Neruda

Gentleman Alone
by Pablo Neruda
translated by Mike Topp

The young maricones and the horny muchachas,
The big fat widows delirious from insomnia,
The young wives thirty hours' pregnant,
And the hoarse tomcats that cross my garden at night,
Like a collar of palpitating sexual oysters
Surround my solitary home,
Enemies of my soul,
Conspirators in pajamas
Who exchange deep kisses for passwords.
Radiant summer brings out the lovers
In melancholy regiments,
Fat and thin and happy and sad couples;
Under the elegant coconut palms, near the ocean and moon,
There is a continual life of pants and panties,
A hum from the fondling of silk stockings,
And women's breasts that glisten like eyes.
The salary man, after a while,
After the week's tedium, and the novels read in bed at night,
Has decisively fucked his neighbor,
And now takes her to the miserable movies,
Where the heroes are horses or passionate princes,
And he caresses her legs covered with sweet down
With his ardent and sweaty palms that smell like cigarettes.
The night of the hunter and the night of the husband
Come together like bed sheets and bury me,
And the hours after lunch, when the students and priests are masturbating,
And the animals mount each other openly,
And the bees smell of blood, and the flies buzz cholerically,
And cousins play strange games with cousins,
And doctors glower at the husband of the young patient,
And the early morning in which the professor, without a thought,
Pays his conjugal debt and eats breakfast,
And to top it all off, the adulterers, who love each other truly
On beds big and tall as ships:
So, eternally,
This twisted and breathing forest crushes me
With gigantic flowers like mouth and teeth
And black roots like fingernails and shoes.

Someday, somewhere — anywhere, unfailingly, you'll find yourself, and that, and only that, can be the happiest or bitterest hour of your life.—Pablo Neruda

Ode To The Book

When I close a book
I open life.
I hear
faltering cries
among harbours.
Copper ingots
slide down sand-pits
to Tocopilla.
Night time.
Among the islands
our ocean
throbs with fish,
touches the feet, the thighs,
the chalk ribs
of my country.
The whole of night
clings to its shores, by dawn
it wakes up singing
as if it had excited a guitar.

The ocean's surge is calling.
The wind
calls me
and Rodriguez calls,
and Jose Antonio—
I got a telegram
from the "Mine" Union
and the one I love
(whose name I won't let out)
expects me in Bucalemu.

No book has been able
to wrap me in paper,
to fill me up
with typography,
with heavenly imprints
or was ever able
to bind my eyes,
I come out of books to people orchards
with the hoarse family of my song,
to work the burning metals
or to eat smoked beef
by mountain firesides.
I love adventurous
books,
books of forest or snow,
depth or sky
but hate
the spider book
in which thought
has laid poisonous wires
to trap the juvenile
and circling fly.
Book, let me go.
I won't go clothed
in volumes,
I don't come out
of collected works,
my poems
have not eaten poems—
they devour
exciting happenings,
feed on rough weather,
and dig their food
out of earth and men.
I'm on my way
with dust in my shoes
free of mythology:
send books back to their shelves,
I'm going down into the streets.
I learned about life
from life itself,
love I learned in a single kiss
and could teach no one anything
except that I have lived
with something in common among men,
when fighting with them,
when saying all their say in my song.

A child who does not play is not a child, but the man who doesn't play has lost forever the child who lived in him and who he will miss terribly.—Pablo Neruda

Poem XX

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.

Write, for example, “The night is starry
and the stars are blue and shiver in the distance.”

The night wind revolves in the sky and sings.

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
I loved her, and sometimes she loved me too.

Through nights like this one I held her in my arms.
I kissed her again and again under the endless sky.

She loved me, sometimes I loved her too.
How could one not have loved her great still eyes.

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
To think that I do not have her. To feel that I have lost her.

To hear the immense night, still more immense without her.
And the verse falls to the soul like dew to the pasture.

What does it matter that my love could not keep her.
The night is starry and she is not with me.

This is all. In the distance someone is singing. In the distance.
My soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.

My sight tries to find her as though to bring her closer.
My heart looks for her, and she is not with me.

The same night whitening the same trees.
We, of that time, are no longer the same.

I no longer love her, that’s certain, but how I loved her.
My voice tried to find the wind to touch her hearing.

Another’s. She will be another’s. As she was before my kisses.
Her voice, her bright body. Her infinite eyes.

I no longer love her, that’s certain, but maybe I love her.
Love is so short, forgetting is so long.

Because through nights like this one I held her in my arms
my soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.

Though this be the last pain that she makes me suffer
and these the last verses that I write for her.

Love is so short, forgetting so long.—Pablo Neruda

Clenched Soul

We have lost even this twilight.
No one saw us this evening hand in hand
while the blue night dropped on the world.

I have seen from my window
the fiesta of sunset in the distant mountain tops.

Sometimes a piece of sun
burned like a coin in my hand.

I remembered you with my soul clenched
in that sadness of mine that you know.

Where were you then?
Who else was there?
Saying what?
Why will the whole of love come on me suddenly
when I am sad and feel you are far away?

The book fell that always closed at twilight
and my blue sweater rolled like a hurt dog at my feet.

Always, always you recede through the evenings
toward the twilight erasing statues.

In what language does rain fall over tormented cities?—Pablo Neruda

Canto XII from The Heights of Macchu Picchu

Arise to birth with me, my brother.
Give me your hand out of the depths
sown by your sorrows.
You will not return from these stone fastnesses.
You will not emerge from subterranean time.
Your rasping voice will not come back,
nor your pierced eyes rise from their sockets.

Look at me from the depths of the earth,
tiller of fields, weaver, reticent shepherd,
groom of totemic guanacos,
mason high on your treacherous scaffolding,
iceman of Andean tears,
jeweler with crushed fingers,
farmer anxious among his seedlings,
potter wasted among his clays—
bring to the cup of this new life
your ancient buried sorrows.
Show me your blood and your furrow;
say to me: here I was scourged
because a gem was dull or because the earth
failed to give up in time its tithe of corn or stone.
Point out to me the rock on which you stumbled,
the wood they used to crucify your body.
Strike the old flints
to kindle ancient lamps, light up the whips
glued to your wounds throughout the centuries
and light the axes gleaming with your blood.

I come to speak for your dead mouths.

Throughout the earth
let dead lips congregate,
out of the depths spin this long night to me
as if I rode at anchor here with you.

And tell me everything, tell chain by chain,
and link by link, and step by step;
sharpen the knives you kept hidden away,
thrust them into my breast, into my hands,
like a torrent of sunbursts,
an Amazon of buried jaguars,
and leave me cry: hours, days and years,
blind ages, stellar centuries.

And give me silence, give me water, hope.
Give me the struggle, the iron, the volcanoes.
Let bodies cling like magnets to my body.
Come quickly to my veins and to my mouth.
Speak through my speech, and through my blood.

While I'm writing, I'm far away; and when I come back, I've gone.—Pablo Neruda

A Dog Has Died

My dog has died.
I buried him in the garden

next to a rusted old machine.

Some day I'll join him right there,
but now he's gone with his shaggy coat,
his bad manners and his cold nose,
and I, the materialist, who never believed
in any promised heaven in the sky
for any human being,
I believe in a heaven I'll never enter.
Yes, I believe in a heaven for all dogdom
where my dog waits for my arrival
waving his fan-like tail in friendship.

Ai, I'll not speak of sadness here on earth,
of having lost a companion
who was never servile.
His friendship for me, like that of a porcupine
withholding its authority,
was the friendship of a star, aloof,
with no more intimacy than was called for,
with no exaggerations:
he never climbed all over my clothes
filling me full of his hair or his mange,
he never rubbed up against my knee
like other dogs obsessed with sex.

No, my dog used to gaze at me,
paying me the attention I need,
the attention required
to make a vain person like me understand
that, being a dog, he was wasting time,
but, with those eyes so much purer than mine,
he'd keep on gazing at me
with a look that reserved for me alone
all his sweet and shaggy life,
always near me, never troubling me,
and asking nothing.

Ai, how many times have I envied his tail
as we walked together on the shores of the sea
in the lonely winter of Isla Negra
where the wintering birds filled the sky
and my hairy dog was jumping about
full of the voltage of the sea's movement:
my wandering dog, sniffing away
with his golden tail held high,
face to face with the ocean's spray.

Joyful, joyful, joyful,
as only dogs know how to be happy
with only the autonomy
of their shameless spirit.

There are no good-byes for my dog who has died,
and we don't now and never did lie to each other.

So now he's gone and I buried him,
and that's all there is to it.

And I, infinitesimal being, drunk with the great starry void, likeness, image of mystery, I felt myself a pure part of the abyss, I wheeled with the stars, my heart broke loose on the wind.—Pablo Neruda

Chant to Bolivar

Our Father thou art in Heaven,
in water, in air
in all our silent and broad latitude
everything bears your name, Father in our dwelling:
your name raises sweetness in sugar cane
Bolivar tin has a Bolivar gleam
the Bolívar bird flies over the Bolivar volcano
the potato, the saltpeter, the special shadows,
the brooks, the phosphorous stone veins
everything comes from your extinguished life
your legacy was rivers, plains, bell towers
your legacy is our daily bread, oh Father.

Love is the mystery of water and a star.—Pablo Neruda

Castro Alves from Brazil

Castro Alves from Brazil, for whom did you sing?
Did you sing for the flower? For the water
whose beauty whispered words to the stones?
Did you sing to the eyes, to the torn profile
of the woman you once loved? For the spring?

Yes, but those petals were not dewed,
those black waters had no words,
those eyes were those who saw death,
still burning the tortures behind love,
Spring was splashed with blood.

I sang for the slaves, aboard the ships
as a dark branch of wrath.
They travelled, and bled from the ships
leaving us the weight of a stolen blood.

I sang in those days against the inferno,
against the sharp languages of greed,
against the gold drenched in the torment,
against the hand that rose the whip,
against the maestros of darkness.

Each rose had one dead man in their roots.
The light, the night, the sky were covered in tears,
the eyes separated from wounded hands
and it was my voice the only one to fill the silence.

I wanted that from the man we could be rescued,
I believed that the route passed through the man,
and from there destiny would be made.
I sang for those who had no voice.
My voice hit doors that until then were closed
so that, fighting, Freedom could be let in.

Castro Alves from Brazil, now that your pure book
is reborn to a free land,
let me, poet of our America,
to crown your head with the laurels of the people.
Your voice joined the eternal and loud voice of the men.
You sang well. You sang how it must be sung.

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