5 Most Famous Poems by Pablo Neruda

Updated on August 22, 2019
MarinaPuzic profile image

I am a professor of Serbian language and literature. From an early age, I was fond of writing. My favorite poet is Pablo Neruda.

Neruda recording his poetry at the U.S. Library of Congress in 1966.
Neruda recording his poetry at the U.S. Library of Congress in 1966. | Source

Do you enjoy reading poetry? If you are an emotional person, Neruda’s poetry is the right choice for you. These are the five most famous poems by Pablo Neruda. They will make you cry, but they will also make you feel alive. While most of these poems are love poems, there's a lot of hidden meaning in these lines. Neruda's love poems are tender, melancholic, passionate, and breathtaking. He truly is one of the best poets of his generation. So, let's take a look at these marvelous poems!

Pablo Neruda's 5 Most Famous Poems

  1. "Tonight I Can Write the Saddest Lines"
  2. "Don’t Be Far Off"
  3. "When I Die"
  4. "Die Slowly"
  5. "Here I Love You"

The books that help you most are those which make you think that most. The hardest way of learning is that of easy reading; but a great book that comes from a great thinker is a ship of thought, deep freighted with truth and beauty.

— Pablo Neruda

1. "Tonight I Can Write the Saddest Lines"

Appeared in: Veinte Poemas de Amor y una Cancion Desesperada

Year Published: 1924

My Analysis of the Poem

In this poem, the speaker's feelings of loneliness lead to immense sadness. The opening line instantly establishes the mood of this poem. It establishes the incredible sense of loss the speaker feels early in the poem. This line repeats two more times in poem, giving it the feel of a terrible epiphany. In this poem, the sorrow does not diminish, but intensifies as you read.

The recurring images of night can present internal darkness, sadness, and lost romance. At night we think about something that tortures us, as if tossing and turning in bed, unable to be comfortable, unable to sleep. In short, this is a breakup poem, so perhaps night represents the emptiness he feels after she left.

The loneliness of night is immense without her. He couldn’t keep her. She has gone, but he still can’t accept it. It is hard to forget someone you love. You feel like your lover is still with you. You remember everything you passed through together. The poet wants to forget her, and he is trying to convince himself he doesn’t love her anymore, but he clearly does.

The theme of Pablo Neruda's poem “Tonight I Can Write the Saddest Lines” is the finality of lost love. The speaker is so upset that he starts to ask himself if they ever truly loved each other or if it was all a figment of his imagination. In short, he discovers how sometimes she loved him and other times he loved her, but that his love was not enough for her to stay with him. While he might not write about his lover anymore, it doesn’t mean he will forget her.

"Tonight I Can Write the Saddest Lines" by Pablo Neruda

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 is so long."

— Pablo Neruda

2. "Don’t Be Far Off"

Appeared in: Poetry of Pablo Neruda

Year Published: 1979

My Analysis of the Poem

This is another of Neruda's great love poems. In this poem, the speaker simply can’t live without his lover—not even for a day! One day without someone you love can still be devastating.

Structurally, "Don’t Go Far Off," by Pablo Neruda, is a four stanza poem. It is separated into two sets of three lines, or tercets, and two sets of four lines, or quatrains. Neruda’s text does not follow a specific pattern of rhyme or rhythm. A reader will notice though that there is a similarity in the line lengths. Generally, the entire piece is structured with lines that are about nine to ten words long. This consistency give it its rhythm and lyrical flow.

In an effort to make the speaker’s feelings clearer, Neruda utilizes the metaphor of an “empty station,” where the trains wait quietly for the morning (when the passengers will return). This is when they will come to life, just as Neruda will come back to life if his love were to return.

In this poem, Neruda uses gradation to describe his feelings, saying, "Don't go far off, not even for a day,/Don't leave me, even for an hour,/Don't leave me for a second." His pleas continue throughout the poem, becoming more and more desperate. By the end of the poem he informs us that he would wander the entire earth seeking his love if they were ever separated.

"Don’t Go Far Off" by Pablo Neruda

Don't go far off, not even for a day, because—
because—I don't know how to say it: a day is long
and I will be waiting for you, as in an empty station
when the trains are parked off somewhere else, asleep.

Don't leave me, even for an hour, because
then the little drops of anguish will all run together,
the smoke that roams looking for a home will drift
into me, choking my lost heart.

Oh, may your silhouette never dissolve on the beach;
may your eyelids never flutter into the empty distance.
Don't leave me for a second, my dearest,

because in that moment you'll have gone so far
I'll wander mazily over all the earth, asking,
Will you come back? Will you leave me here, dying?

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

— Pablo Neruda

3. "When I Die I Want Your Hands on My Eyes"

Appeared in: Poetry of Pablo Neruda

Year Published: 1979

My Analysis of the Poem

"When I Die" is an incredibly emotional love poem. In this poem, the speaker talks about wanting his spouse to remember him after he passes, but he doesn’t want her to mourn his loss so much that she doesn’t continue living her life. Pablo Neruda was a Chilean poet who lived from 1904-1973, and his first wife did not speak his native language of Spanish. This poem is made up of quatrains (four-line poems) and tercets (three-line poems).

The poet wants his lover to remember him after his death. His last wish is to feel her hands one more time. She was the reason for his happiness. He wants her to go on living after his death because he loves her very much.

"When I Die I Want Your Hands on My Eyes" by Pablo Neruda

When I die I want your hands on my eyes:
I want the light and the wheat of your beloved hands
to pass their freshness over me one more time
to feel the smoothness that changed my destiny.

I want you to live while I wait for you, asleep,
I want for your ears to go on hearing the wind,
for you to smell the sea that we loved together
and for you to go on walking the sand where we walked.

I want for what I love to go on living
and as for you I loved you and sang you above everything,
for that, go on flowering, flowery one,

so that you reach all that my love orders for you,
so that my shadow passes through your hair,
so that they know by this the reason for my song.

For me writing is like breathing. I could not live without breathing and I could not live without writing.

— Pablo Neruda

4. "Die Slowly"

Appeared in: Poetry of Pablo Neruda

Year Published: 1979

My Analysis of the Poem

In this inspirational poem, Neruda writes about the importance of living a full life. What we can learn from the poem? Neruda suggests that we all should follow our dreams. We should take risks and change our bad habits.

In short, this is a poem about personal change. This poem reminds us that we can easily become slaves to certain attitudes and habits. It reminds us that freedom comes from self-reflection!

As long as we are stuck in our comfort zone, we are not growing. If you want to live a full life, you should be more open to the new experiences. Someone who is not capable of taking a risk and changing their routines "dies slowly". A life that is stuck in a comfort zone is not a full life. Neruda advises us to never forget that we only live once.

We must be better tomorrow than we are today. Self-growth should never stop. It is never too late to be better and happier. It is never too late to start living life with purpose. What are you waiting for? Change yourself. Change your life. Don't waste your time. We cannot have our time back, so don't waste it!

"Die Slowly" by Pablo Neruda

He who does not travel,

who does not read,

who does not listen to music,

who does not find grace in himself, dies slowly.

He who slowly destroys his own self-esteem,

who does not allow himself to be helped,

who spends days on end complaining about his own bad luck,

about the rain that never stops, dies slowly.

He who becomes the slave of habit,

who follows the same routes every day,

who never changes pace,

who does not risk and change the colour of his clothes,

who does not speak and does not experience, dies slowly.

He or she who shuns passion,

who prefers black on white,

dotting ones rather than a bundle of emotions,

the kind that make your eyes glimmer,

that turn a yawn into a smile,

that make the heart pound in the face of mistakes and feelings, dies slowly.

He or she who does not turn things topsy-turvy,

who is unhappy at work,

who does not risk certainty for uncertainty,

to thus follow a dream,

those who do not forego sound advice at least once in their lives, die slowly.

He or she who abandon a project before starting it,

who fail to ask questions on subjects he doesn’t know,

he or she who don’t reply when they are asked something they do know, die slowly.

Let’s try and avoid death in small doses,

always reminding oneself that being alive requires an effort by far

greater than the simple fact of breathing.

Only a burning patience will lead to the attainment of a splendid happiness.

"Being alive requires an effort far greater than the simple fact of breathing."

— Pablo Neruda

5. "Here I Love You"

Appeared in: Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair

Year Published: 1924

My Analysis of the Poem

Neruda imagines kissing her lover, but she is not there. She is far away in another world. He passionately recalls the sweet moments he spent in her company.

This time our poet speaks to his departed beloved. She has gone "there" while he remains "here". The sadness that echoes through the line Sometimes I get up early and even my soul is wet is richly melancholic. He sends her his messages of love, but waits for the reply that never comes Now, he is traveling alone. He feels like he is alone in the world. His life has no purpose without her. It's so very sad.

"Here I Love You" by Pablo Neruda

Here I love you
In the dark pines the wind disentangles itself.
The moon glows like phosphorous on the vagrant waters
Days, all one kind, go chasing each other

The snow unfurls in dancing figures.
A silver gull slips down from the west,
sometimes a sail. High, high stars.

Oh the black cross of a ship.
Alone.
Sometimes I get up early and even my soul is wet.
Far away the sea sounds and resounds.
This is a port.
Here I love you.

Here I love you and the horizon hides you in vain.
I love you still among these cold things.
Sometimes my kisses go on those heavy vessels
that cross the sea towards no arrival.
I see myself forgotten like those old anchors.
The piers sadden when the afternoon moors there.
My life grows tired, hungry to no purpose.
I love what I do not have. You are so far.
My loathing wrestles with the slow twilights.
But night comes and starts to sing to me.
The moon turns its clockwork dream.

The biggest stars look at me with your eyes.
And as I love you, the pines in the wind
want to sing your name with their leaves of wire.

Writing poetry, we live among the wild beasts, and when we touch a man, the stuff of someone in whom we believed, and he goes to pieces like a rotten pie, you... gather together whatever can be salvaged, while I cup my hands around the live coal of life.

— Pablo Neruda

More Famous Poems by Pablo Neruda

Title
Collection
Year Published
"Ode to Tomatoes"
"Odas Elementales" (Elementary Odes)
1954
"Sonnet LXVI: I Do Not Love You Except Because I Love You"
"Cien Sonetos de Amor" (100 Love Sonnets)
1959
"Your Laughter"
"Los Versos del Capitán" (The Captain’s Verses)
1952
"Ode to My Socks"
"Neuvas Odas Elementales" (New Elementary Odes)
1955
"Walking Around"
"Residencia en la Tierra" (Residence on Earth)
1935
"Poem XV: I Like for You to Be Still"
"Veinte Poemas de Amor y una Canción Desesperada" (Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair)
1924
"If You Forget Me"
"Los Versos Del Capitán" (The Captain’s Verses)
1952

FAQ About Pablo Neruda

Who Was Pablo Neruda?

Ricardo Reyes Basoalto was born in a small town in central Chile in 1904. He died of leukemia in Santiago in 1973. He was known as Pablo Neruda, which was his pen name. As we all know, he was a famous Chilean poet and politician.

He started to write poetry when he was only ten years old. His father didn’t approve his literary ambitions, but luckily, he met the Chilean poet Gabriela Mistral who encouraged his writing talent.

His writing started appearing in the magazines in the early 20th century. In 1920, he published poems in the magazine Selva Austral, using his pen name because he didn't want to argue with his father.

When he was 19 years old, his poetry collection Twenty Love Poems and A Song of Despair made him famous. He succeeded and sold over millions of this collection.

Neruda won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971. The novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez once called him "the greatest poet of the 20th century in any language."

Neruda was one of the most famous poets of his generation, and, amazingly, each of his books has its own unique style.

Timeline of Pablo Neruda's Life

Year
Event
1904
Neftali Ricardo Basoalto (Pablo Neruda) is born July 12th in Parral, Chile.
1917
Neruda publishes his first article in the newspaper "La Mañana".
1918
The magazine "Corre-Vuela"publishes Neruda's poem entitled "Mis Ojos".
1920
Officially adopts the pseudonym "Pablo Neruda".
1921
Travels to Santiago to continue with his career as a French teacher in the Pedagogic Institute.
1922
Colaborates with the magazine "Claridad" organized by the Federation of Students.
1924
Original version of " Veinte poemas de amor y una canción desesperada" is published by Nascimiento editorial.
1927
He is named consul in Birmania.
1934
Consul in Barcelona. His daughter Malva Marina is born. He is introduced to Federico Garcia Lorca.
1944
Obtains the Municipal Award in Poetry.
1945
Appointed Senator of the Republic by the provinces of Tarapaca and Antofagasta. Obtains the National Award in Literature in Chile.
1946
Condecorated by the Mexican government with the "Orden Aguila Azteca".
1949
Goes into exile.
1952
Moves to Italy.
1953
Organizes the Continental Congress of Culture.
1971
Wins the Nobel Prize in Literature.
1972
Ambassador in Paris.
1973
Resigns to his charge in the embassy in Paris.
1973
He dies on the September 23rd in the Santa Maria Clinic, Santiago de Chile.

What Is He Best Known for?

While Pablo Neruda is best known for being a talented poet, but he was also famous because he stirred controversy with his affiliation with the Communist Party and his outspoken support of Joseph Stalin, Fulgencio Batista, and Fidel Castro. Even though much of the Western world was weary about his poloitics, his poetic mastery was never in doubt. In fact, he was even awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971.

Why Did He Win the Nobel Prize?

In 1971, the Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded to Pablo Neruda "for a poetry that with the action of an elemental force brings alive a continent's destiny and dreams."

Where Did He Grow Up?

Pablo Neruda was born Ricardo Eliécer Neftalí Reyes Basoalto on July 12th, 1904, in Parral, Chile. Parral is a city in Linares Province that is now part of the greater Maule Region. His parents were José del Carmen Reyes Morales, a railway employee, and Rosa Basoalto, a schoolteacher who died two months after he was born.

Famous Books by Pablo Neruda

Book Title
Year Published
"Book of Twilight"
1923
"Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair"
1924
"Alturas de Macchu Picchu"
1945
"Canto General"
1950
"Los Versos del Capitán"
1952
"Odes to Common Things"
1954
"Cien Sonetos de Amor"
1959
"The Book of Questions"
1974

Why Was Neruda Exiled?

After being named Chilean Consul to Mexico in 1939, Neruda left Chile for four years. Upon returning to Chile in 1943, he was elected to the Senate and joined the Communist Party. When the Chilean government moved to the right, they declared communism illegal and expelled Neruda from the Senate. After this political shift, Neruda went into hiding.

Did He Write in English?

Pablo Neruda was a Chilean poet who wrote in Spanish. That said, many of his poems have been translated into english. In fact, his poetry is so famous that it has been translated into over 100 languages.

Where Is Neruda Buried?

Pablo Neruda's burial was widely publicized and was nationally known. Today, Pablo Neruda is buried at Casa de Isla Negra, Isla Negra, Chile.

Why Was He Important?

Pablo Neruda was a famous Chilean poet and politician. He was a Communist and was forced to leave Chile temporarily due to his political ideology. Eventually, Neruda won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1971. Neruda gained National and even global fame due to his love poems and his political writing.

Other Great Latino Poets

Name
Origin
Gabriela Mistral
Chile
Alfonsina Storni
Argentina
Norah Lange
Argentina
Julia de Burgos
Puerto Rico
Excilia Saldaña
Cuba
Jimmy Santiago Baca
Apache and Chicano, U.S.A
Carmen Boullosa
Mexico
Octavio Paz
Mexico
Rosario Castellanos
Mexico

Was Pablo Neruda Murdered?

Recently, scientists discovered that the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda did not die of cancer, but whether or not he was murdered is still unknown.

As a former diplomat and senator from the Communist Party, Neruda had plenty of enemies. Neruda died at age 69 on Sept. 23, 1973, just two weeks after a military coup toppled the leftist government of Salvador Allende. While cancer was reported as the cause of his death, many speculate that he may have been murdered.

In 2011, Neruda's former driver, Manuel Araya, asserted in an interview that doctors at the private clinic in Santiago (where Neruda was being treated) poisoned him by injecting an unknown substance into his stomach. While Mr. Araya did not personally witness the injection, he said that Neruda described it to him from his deathbed.

In 2013, Judge Mario Carroza ordered the exhumation of Neruda’s remains and sent samples to forensic genetics laboratories in Canada and Denmark for scientific analysis. While Neruda’s death certificate states the cause of death as cancer, but forensic specialists unanimously found that to be impossible. The certificate stated that Neruda's death was the result of cachexia (brought on by cancer), meaning that his death was at least partially the result of weight loss, muscle loss, a lack of appetite, fatigue, and decreased strength.

However, according to the University of Copenhagen’s department of forensic medicine, “There was no indication of cachexia. He was an obese man at the time of his death. All other circumstances in his last phase of life pointed to some kind of infection.” Whether or not this infection was deliberately given to him or obtained accidentally is still up for debate.

Who Was Pablo Neruda Influenced By?

Name
Bio
Federico García Lorca
Federico del Sagrado Corazón de Jesús García Lorca, known as Federico García Lorca, was a Spanish poet, playwright, and theatre director.
Jan Neruda
Jan Nepomuk Neruda was a Czech journalist, writer, poet and art critic; one of the most prominent representatives of Czech Realism and a member of the "May School".
Alexander Pushkin
Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin was a Russian poet, playwright, and novelist of the Romantic era who is considered by many to be the greatest Russian poet and the founder of modern Russian literature. Pushkin was born into Russian nobility in Moscow.
Rabindranath Tagore
Rabindranath Tagore FRAS, and also known by his sobriquets Gurudev, Kabiguru, and Biswakabi, was a polymath, poet, musician, and artist from the Indian subcontinent. He reshaped Bengali literature and music, as well as Indian art with Contextual Modernism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Walt Whitman
Walt Whitman was an American poet, essayist, and journalist. A humanist, he was a part of the transition between transcendentalism and realism, incorporating both views in his works. Whitman is among the most influential poets in the American canon, often called the father of free verse.

Sources

Which of Neruda's Poems Do You Think Is the Best?

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Questions & Answers

    Comments

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      • profile image

        lover67 

        30 hours ago

        very inspirational

      • profile image

        Abdul jabbar 

        2 months ago

        Nice

      • profile image

        DIANNE B 

        3 months ago

        A great site. Thank you!

      • profile image

        Soharhan@gmail.com 

        3 months ago

        Love writings of neruda.

      • profile image

        Trisha Das 

        6 months ago

        Lovely

      • profile image

        Jeremiah jones 

        7 months ago

        Nice

      • profile image

        V.Subramanian 

        7 months ago

        Very fine

      • profile image

        Matt 

        14 months ago

        "Die Slowly" is not written by Neruda; it's a fake; as a quick Google will ascertain.

      • profile image

        GG 

        16 months ago

        ghjgh

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