Analysis of Poem 20 – Pablo Neruda

We share with you a complete analysis of “I can write the saddest verses tonight”, a description of his literary figures and the images that the teacher Neruda evokes.

What is the poem about? Explanation and Meaning

Pablo Neruda’s Poem 20 deals with the loss of romantic love and the longing to remember the loved one. Neruda wrote the verses inspired by his relationship with Albertina Azocar, a woman with whom he had a secret affair for almost 10 years.

The story begins by describing a starry night, where the lyrical self expresses the end of a love relationship with feelings of pain, loneliness and melancholy. She tells of her regret, narrating in detail the sad memory of one night of hers, where he loved her and kissed her many times looking into her fixed eyes.

But later on he confesses that everything has changed, implying the transformation that human relationships undergo over time: they are no longer the same.

Throughout the poem the verse is repeated three times: “I can write the saddest lines tonight.” This rhythmic repetition gives him a certain melancholy in his rhyme. The lyrical speaker knows that he has lost his beloved, but that does not mean he resigns himself, he does not end her mourning, he insists and looks for her in the wind to touch her ear. His heart seeks her out, although he has understood that his beloved will soon “be someone else’s.”

If we had to summarize the entire poem in one verse, it would possibly be the revelation that “Love is so short, and oblivion is so long.”

Poem

I can write the saddest verses tonight.
Write, for example: “The night is starry,
and the stars shiver in the distance, blue.”
The night wind turns in the sky and sings.

I can write the saddest verses tonight.
I loved her, and sometimes she loved me too.

On nights like this I held her in my arms.
I kissed her so many times under the infinite sky.

She loved me, sometimes I also loved her.
How could he not have loved her big staring eyes.

I can write the saddest verses tonight.
To think that I do not have her. Feeling I’ve lost her.

Hear the inmense night, even more without her.
And the verse falls to the soul like dew to grass.

Does it matter that my love could not keep it.
The night is full of stars and she is not with me.

That’s all. In the distance someone sings. In the distance
My soul is not content with having lost it.

As if to bring her closer, my gaze seeks her.
My heart looks for her, and she is not with me.

The same night that she makes the same trees white.
We, the ones then, are not the same.

I don’t love her anymore, it’s true, but how much I loved her.
My voice sought the wind to touch her ear.

Of other. Will be from another. As before my kisses.
Her voice, her body clear from her. The infinite eyes of her.

I don’t love her anymore, it’s true, but maybe I love her.
Love is so short, and oblivion is so long.

Because on nights like this I held her in my arms
My soul is not content with having lost it.

Although this is the last pain that she causes me,
and these are the last verses that I write.

Analysis of Poem 20

In this analysis of Poem XX we find the deep feeling of unease of a young and passionate person who does not resign himself to the loss of what he considers his most valuable possession: the heart of the person he loves. The repetition of verses, the night and the blue color of the stars serve as metaphors for his melancholy.

Who is the author? Context

The poem XX was written by the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, and is the penultimate of the collection “Twenty love poems and a desperate song”, published in 1924.

This is the most widely read poetic work in history, due to the enormous sensitivity of the author, his great mastery and his ability to connect on a deep level with the feelings and experiences of many different types of readers. Talk about love as a universal language.

Pablo Neruda is the poet’s pseudonym, since his real name is Ricardo Eliecer Neftalí Reyes Basoalto. He was born in Chile.

In 1971, in addition to the Nobel Prize in literature, he won the title of being considered the best writer in the Western Hemisphere in history and one of the greatest figures of 20th century poetry.

Fun facts

  1. The collection of poems “20 love poems and a desperate song” and his famous “Poem 20” is considered the most widely read book and poem in the history of poetry.
  2. In 1970, a year before winning the Nobel Prize for Literature, Pablo Neruda was a candidate for the presidency in Chile.

Content and performance stanza by stanza

1st, 2nd, 3rd Verse

The poetic self tells us that it can ” write the saddest verses tonight “, and gives us an example of how to do it (when it relates: write, for example, the night is starry ). That is, he masterfully makes two poems in one. It takes two characters the one who observes with author sensitivity and the lyrical self that manifests and connects with the reader’s feelings. 

In this way, in these first verses, he speaks of a starry night. The lyrical self elevates us to the twinkling stars and lays bare its love for that woman. He compares it with the sky, with the wind. Then he is the universe, the sky that turns and sings his love to her.

4th and 5th Verse

He begins by repeating the first verse ” I can write the saddest verses tonight” , quickly distressed the poetic self descends back to the earthly and tells us about his human love, in which he loved her and she loved him. He describes how he hugged her and kissed her under the infinite sky of a starry night, like the one today where he writes these verses to her.

6th and 7th Verse

The lyrical self insists that he loved her and that she loved him. Showing us what existed between them and he presents her with his big fixed eyes. Then with immense nostalgia confess that he feels that ” he has lost her .”

8th Verse

“ Hear the immense night, more immense without her. And the verse falls to the soul like dew to grass ” . The poetic self expresses that its pain is as great as the sound of the immense night, a night that grows in solitude and in an immense emptiness. His pain is so great that the text describes it when he raises the verse and lets it fall directly into his soul: ” like dew to grass ” It is a deep pain that expresses what you feel when you do not have it with you.

9th and 10th Verse

Suddenly the lyrical self no longer cares about not being able to keep her love, she believes that her love was not enough to keep her. After all, she is in ” the starry night, and she is not with me .” He is in the stars but not present with him. Then in the distance a voice marks a song, which in the distance reminds him of his wounded soul.

11th and 12th Verse

The lyrical self continues to search for where the voice comes from, it searches for it with its gaze to bring it up. And not being able to find her with reason and the sense of sight, he searches for her with his heart, but it is in vain: ” she is not with me.”

Then in the 12th stanza, he describes ghostly trees, bleached at night as if to say that there is a cold moon that illuminates them as in the afterlife, where they, the lovers, “are no longer the same 

13th Verse

“I don’t love her anymore, it’s true, but how much I loved her. My voice searched the wind to touch her ear”. Once again, the poetic self blasphemes who does not love her, affirms it, but it is a lie. He wants to melt into the wind to ” touch his ear.” Obviously, you can’t get close to speak to him.  

14th Verse

“ From another. Will be from another. As before my kisses. Her voice, her bright body. His infinite eyes ”. Now the poetic self is jealous, feels, intuits that he is with another, that he kisses her, that he speaks to her, that he touches ” her clear body .” And just remember his infinite eyes. 

15th Verse

“ I don’t love her anymore, it’s true, but maybe I love her. Love is so short, and oblivion is so long ”. He tells us that he no longer loves her, but maybe he does. A classic contradiction of those who are living the grief of a lack of love. 

And then he masterfully presents the great revelation of the poem, the deepest understanding of what a love break may result: ” Love is so short, and oblivion is so long 

16th Verse

“Because on nights like this I held her in my arms, my soul is not content with having lost her.” The lyrical self now reveals that, on starry nights like that, she was in his arms. But he is not satisfied, he does not forgive the night, nor himself, for having lost her. 

17th Verse

Finally, continuing the claim to the starry night in a farewell tone, the lyrical self says: ” Although this is the last pain she causes me, these will be the last verses that I write to her.” It is the end of suffering, the farewell of a great love before the starry night, and the certainty that he will not write any more verses to her. Never more. With great sadness, he removes the pen from the paper, gets up and definitively withdraws from that love. 

Literary figures

In poem 20 we find literary figures such as anaphora, metaphor and hyperbole, it transmits a rhythmic feeling of longing to us. Some of these literary figures and how the author uses them are exemplified below:

  • Prosopopeya or Personification: ” The night wind turns in the sky and sings”, “… the blue stars shiver,”, “I can write the saddest verses tonight”, “My heart seeks her, and she is not with me “, “Her voice, her bright body. His infinite eyes ”.   
  • Alliteration: “I write what verse ma sad tonight” .     
  • Pun : “I loved her, and sometimes she loved me too.”, “She loved me, sometimes I loved her too”, “Although this is the last pain she causes me, and these are the last verses that I I write”.
  • Simile or Comparison: “How could one not have loved his large eyes.”, “And the verse falls to the soul like dew to grass.”, “As if to bring it closer, my gaze seeks it”, “Because on nights like this I had it between my arms “,” To think that I don’t have it. Feeling I’ve lost her”. 
  • Metaphor: ” My voice was looking for the wind to touch his ear”, “I love you to the sky”, “… the stars shiver blue …”, “The night wind turns in the sky and sings”, “The same night that makes the same trees bleach ” 
  • Antithesis: “ Love is so short, and forgetting is so long ”, “To think that I don’t have it. Feeling that I have lost her ”,“ I don’t love her anymore, it’s true, but how much I loved her ”  
  • Anaphora: ” From another it will belong to another like before my kisses”, “the starry night”, “My soul is not content with having lost it”, “I no longer love it, it is true, but how much I loved it.”, “» That ‘s it. In the distance someone sings. In the distance”. 
  • Synesthesia: Images visual, auditory, tactile: “shiver the stars”, “The night is starry”, “In the distance someone sings.” The night wind turns in the sky and sings “,” Hear the immense night, more immense without it “,” My voice sought the wind to touch his ear. “   
  • Hyperbole: ” The night wind turns in the sky and sings.” 
  • Epithet: “shiver, blue, the stars …”, “I kissed her so many times under the infinite sky”, “… loved her big eyes, her fixed ones.”, “Her infinite eyes” . 
  • Irony: “What does it matter that my love could not keep it  
  • Exaggeration “Hearing the immense night, more immense without her”, “His infinite eyes”. 
  • Asyndeton : “His voice, his clear body. His infinite eyes ”. (The conjunction “and” is omitted).
  • Paradox: “From another. Will be from another. As before my kisses”. “My soul is not content with having lost it”, “I don’t love her anymore, it’s true, but maybe I love her  
  • Chronography : “The night is starry and she is not with me.” (describes an environment in this case night time) .
  • Epanalepsis: “That’s it. In the distance someone sings. In the distance.” (when in the middle or beginning it is done one way and ends the same way) . 
  • Reduplication: “From another. Will be from another. As before my kisses”. 

How many stanzas does poem 20 have? Composition and Rhyme

This poem is constructed with 32 verses distributed in 17 stanzas in pairs and two individual verses. All of major art, assonance rhyme and free pattern.

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