The Sunday Night Poem - Ricardo Eliecer Neftalí Reyes Basoalto

[Editor's Note: The narrator, in addition to being a day late again, has identified this week's poet by his given name; since most readers won't recognize this we shall provide the poet's nom de plume: Pablo Neruda.]

No one would ever argue against the claim that Neruda was one of the 20th century's greatest poets. His prodigious output alone is astounding - does anyone really know how many thousands of poems he actually wrote? His love poems are thought to be exquisite; his works were translated into numerous languages; he was awarded the Nobel prize in Literature in 1971; he is considered to be the Spanish-language Walt Whitman of the era.

He also was one of the literary world's most famous Communists and an admirer of Josef Stalin, who as we all know killed 20 million of his own people. Other than that perhaps ill-advised choice of a mentor Neruda was more or less a typical left-wing intellectual, yet a giant in that little world of self-absorption.

Neruda's political leaning aside, his poems are magnificent, even in translation. Think of the happiest day you ever had as a child. Do you have the thought in mind? Now read this by Neruda:

Lost in the forest, I broke off a dark twig
and lifted its whisper to my thirsty lips:
maybe it was the voice of the rain crying,
a cracked bell, or a torn heart.
Something from far off it seemed
deep and secret to me, hidden by the earth,
a shout muffled by huge autumns,
by the moist half-open darkness of the leaves.

Wakening from the dreaming forest there, the hazel-sprig
sang under my tongue, its drifting fragrance
climbed up through my conscious mind

as if suddenly the roots I had left behind
cried out to me, the land I had lost with my childhood---
and I stopped, wounded by the wandering scent.

Pablo Neruda died from cancer twelve days after General Augusto Pinochet's military coup in Chile. Caesar si viveret, ad remum dareris!


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How poetic! Another great post, dear C.O.On another note, do hope you've completely recovered from your untimely adventure with gastroenteritis a couple of weeks ago...

Great to see Neruda in your pages. The piece you publish is a love poem, one of the Cien Sonetos de Amor. Here's the Spanish original (the accents may not show well; see link for a clean copy):

Soneto VI

En los bosques, perdido, corté una rama oscura
y a los labios, sediento, levanté su susurro:
era tal vez la voz de la lluvia llorando,
una campana rota o un corazón cortado.
Algo que desde tan lejos me parecía
oculto gravemente, cubierto por la tierra,
un grito ensordecido por inmensos otoños,
por la entreabierta y húmeda tiniebla de las hojas.
Pero allí, despertando de los sueños del bosque,
la rama de avellano cantó bajo mi boca
y su errabundo olor trepó por mi criterio
como si me buscaran de pronto las raíces
que abandoné, la tierra perdida con mi infancia,
y me detuve herido por el aroma errante.