Poetry Project – Pablo Neruda, Sonnet XVII

Though I have long thought that Neruda’s poems about nature and politics surpass his love poems, this is a poem that will always mean more to me than I can say. It is a poem about a love all-consuming. This poem is from one of Pablo Neruda’s most famous books, at least in the US, called 20 Love Poems and a Song of Despair. The translation was done by WS Merwin, former poet laureate of the US. I am not sure who did this particular translation, since I do not have Merwin’s book in front of me to check against this version, but there are only a few lines that vary from translation to translation.

Sonnet XVII by Pablo Neruda


I don’t love you as if you were the salt-rose, topaz
or arrow of carnations that propagate fire:
I love you as certain dark things are loved,
secretly, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that doesn’t bloom and carries
hidden within itself the light of those flowers,
and thanks to your love, darkly in my body
lives the dense fragrance that rises from the earth.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where,
I love you simply, without problems or pride:
I love you in this way because I don’t know any other way of loving

but this, in which there is no I or you,
so intimate that your hand upon my chest is my hand,
so intimate that when I fall asleep it is your eyes that close.


Be sure to check out Kelly’s roundup of the Poetry Project participating links. Did you post about poetry in July, but you didn’t have a chance to link to it? Be sure to include it in the August Mr. Linky, which will be available on Wednesday, August 1st. The Poetry Project is an ongoing project to get bloggers reading and blogging about poetry. Want to learn more about the Poetry Project and how you can participate? Check out our introductory post.


9 thoughts on “Poetry Project – Pablo Neruda, Sonnet XVII

  1. This is absolutely one of my favorite poems ever. It’s just such a perfect, intimate expression of love. That last stanza? Oh my.

    And “I love you as certain dark things are to be loved” – I don’t know why that’s always resonated with me. That it’s something that no one else can really understand – your love – that it’s tucked away. Lovely.

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