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The late Nobel Prize laureate and Pablo Neruda (1904-1973) wrote poems with universal appeal, but some of which also reflected his Chilean roots. His poem “Tonight I Can Write the Saddest Lines” reflects the perspective of the author, delivered in the first person. It is a poem, as is often the case in poetry, of a lost love, a lamentation for a passionate affair long-ended but not forgotten. The narrator clearly suffers the loss of a woman, and is struggling to accept that the relationship has irreversibly ended:
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.
The popular appeal of Neruda’s poetry – and he remains a revered figure in Chile, where he was also a prominent public figure in the world of politics – is clearly reflected in the universality of “Tonight I Can Write the Saddest Lines.” Anybody who has endured the painful end of a love affair, and that category encapsulates most of mankind, can relate to the narrator when he envisions his now-former lover with another person:
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.
Reconciling the end of a romantic relationship is difficult and emotionally exhausting. In his poem, Neruda speaks for many when he contemplates the person he loved and lost.
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