Please explain Pablo Neruda's "Lost in the Forest," stanza by stanza.

Please explain Pablo Neruda's "Lost in the Forest," stanza by stanza.

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

[Poetry is based on personal responses: these are my own perceptions of Neruda's poem.]

In Neruda's poem "Lost in the forest," my understanding of the poem in its entirety comes from the resolution in the last stanza. In this verse, Neruda employs a great deal of imagery from nature.

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.

In the above stanza, the speaker speaks almost cryptically, though we are assailed with sensory images: dark twig, whisper, thirsty lips, rain crying, cracked bell and torn heart. All of these set a mood of unease. The last three images indicate pain, perhaps over something broken: rain crying, cracked bell and torn heart—all images have been introduced with the line "lost in the forest." In some way, we can sense that the speaker has perhaps lost his way; but the forest may well be figurative rather than literal, as "twig" and "rain" are the only words that refer to nature in this first stanza. "Forest" may symbolize life in general.

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.

The next stanza also offers images of nature. However, a new element has been introduced—things that are not obvious or exposed in the light of day: far off, deep and secret, hidden, shout muffled, and half-open darkness. If something is creating pain in the first stanza, we might surmise that the cause is not apparent at first; but only hints come "from far off."

Wakening from the dreaming forest there, the hazel-sprig

sang under my tongue, its drifting fragrance

climbed up through my conscious mind

The third stanza reveals to the reader that the speaker has been dreaming. The "dark twig" that was first lifted to "thirsty lips" is now singing under the speaker's tongue. The introduction of "singing" completely changes the poem's mood. A sensory image depicting lightness not existing in the first two stanzas is present here with "its drifting fragrance." As the speaker wakes, the taste of the sprig and the fragrance are present, and welcome...for a moment.

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.

The last stanza of Neruda's poem provides a deeper understanding of the poem as a whole. The "roots I had left behind" depict something of the past that was lost over time. They "cried out" to the speaker: calling for his attention. And we are finally given the elusive image of the "land...lost with my childhood." Here, then, lies the hidden key to understanding the entire poem. The speaker, all along, is traveling in his mind toward an old memory. As he sleeps with the sense of being lost—as one would in a dream—a memory is trying to rise to the surface of his mind. Something is coming "from far off," which over the passing of years has become "deep and secret." It has been hidden by "moist...leaves...muffled by huge autumns," which brings to mind the long passing of years.

Once the speaker wakes and is aware of what he has forgotten, it freezes him in his tracks: buried perhaps because of the pain the memory brings, it is now in the open and he is "wounded by the wandering scent"—creating a sense of loss for the land of his childhood that once meant so much to him.

William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I can't help you with understanding "Lost in the Forest" because I am not familiar with the poetry of Pablo Neruda. But there is an excellent article on that poem in eNotes Questions and Answers which you can access by clicking on the first link below. That article will give you other leads. You can also access an article about Pablo Neruda in Wikipedia by clicking on the second link. As you will note, I have changed your topic from Literature to Pablo Neruda. Hope this will help you.