Tonight I Can Write

by Pablo Neruda

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Discuss the themes of memory and love in "Tonight I Can Write."

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In the poem "Tonight I Can Write" by Pablo Neruda, the narrator reminisces about a former lover in what he calls "the saddest lines." It is an emotional experience for him. He evokes nature in the starry night, the night wind, the endless sky, and dew in a pasture. He recalls her voice, her bright body, holding her in his arms, kissing her, and looking into her "infinite eyes."

One of the themes of this poem concerns the transient nature of love. The poet is convinced that he once loved her and she loved him. He claims he no longer loves her, but then he writes that perhaps he does. Whether or not he still loves her, he says, "My soul is not satisfied that I have lost her." It bothers him that "she will be another's." In other words, he has mixed feelings about her, but he definitely loved her in the past, and this night has somehow reminded him of her.

Memory is also a major theme in this poem. The confusion that the writer experiences is partially due to the fact that he is remembering an affair that was in the past and that no longer exists. He and the woman have fallen out of love, but he finds it difficult to forget her, possibly because of his present loneliness. He writes that "love is so short, forgetting is so long."

Another important theme in this poem is the use of writing as a form of therapy. As the writer composes the poem, he gives voice to his confused feelings about his former lover, and the act of composition helps to shape his ideas about love. He alludes to his writing several times. He says that "tonight I can write the saddest lines," "the verse falls to the soul like dew to the pasture," and "these the last verses that I write for her." He is using the act of writing the poem as part of a cleansing process—to free himself from the confusion of emotions that the affair with this woman brings to mind. He hopes that the writing of the poem is "the last pain that she makes me suffer" and that after he completes the poem he will be free of the memories and at peace.

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