Explain the metaphors used by Pablo Neruda in "If You Forget Me."

In Pablo Neruda's "If You Forget Me," a log is described as a wrinkled body. Aromas, light, metals, and all other things that exist are little boats. The beloved is an archipelago. The expression of the poet's love is wind that stirs banners. He is a plant. Words of love are a flower, and love itself is a fire.

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A metaphor is a comparison of two unalike things in which one is said to be the other without the use of a word such as "like" or "as." The speaker of this poem describes the moon as "crystal," and we know this is figurative because the moon is not...

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A metaphor is a comparison of two unalike things in which one is said to be the other without the use of a word such as "like" or "as." The speaker of this poem describes the moon as "crystal," and we know this is figurative because the moon is not really made of crystal, but such a description makes it seem as though the moon must look very clear and glassy to be described in such a way. The burned log in the fire is described as having a "wrinkled body," comparing it to something that either is, or was, alive—like an animal or human.

The speaker also describes "those isles of yours that wait" for the arrival of all the things in existence (which are compared to "little boats" via a simile). Thus, the narrator uses a metaphor to compare his beloved to a group of islands. This is, of course, if we interpret the poem as being addressed to a lover. However, if we interpret the poem as being addressed to Neruda's homeland of Chile, a place from which he was banished for his beliefs, then this would not be figurative at all but, more simply, literal. The speaker talks about the "wind of banners / that passes through [his] life," and this could be a metaphor for his values or his ideas, his actions or his allegiances: those that rankled his beloved or that resulted in his leaving Chile.

In the final metaphor of the poem, the speaker compares all that is within him to a "fire" in which nothing is "extinguished or forgotten" but which is only fed by the love of the one he addresses.

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In Pablo Neruda's "If You Forget Me," a log is described as a "wrinkled body." This has been consumed by fire but is still beautiful, like a human being consumed by love. Later in the same stanza, "aromas, light, metals," and, indeed, "everything that exists" are little boats. All these things sail towards the "isles" of the addressee. The image of all the ships sailing in the same direction, drawn to the same islands, suggests the golden light of the Hesperides, the sunset isles or the isles of the blessed in Greek mythology.

Another metaphor is "the wind of banners" that passes through the speaker's life. This seems to refer to his love or the expression of it, since empty or fruitless words are associated with wind. He also describes himself as a plant, putting down roots. The metaphor here undermines his claim that he could easily leave her, lifting his roots "to seek another land," since this is impossible for a plant. The image shows that his love is stronger than he pretends.

Finally, in two juxtaposed images, words of love are described as a flower from the beloved's lips, while their mutual passion is two fires, feeding off the same material and therefore becoming one.

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In Pablo Neruda's love poem, "If You Forget Me," the author uses beautiful metaphors to attempt to tell his lover that he will forget her if she forgets him, at the same instant this might happen. (Personally, the depth of his feelings in the poem do not convince me that he could let her go as easily as he claims.)

In the first stanza, the speaker compares all of the everyday, mundane things in life as of essential importance because they all lead him to thoughts of her: her very essence is in everything that surrounds him, as she surround him. The ash from old fires, the wrinkled log waiting for the next fire; everything that exists: aromas, light, metals, etc., are little ships that wend their way unavoidably back to thoughts of her. (The elements of his life are compared to little ships that return to her: this is your metaphor.)

...near the fire

the impalpable ash

or the wrinkled body of the log,

everything carries me to you,

as if everything that exists,

aromas, light, metals,

were little boats

that sail

toward those isles of yours that wait for me.

Later in the poem, the speaker compares her heart to a plant when he refers to his roots planted there, stating that if she should leave him, he will pull those roots away and find another place to plant them.

...[if] you decide 
to leave me at the shore 
of the heart where I have roots, 
remember 
that on that day, 
at that hour, 
I shall lift my arms 
and my roots will set off 
to seek another land...

In the last stanza of this wonderful love poem, the direction of the poem shifts as the speaker describes the kind of love that awaits them if she remains with him. The man notes that if she (his lover) will remain true to him, then he will never leave. The speaker uses the images of fire for this final metaphor, comparing her love with his passion, and how the fire of his love will feed off of the fire of her love:

ah my love, ah my own,

in me all that fire is repeated,

in me nothing is extinguished or forgotten,

my love feeds on your love, beloved

 

 

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