Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

Underlying much of Paz’s poetry is a generalized myth about nature. This myth can be conceptualized as involving an opposition between good (the natural) and evil (the artificial). In many respects, Octavio Paz can be viewed as a Romantic poet, and his poetry often contains the theme of a painful separation from nature and a yearning to be reunited with nature. Such a reunification frequently involves a return to instinctive behavior, and it is often expressed in images involving a restoration of innocence.

In Paz’s work, it is culture that usually forces human beings away from nature, since culture usually prizes intelligence rather than emotion. The only certainty in those of Paz’s poems that reflect this theme of innocence is that which is provided by the senses. For the senses, experience is the most important criterion. In such an emphasis on sensory experience, Paz is similar to the poet Arthur Rimbaud. Rimbaud was disenchanted with the analytical, literary characteristics of the poetry of his time, and his poetics sought to recover the validity of sensual experience through sensual experience (usually excess). Both Paz and Rimbaud consider poetry to be a kind of knowledge of the self. For both, only the heightened senses can permit human beings a glimpse of truth.

The narrator, Paz, as a modern poet, is also a kind of Janus figure. He looks within himself throughout the poem and finds a disorientation that reflects the human...

(The entire section is 577 words.)