Although Pablo Neruda calls the fourteen-line poems in the volume One Hundred Love Sonnets sonnets, he uses the traditional sonnet form in widely different ways—from a virtual free-verse order within the framework of a sonnet (as in “Sonnet XXVII”) to the more conventionally strict forms; a sonnet is traditionally a lyric poem of fourteen lines, highly arbitrary in form, and adhering to one or another of several set rhyme conventions.
In the first stanza of “Sonnet XXVII,” the speaker of the poem addresses his beloved. Opening the stanza with the word “naked,” the speaker compares the simple lines of his beloved’s naked body to the simplicity of one of her hands. He goes on to describe her body with the following adjectives: “smooth, earthy, small, transparent, round.” Continuing the description, the speaker, in the final line of the stanza, in an apparent contradiction to the roundness emphasized earlier, compares his beloved’s body to a slender grain of wheat, conjuring up images of another image of earthiness.
The second stanza begins also with the word “naked.” The speaker continues to use metaphorical language to express his emotional response to his beloved’s body. The first metaphor of the stanza declares that the woman’s body is “blue as a night in Cuba.” Metaphors of earthiness introduced in stanza 1 are continued in the next line: “you have vines and stars in your hair.” The beloved’s naked body is also compared to the sacredness of a beautiful summer day; it is “spacious and yellow/ as summer in a golden church.”
The third stanza, like the previous two, opens with the word “naked.” The lover likens his beloved’s naked body to one of her fingernails. Her body is “tiny,” “curved, subtle, rosy.” It is only tiny, however, at night; at daybreak, her body retreats to a different place, to an “underground world.”
The final stanza describes this underground world as “a long tunnel of clothing and chores.” In the daylight hours, the beloved’s body loses its brilliant light: It dons clothing, loses its earthiness; that is, it “drops its leaves.” The delicate, almost magical shape and form of the woman’s body at night becomes transformed, by daylight, into something more mundane. Her body is now merely a “naked hand again.”