Tonight I Can Write

by Pablo Neruda

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Lines 1–4: The theme of distance is introduced in the opening line. When the speaker informs the reader, “Tonight I can write the saddest lines,” he suggests that he could not previously. We later learn that his overwhelming sorrow over a lost lover has prevented him from writing about their relationship and its demise. The speaker’s constant juxtaposition of past and present illustrate his inability to come to terms with his present isolated state. Neruda’s language here, as in the rest of the poem, is simple and to the point, suggesting the sincerity of the speaker’s emotions. The sense of distance is again addressed in the second and third lines as he notes the stars shivering “in the distance.” These lines also contain images of nature, which will become a central link to his memories and to his present state. The speaker contemplates the natural world, focusing on those aspects of it that remind him of his lost love and the cosmic nature of their relationship. He begins writing at night, a time when darkness will match his mood. The night sky filled with stars offers him no comfort since they “are blue and shiver.” Their distance from him reinforces the fact that he is alone. However, he can appreciate the night wind that “sings” as his verses will, describing the woman he loved.

Lines 5–10: Neruda repeats the first line in the fifth and follows it with a declaration of the speaker’s love for an unnamed woman. The staggered repetitions Neruda employs throughout the poem provide thematic unity. The speaker introduces the first detail of their relationship and points to a possible reason for its demise when he admits “sometimes she loved me too.” He then reminisces about being with her in “nights like this one.” The juxtaposition of nights from the past with this night reveals the change that has taken place, reinforcing his sense of aloneness. In this section, Neruda links the speaker’s lover with nature, a technique he will use throughout the poem to describe the sensual nature of their relationship. In the eighth line, the speaker remembers kissing his love “again and again under the endless sky”—a sky as endless as, he had hoped, their relationship would be. An ironic reversal of line six occurs in line nine when the speaker states, “She loved me, sometimes I loved her too.” The speaker may be offering a cynical statement of the fickle nature of love at this point. However, the eloquent, bittersweet lines that follow suggest that in this line he is trying to distance himself from the memory of his love for her and so ease his suffering. Immediately, in the next line he contradicts himself when he admits, “How could one not have loved her great still eyes.” The poem’s contradictions create a tension that reflects the speaker’s desperate attempts to forget the past.

Lines 11–14: In line eleven Neruda again repeats his opening line, which becomes a plaintive refrain. The repetition of that line shows how the speaker is struggling to maintain distance, to convince himself that enough time has passed for him to have the strength to think about his lost love. But these lines are “the saddest.” He cannot yet escape the pain of remembering. It becomes almost unbearable “to think that I do not have her. To feel that I have lost her.” His loneliness is reinforced by “the immense night, still more immense without her.” Yet the poetry that he creates helps replenish his soul, “like dew to the pasture.”

Lines 15–18 : In line fifteen...

(This entire section contains 949 words.)

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the speaker refuses to analyze their relationship. What is important to him is that “the night is starry and she is not with me” as she used to be on similar starry nights. “This is all” that is now central to him. When the speaker hears someone singing in the distance and repeats “in the distance,” he reinforces the fact that he is alone. No one is singing to him. As a result, he admits “my soul is not satisfied.”

Lines 19–26: In these lines the speaker expresses his longing to reunite with his love. His sight and his heart try to find her, but he notes, “she is not with me.” He again remembers that this night is so similar to the ones they shared together. Yet he understands that they “are no longer the same.” He declares that he no longer loves her, “that’s certain,” in an effort to relieve his pain, and admits he loved her greatly in the past. Again linking their relationship to nature, he explains that he had “tried to find the wind to touch her hearing” but failed. Now he must face the fact that “she will be another’s.” He remembers her “bright” body that he knows will be touched by another and her “infinite eyes” that will look upon a new lover.

Lines 27–32: The speaker reiterates, “I no longer love her, that’s certain,” but immediately contradicts himself, uncovering his efforts at self deception when he admits, “but maybe I love her.” With a worldweary tone of resignation, he concludes, “love is so short, forgetting is so long.” His poem has become a painful exercise in forgetting. In line twenty-nine he explains that because this night is so similar to the nights in his memory when he held her in his arms, he cannot forget. Thus he repeats, “my soul is not satisfied.” In the final two lines, however, the speaker is determined to erase the memory of her and so ease his pain, insisting that his verses (this poem) will be “the last verses that I write for her.”