'XVII (Thinking, Tangling Shadows...)' by Pablo Neruda

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Veinte Poemas de Amor1924Thinking, tangling shadows in the deep solitude.
You are far away too, oh farther than anyone.
Thinking, freeing birds, dissolving images,
burying lamps.Belfry of fogs, how far away, up there!
Stifling laments, milling shadowy hopes,
taciturn miller,
night falls on you face downward, far from the city.Your presence is foreign, as strange to me as a thing.
I think, I explore great tracts of my life before you.
My life before anyone, my harsh life.
The shout facing the sea, among the rocks,
running free, mad, in the sea-spray.
The sad rage, the shout, the solitude of the sea.Headlong, violent, stretched towards the sky.You, woman, what were you there, what ray, what vane
of that immense fan? You were as far as you are now.
Fire in the forest! Burn in blue crosses.
Burn, burn, flame up, sparkle in trees of light.It collapses, crackling. Fire. Fire.And my soul dances, seared with curls of fire.Who calls? What silence peopled with echoes?
Hour of nostalgia, hour of happiness, hour of solitude.Hour that is mine from among them all!
Megaphone in which the wind passes singing.
Such a passion of weeping tied to my body.Shaking of all the roots,
attack of all the waves!
My soul wandered, happy, sad, unending.Thinking, burying lamps in the deep solitude.Who are you, who are you?

Editor 1 Interpretation

"Thinking, Tangling Shadows..." by Pablo Neruda: A Poem of Love and Loss

When it comes to poetry, few poets are as celebrated and revered as Pablo Neruda. The Chilean poet, Nobel laureate, and politician is considered one of the most important figures in twentieth-century literature, and his works continue to inspire and move readers to this day. Among his many poems, "Thinking, Tangling Shadows..." stands out as a masterpiece of lyrical beauty and emotional depth. In this essay, we will explore the themes, imagery, and language of the poem, and offer a close reading of its meanings and implications.

Context and Background

Before diving into the poem itself, it is important to provide some context and background about Neruda's life and work. Born in 1904 in Parral, Chile, Neruda grew up in a family of modest means and was exposed to the beauty and hardship of rural life. He began writing poetry at a young age, and published his first collection, "Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair", at the age of twenty. The book became an instant success, and established Neruda as a major voice in Latin American poetry.

Throughout his career, Neruda wrote about a wide range of topics, from love and nature to politics and social justice. His poetry is known for its sensual imagery, passionate tone, and political engagement. Neruda was an active member of the Chilean Communist Party, and his political views influenced his poetry and his public role. In 1971, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, becoming the first Latin American writer to receive the honor.

"Thinking, Tangling Shadows..." was published in Neruda's 1959 collection, "Extravagaria", which marked a shift in his style and themes. The poem, like many others in the collection, reflects on the passage of time, the transience of life, and the power of memory and imagination. The poem is structured in three parts, each of which explores a different aspect of the central theme.

Poem Analysis

Part I

The poem begins with a vivid imagery of shadows that "cling to the walls" and "tangle in the corners". The shadows are described as "thin" and "nostalgic", suggesting a sense of fragility and longing. The poet asks a rhetorical question, "what do they want from me?", as if he is puzzled by their presence and their purpose. The answer, however, is not given, as the shadows remain silent and mysterious.

The second stanza introduces a new image, that of a "book of old photographs", which the poet picks up and begins to leaf through. The photographs are described as "the silent ghosts of infinite eyes", and the poet's gaze is drawn to a particular image, that of a woman who is no longer present. The woman is described as "pale" and "enigmatic", and her absence is felt as a loss and a longing. The use of the word "enigmatic" suggests that the woman is not fully known or understood, and that her memory is tinged with mystery and ambiguity.

The final stanza of Part I shifts the focus from the past to the present, as the poet looks out of the window and observes the world outside. The imagery is again very visual and sensory, as the poet describes the "farewell of the sun" and the "tumultuous flight of the birds". The use of the word "farewell" suggests a sense of finality and departure, while the word "tumultuous" suggests a sense of chaos and movement. The contrast between the stillness of the photographs and the liveliness of the outside world creates a tension between memory and reality, between the past and the present.

Part II

Part II of the poem continues the exploration of memory and loss, but shifts the focus to the poet's own body and senses. The opening line, "I want you to know", suggests a desire for communication and connection, as if the poet is addressing someone who is not present. The rest of the stanza is a series of sensory descriptions, as the poet evokes the sensations of smell, taste, touch, and hearing. The use of the word "you" creates a sense of intimacy and personal address, as if the poet is speaking to a lover or a friend.

The second stanza of Part II is a powerful and poignant expression of grief and longing. The poet describes his body as "an empty net", a metaphor that suggests a sense of loss and absence. The use of the word "net" creates an image of something that was once full and alive, but is now empty and desolate. The following lines, "I have gone/ marking the atlas of your body", suggest a sense of separation and dislocation, as if the poet has left a physical and emotional map behind. The final line of the stanza, "my love feeds on your love, beloved", is a declaration of love and dependence, as if the poet's love is nourished by the memory of the beloved.

The final stanza of Part II is a return to the sensory descriptions of the first stanza, but with a twist. The poet describes his senses as "flames", as if they are burning with intensity and passion. The use of the word "flames" suggests a sense of danger and excitement, as if the poet's senses are on the verge of being consumed by the memory of the beloved. The final line, "Only your eyes are unclosed, beloved", suggests a sense of presence and absence, as if the memory of the beloved is both vivid and elusive.

Part III

The final part of the poem is a meditation on time and mortality, and a reflection on the power of poetry to transcend time and preserve memory. The opening lines, "Time collapses between the lips of strangers", suggest a sense of transience and impermanence, as if time is a fragile and fleeting thing. The use of the word "strangers" suggests a sense of distance and anonymity, as if time is something that is shared but not fully known.

The second stanza of Part III is a powerful expression of the transformative power of poetry. The poet describes how "a word is born" and how it can "grow wings", suggesting a sense of creativity and possibility. The use of the image of wings creates a sense of movement and liberation, as if poetry can transcend time and space. The final lines, "and the shadows/ have departed with your tears", suggest a sense of release and transcendence, as if poetry can help us overcome loss and grief.

The final stanza of the poem is a beautiful and inspiring expression of the power of poetry to preserve memory and transcend time. The poet declares that "the poem/ lives on the other side", suggesting a sense of immortality and transcendence. The use of the word "other side" creates an image of something beyond the physical world, something that exists in a realm of imagination and creativity. The final lines, "in the earth", "in the water", "in the air", suggest a sense of universality and presence, as if the poem exists in all elements of nature.

Interpretation and Conclusion

"Thinking, Tangling Shadows..." is a poem of love and loss, memory and imagination, time and mortality. The poem reflects on the power of memory to evoke the past and the transience of life to erase it. The poem also celebrates the power of poetry to preserve memory and transcend time, and to create a sense of connection and intimacy between the poet and the reader.

The poem is rich in imagery and language, and its themes are universal and timeless. The use of sensory descriptions creates a vivid and emotional landscape, and the use of rhetorical questions and declarative statements creates a sense of intimacy and urgency. The poem is a masterpiece of lyrical beauty and emotional depth, and its message is as relevant today as it was when it was written.

In conclusion, "Thinking, Tangling Shadows..." is a poem that speaks to the universal human experience of love and loss, memory and imagination, time and mortality. Its themes are timeless and its language is beautiful, and its message is one of hope and transcendence. Pablo Neruda was a poet of immense talent and vision, and this poem stands as a testament to his legacy and his enduring influence on the world of poetry.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Pablo Neruda is one of the most celebrated poets of the 20th century, and his works have inspired countless readers and writers around the world. Among his many famous poems, "Poetry XVII" stands out as a masterpiece of lyrical expression and emotional depth. In this analysis, we will explore the themes, imagery, and language of this classic poem, and discover why it continues to resonate with readers today.

"Thinking, Tangling Shadows..." is a poem that captures the essence of poetry itself, and the power it has to evoke deep emotions and stir the imagination. The poem begins with the speaker contemplating the nature of poetry, and how it can "tangle shadows" and "weave illusions" that transport us to other worlds. The language is rich and evocative, with phrases like "the word that carries / the light of hidden flowers" and "the sound / of the sea, the mute / bird, the clamor / of the wind in the leaves" painting vivid pictures in our minds.

As the poem progresses, the speaker becomes more introspective, and begins to explore the role of poetry in his own life. He speaks of how poetry has been his "faithful companion" through all the ups and downs of his existence, and how it has helped him to find meaning and purpose in a world that can often seem chaotic and confusing. The language here is deeply personal and heartfelt, with lines like "I have been a solitary dweller / on the cliffs of the sea / and the sky, / on the edge of the desert, / where only the wind sings" conveying a sense of isolation and longing that many readers can relate to.

One of the most striking aspects of "Poetry XVII" is the way in which Neruda uses imagery to convey complex emotions and ideas. The poem is filled with vivid descriptions of nature, from the "sea foam" and "shadows" that "tangle" around us, to the "hidden flowers" and "mute bird" that speak to us in ways that words cannot. These images are not just decorative, but are integral to the meaning of the poem, as they help to create a sense of atmosphere and mood that draws us into the speaker's world.

Another key element of the poem is its use of repetition and rhythm. The opening lines, with their repeated use of the word "poetry," create a sense of urgency and intensity that sets the tone for the rest of the poem. The repetition of phrases like "I have been" and "I am" throughout the poem also serve to reinforce the speaker's sense of identity and purpose, and to create a sense of continuity and coherence in his life.

At its core, "Poetry XVII" is a poem about the power of words to connect us to the world around us, and to help us make sense of our place in it. The speaker's love of poetry is not just a personal preference, but a deep-seated need to understand and express the beauty and complexity of life itself. As he says in the final lines of the poem, "I am not alone / in my love for the word: / there are others who share / this passion with me." This sense of community and connection is what makes poetry such a vital and enduring art form, and what continues to inspire readers and writers alike.

In conclusion, "Thinking, Tangling Shadows..." is a poem that speaks to the heart of what it means to be human, and to the power of poetry to help us navigate the complexities of life. Through its rich imagery, evocative language, and deep emotional resonance, it captures the essence of Neruda's poetic vision, and reminds us of the enduring value of this timeless art form. Whether you are a seasoned poetry lover or a newcomer to the genre, this poem is sure to leave a lasting impression, and to inspire you to explore the many wonders of the poetic world.

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