"But if each day each hour you feel that you are destined for me with implacable sweetness…"
By far one of the most talented voices in South American literature, Pablo Neruda's work makes for a lasting legacy that keeps him at the forefront of modern poetry to this day. His poems about love are romantic, erotic, thrilling and breathtaking, and works that everyone in love should know.
1. If You Forget Me
Neruda challenges his love to either stay true forever, or forget him and move on, for he proclaims that he will have similarly moved on. The stunning lines promise his love that everything, every moment and sensation, reminds him of her. Some critics believe this poem is actually about his love for his homeland of Chile, while other believe that it was written in loving devotion to his wife Maltide Urrutia, but in any interpretation, it is a poem expressing deep love and passion. Read this to your honey if you are sure of your relationship and are planning on the long haul.
Memorable lines: But/if each day/each hour/you feel that you are destined for me/with implacable sweetness/if each day a flower/climbs up to your lips to seek me/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/and as long as you live it will be in your arms/without leaving mine.
2. I Do Not Love You…
Don’t let the title fool you. This is a poem detailing the way in which Neruda does indeed love his listener. He loves her not for being beautiful like a rose or topaz, or being fiery like a carnation, but because he sees something in her worth loving, something that she does not share with the rest of the world. I do not love you... shows all the ways Neruda loves his paramour. They are unique, dark ways, presented without all the flowery nonsense of many other love poems. This is a perfect poem for an intense new love.
Memorable lines: I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz/or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off/I love you as certain dark things are to be loved/in secret, between the shadow and the soul.
3. And Because Love Battles
In this poem, Neruda defends his choice of a lover from those who would degrade her. People ask him why his isn't with someone more special, more beautiful, etc. He quietly defends their love by saying that he loves her as she is and wouldn't change her. They plan to show the world just a glimpse of their love, to prove the power and glory of it. Read this to your sweetie when he or she is feeling insecure, and you want to reassure them of your love.
Memorable lines: Tomorrow we will only give them/a leaf of the tree of our love, a leaf/which will fall on the earth/like if it had been made by our lips/like a kiss which falls/from our invincible heights/to show the fire and the tenderness/of a true love.
4. Don't Go Far Off
Neruda pleads with his lover not to leave, even for a short while. He claims that the anguish of being without her would surely kill him, and reading Don't Go Far Off, you begin to believe him. The love that he bares for her is overwhelming, countered by the brevity of the poem. He ends on a negative note, asking if she will let him die by leaving even for an hour, but the love he carries for her converts that negativity into something beautiful. Another great poem for new love.
Memorable lines: Don't leave me, even for an hour, because/then the little drops of anguish will all run together/the smoke that roams looking for a home will drift/into me, choking my lost heart.
5. Love Sonnet XI
The most erotic poem on our list, Love Sonnet XI details with quiet intensity the fierceness of his love and desire for his paramour. Not to be mistaken for literal cannibalism, the author wants to consume his lover. Neruda likens himself to a jungle cat on the prowl, desperate for her. It is a short poem, but one that makes a big impact. In only four stanzas, Neruda sweeps the reader away. Use this one carefully, because it leaves a lasting memory.
Memorable lines: I crave your mouth, your voice, your hair/Silent and starving, I prowl through the streets/Bread does not nourish me, dawn disrupts me, all day/I hunt for the liquid measure of your steps.
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