By Nicanor Parra

  traducción de Marlene Gottlieb


There are two ways to refute Neruda:
one is by not reading him,
the other is by reading him in bad faith.
I have tried both,
but neither has worked.

Ladies and gentlemen: I am not an improvised Nerudian. The Neruda theme has attracted me vigorously for as long as I can remember. Not one day goes by without my thinking of him at least once. I read him attentively, I follow with increasing amazement his yearly displacement along the Zodiac, I analyze him and compare him with himself. I try to learn whatever I can. I have dedicated some quatrains to him in dramatic moments of his life, a life which he has completely consecrated to the cause of humanity. I have shared Neruda's life for years, as a neighbor, as a disciple, as a sporadic visitor. Furthermore, we have exchanged practical and symbolic objects: a Whitman for a López Velarde; a ceramic of Quinchamalí for an Araucanian poncho; a pocket watch for a houseleek garden, butterflies, etc. All this gives me the right, I think, to consider myself an experienced Nerudian.

However, I react like a novice, forgive my sincerity, I am like a student who has just been granted an interview with the president of the university and in his youthful nervousness forgets his lines. I stammer and lose my voice. My mind goes completely blank.

To begin with, I am going to read a poem I dedicated to Neruda in 1952, when he returned from exile. It's not a good poem, but it gives an idea of the devotion and affection that the author has for the hero of his poem.



I just want to salute the noble
Pilgrim of fifty countries
Let some see in you
A humming-bird transformed into a rifle
A sword-fish, a polar bird
A gladiator riding a swan.
Let them see emerge among the metaphors
The writer with his pencil in a holster:
I salute the worker of peace
The woodsman in the forests of Chile.
Let others give the absurd command
To burn groves and gardens
So they can prevent the growth of the seed
Transmitted by your warm words;
To hell with them, someday people
Will turn their noses down at them.
Let the insects, like violins,
Make the bitter wings vibrate;
I'm only here to salute
The messenger of a free country.
My brother and friend
How I would have liked to greet you
With a gallon of wine from Chillán
And a bunch of copihues (1)
But I can only greet you
With sad hearts and faces,
(You know very well what has happened here)
With shipwrecks, fires, and eclipses
With landslides in Lota and Coronel
And with a sky decorated with vultures.

The versifier has several advantages over the prose writer: one is the ease with which he can get out of a difficult situation by reading a poem, as I just have. The public is always more willing to favor a sonnet than a chapter of a novel, for reasons of brevity, I suppose; a sonnet rarely goes beyond 14 lines, and above all, it seems to me, because prose is meant to be read only with the eyes, not with the mouth.

As we can see, prose is a visual art; poetry, on the other hand, is a narcotic of the ear.

Unfortunately, I cannot make use of a simple poetic device on an occasion like this when, it would seem, it is necessary to think with one's head and not with one's heart, as the poet usually does.

To tell the truth, the academic speech is a literary genre that is very much in contradiction with the ungovernable and fragmented temperament of the antipoet. Antipoetry is an all-out battle with the elements; the antipoet gives himself the right to say all, without being concerned about the practical consequences that his theoretical formulations may bring him. Result: the antipoet is declared a persona non grata.

While talking about one thing the antipoet may very well come out with something else, and the world is not going to fall apart because of that. And if it does, so much the better; that is precisely the intention of the antipoet, to jolt the moth-eaten foundations of worn-out ossified institutions.

And now, a parenthesis:

Perhaps the difference between the poet-soldier and the antipoet lies, after all, in the method of combat; the antipoet fights with a flick of his fingers; the poet-soldier, on the other hand, doesn't move one single step without his portable machinegun.

For personal reasons, the antipoet is a sniper. He fights for the same cause but with a totally different technique. He doesn't disclaim the poet-soldier, he works with him from a distance, although his method may seem ambiguous.

End of parenthesis.

To me, the supreme artistic genre is pantomime.

I accept, however, with genuine satisfaction -considering the poet I'm dealing with- the responsibility of talking seriously, as seriousness is understood these days, although to me seriousness is exactly the opposite and I run the risk of talking out of character: my fundamental postulate proclaims that true seriousness is comical:

The seriousness of the wrinkled brow
(One of the antipoems reads)
Is the seriousness of an old maid
The seriousness of the wrinkled brow
Is the seriousness of a civil judge
The seriousness of the wrinkled brow
Is the seriousness of a parish priest
True seriousness is different:
The seriousness of Kafka,
The seriousness of Charlie Chaplin
The seriousness of Chejov
The seriousness of the author of Don Quixote
The seriousness of the man with spectacles
(There once was a man attached to a nose
There once was a superlative nose). (2)
I maintain and defend
The seriousness of the Fire Department
The seriousness of the Catholic Church
The seriousness of the Armed Forces
(There once was a man attached to a nose
There once was a superlative nose)
The seriousness of the Hydrogen Bomb
The seriousness of President Kennedy.

The seriousness of a tuxedo
Is the seriousness of a grave-digger:
True seriousness is comical.

There is something sentimental involved here too. It's been such a long, long time since I last talked with my friend Pablo, with my older brother, with my teacher -I haven't seen any trace of Pablo Neruda since 1962- that it would be absurd to pass up such a splendid opportunity.

Even Carlos Nascimento complains about how difficult it is to get a meeting with our guest of honor these days. He has disappeared from circulation. The scarce news we get of him reaches us refracted and diffused through intermediary prisms.

I'll begin by trying to establish the importance for me of this act, presided over by our esteemed dean, writer and philosopher, Eugenio González, former Senator and former Secretary of Education.

I don't know if I am going to be overly pretentious, but I can't help relate this act of acceptance of our foremost poet to the anti-act of injustice of which Senator Pablo Neruda was the innocent victim in 1949, during the well-known administration of [Gabriel] González Videla.(3) I still cannot understand how a group of individuals can have the right to take away powers conferred by the people through a democratic election.

A paradox of democracy, you may say, to console me, paradoxes of democracy I tell myself as well clenching my fists and my teeth in anger.

The facts are these: the doors of the Senate were closed to Neruda. But tonight, I, in the name of all my colleagues, am honored to open the doors of the Faculty of Philosophy and Education of the University of Chile, wide open for him. While a temporary power has deprived him of his medal of representative of the people, a medal which Neruda won in a fair fight, Andrés Bello is calling him from the eternity of his marble pillar and he proclaims him his favorite son.

It is in the center of gravity between these two forces of attraction and repulsion that I place the importance of the ceremony that is taking place in this room. History can err in a specific circumstance, says the voice of experience in an old cliché, but in the long run it winds up correcting its mistakes.

Neruda's work from Crepusculario (Twilight Songs) (1923) to Cantos Ceremoniales (Ceremonial Songs) (1961) is a process of constant expansion and development; it begins with a nostalgic, intimate and personal poem in the manner of the Chilean poetry written in the first quarter of this century; it goes on to the convulsive paroxysm of the Hondero Entusiasta (The Enthusiastic Slinger) only to become a mournful cry of incalculable metaphysical proportions in the Residencia en la Tierra (Residence on Earth). This poetry, both for its overwhelming quantity as well as for its insuperable quality can, without any fear of exaggeration, be termed titanic.

Neruda has diverted the course of half a century of Hispanic poetry -Chelsea (1961) points out -and he must be ultimately judged by his Canto General which, for the American magazine, represents the culmination of his work.

"Nobody in the history of Hispanic poetry", says Fernando Alegría in his Whitman in Spanish America, "has ever attempted a poetic work as profound and ambitious as the Canto General." And with so much success, we should add: Canto General and Martin Fierro (4), each in its own genre, are undoubtedly the very best works of Hispanic American poetry, which is quite an achievement in a literature which boasts such works as those of Rubén Dario, Gabriela Mistral, Vicente Huidobro, Nicolás Guillén, and César Vallejo.

And here, another parenthesis:

To some "demanding readers" the Canto General is an uneven effort. The Andes are also an uneven work of art, "demanding readers."

End of parenthesis.

Sooner or later we all have to be measured with this everexpanding yardstick named Neruda. Let's try to visualize him.


From the point of view of a man's ages, which in this case coincide with the stages of his work (emotional age = chronological age,) a fact which in and of itself is the best guarantee of natural development, I distinguish three fundamental phases in the evolution of Neruda's poetic thought: the adolescent poetry from Crepusculario to Hondero Entusiasta, the youthful poetry of Residencia en la Tierra, and the mature poetry that culminates in the Canto General and definitely consolidates the poet in the earthy paradise of the Odas Elementales (Elementary Odes).

In general terms we could say that the process of development of our poet consists of:

I. A fall from the leaning tower of consciousness to the abyss of the chaotic and nebulous subconscious.

II. A somewhat extended stay in that asphyxiating atmosphere.

III. A triumphant return to reality after a bloody fight.

The first phase is that of pain: "Ah! my suffering, friends, is no longer human" (El Hondero Entusiasta).

The second phase corresponds to a self-centered absorption produced by repeated and unintelligible anguish: "The heart crossing a dark, dark, dark tunnel" (from "Sólo la muerte" "Only Death", Residencia en la Tierra).

And the third is the phase of recovery through the Marxist method: "You made me see the clarity of the world and the possibility of joy" (from "A mi partido" "To my Party", Canto General).

In other words, the individual comes in conflict with his environment, escapes from it as an emergency measure and finally reconciles himself with life through a process of the rationalization of the problems.

Despite all appearances, ladies and gentlemen, the report we are presenting is not a psychoanalytic study, for the possible psychological problems implied here are valid only in so far as they symbolize a disorder in society. We are not formulating a theory of neurosis. We are studying the drama of an intelligent and sensitive man who is struggling to find his place in the world. He is not sick, society is.

Our criticism of psychoanalysis can be summed up in the following aphorism: the fact that somebody recovers from a burn does not mean that he is vaccinated against future burns.

Now that the apparent ambiguity of our analysis has been clarified we ought to state that Neruda's evolution is also susceptible to the following equivalent formulation:

Conflict, Rupture, Reconciliation
Dusk, Night, Dawn
Clash, Retreat, Victorious Advance
Autumn, Winter, Spring-Summer
Thesis, Antithesis, Synthesis.

Canto I of El Hondero Entusiasta is a typical example of the period of chaotic desperation, where the lullabies are mixed with curses, the cries for help with the cries of protest, and the outcries of pain with moans and sexual spasms. It opens with a full orchestra, and pierces one to the marrow very much in the manner of the first eight notes of the Fifth Symphony.



I swerve my arms turn like two mad windmill blades
in the night all full of blue metals.
Towards where the stones cannot reach and return,
Towards where the dark fires merge.
At the foot of the walls which the immense wind embraces.
Running toward death like a cry toward its echo.

The distance, toward where there is nothing now but the night
and the wave of destiny, and the cross of desire.
They make me feel like moaning the longest of sobs
Face down before the wall (which the immense wind whips).

But I want to go further than the footprint:
but I want to twirl those stars of fire;
that which is my life and is beyond my life,
those hard shadows, that nothingness, that distance:
I want to cling to the last chains that bind me,
over this rigid fear, in this wave of vertigo,
and I throw my trembling stones toward that black land,
alone, on the top of the mountains,
alone, like the first dead man,
revolving madly, imprisoned by the dark sky
that looks immensely, like the sea in the ports.
Here, in the zone of my heart,
filled with frozen tears, wet with lukewarm blood.
Here, I feel the foreboding stones jump.
The omen of smoke and mist dance in it.
It's all filled with vast dreams, fallen drop by drop.
It's all filled with fury and waves and defeated tides.
Ah! my suffering, friends, is no longer human.
Ah! my suffering, friends, no longer fits into my life.
And in it I brandish the slingshots that whirl the stars!
And in it climb my stones in the hostile night!
I want to open a door in the walls. That's what I want,
That's what I desire. I scream. I cry out. I weep. I desire,
I am the most sorrowful and weak. I want it.
The distance towards where there is nothing but the night.(5)
"But my slingshots are turning," I am. I cry out. I desire.
One by one the stars will dissolve in splinters.
My strength is my sorrow in the night. I want it.
I must open that door. I must cross it. I must conquer it.
My stones will then arrive. I cry out. I weep. I desire.
I suffer, I suffer and desire. I desire, I suffer and I sing.
River of old lives, my voice leaps up and is lost.
It twists and untwists long terrified necklaces.
It is inflated like a sail in the sky-blue wind.
Rosary of anguish, I am not the one who prays it.
Desperate thread, I am not the one who twists it.
The leap of the sword in spite of the arms.
The omen of stars of the night that is coming.
It is I: but my own voice is the existence I hide
The storm of howls and groans and fever.

The painful thirst that brings the water near,
The invincible surf that drags me to death.
My arm turns then, and my soul sparkles.
Tremors climb to the cross of my eyebrows.
Behold my faithful arms! Behold my greedy hands!
Behold the enraptured night! My soul cries out and desires!
Behold the pale stars all filled with enigma!
Behold my thirst that howls over my already dead thirst!
Behold the mad trenches that make my slingshots twirl!
The infinite voices that prepare my strength!
And doubled up in a knot of infinite desires,
in the infinite night, I set free and my stones ascend.

Beyond those walls, those boundaries, far away,
I must trespass the limits of the light and the darkness.
Why shouldn't I be myself? I cry out. I weep. I desire.
I suffer, I suffer and I desire. I brandish my buzzing slings.
Let the traveler lengthen his one-way journey.

Let the slinger crumble the forehead of the shadow.
Let the enthusiastic stones make the night spawn.
The arrow, the spark, the knife, the prow.
I cry out. I suffer. I desire. Then I lift my arm
toward the night so full of stars in defeat.

Behold my extinct voice. Behold my fallen soul.
The wasted efforts. The wounded and broken thirst.
Behold my agile stones that come back and hurt me.
The tall white lights that dance and extinguish themselves.
The wet stars enraptured and despotic.
Behold the same stones that my soul raised in combat.
Behold the same night from where they return.

I am the most sorrowful and weak. I desire.
I desire, I suffer, I fall. The immense wind whips.
Ah! my suffering, friends, is no longer human!
Ah! my suffering, friends, no longer fits into the shadow!
In the night all full of cold wandering stars,
I swerve my arms like two mad windmill blades.

The second period of Neruda's Odyssey, which we have called the nocturnal period, has inspired several studies, among which the foremost is the Poesía y estilo de Pablo Neruda (Poetry and Style of Pablo Neruda). "There is no one poet," says its author Amado Alonso, "Futurist, Dadaist or Surrealist, who represents our times with as much dignity and complete understanding as Neruda. In no poet do the cracks and chinks in the wall of formality, the break with tradition, the fragmentary concern for poetry, the images like superimposed and truncated flashes of lightening, the shattering vision of the world, and the omnipresence of the metaphysical anguish reveal such an intimate coherence and profound identity as in Neruda."

"In contemporary English poetry," adds Jorge Elliott in his Antología crítica de la poesía chilena (Critical Anthology of Chilean Poetry), "only Hart Crane and Dylan Thomas have succeeded in expressing themselves in a poetic diction of a similar nature, and it is worth remembering that the English poet George Sutherland Frazer called Neruda 'the supreme master' in the use of the poetic language, which according to him, is characterized by a denotative imprecision which functions like music if we do not forget that it is not the sound of the words that justify the comparison, but rather the way in which the contents are associated."

"The result" -continues Elliott, emphasizing the authenticity of Neruda's message- "is something as impressive as the narration of a radio announcer who unexpectedly witnesses a plane accident, a terrible fire, or better yet, who dives down to the depths of the ocean and through a microphone inserted in his diving suit describes in amazement the obscure and terrifying universe."

The information we receive from the bard is first-hand information, statements of an eyewitness.


It so happens that I am tired of being a man.
It so happens that I go into the tailor shops and the movies
all shriveled up, impenetrable, like a felt swan
navigating on a water of origin and ash.

The smell of barber shops makes me cry out loud.
I only want a rest of stones or of wool,
I only want to see no more buildings or gardens,
or merchandise, or eyeglasses, or elevators.

It so happens that I am tired of my feet and my nails
and my hair and my shadow.
It so happens that I am tired of being a man.

Still it would be delicious
to scare a notary public with a cut lily
or kill a nun with a blow to the head.
It would be nice
to roam the streets with a green knife
screaming until I freeze to death.

I do not want to go on being a root in the dark,
hesitating, stretched out, shivering in my sleep,
deep down, in the wet gut of the earth,
soaking and thinking, eating every day.

I don't want so many misfortunes.
I don't want to keep on being a root and a tomb,
dying of sadness, a lonely tunnel,
a cellar with terrifying corpses.

That's why Monday burns like oil
when it sees me arrive with my prisoner's face,
and it howls in passing like a wounded wheel,
and its footsteps towards nightfall are filled with hot blood.

And it shoves me along to certain corners, to certain damp houses,
to hospitals where the bones hang out the windows,
to certain cobblers' shops smelling of vinegar,
to streets horrendous like cervices.

There are sulfur-colored birds and horrible intestines
hanging on the doors of the houses I hate,
there are sets of false teeth forgotten in a coffee-pot,
there are mirrors
which should have wept with shame and horror,
there are umbrellas all over the place, and poisons, and belly buttons.

I walk along with calm, with eyes, with shoes,
with fury, with forgetfulness,
I pass, I cross offices and surgical supplies stores
and courtyards where clothes hang on lines:
underwear, towels and shirts that weep
slow dirty tears.

In order to properly illustrate the period of the poetry of integration, we would need quite a bit of time. Let us remember that this poetry constitutes three fourths of the poet's complete work. It won't be possible right now because we only have a few minutes: everybody is anxious to hear the words of the real academic member who has become part of our house. The welcoming speeches cannot last forever. We want to enjoy our guest, hear the metal of his voice, warmly shake his hand.

We will only point out two instances of this period of maturity, the richest of all of them, in which the spirit of the poet is projected in all directions with a limitless generosity, like a wheat field in the hills of Pillanlelbún, or like a vineyard on the outskirts of Chillán: the moment of the fight against the dragon and the moment of the final victory.

In "The Invisible Man" the essence of the Nerudian conflict, which is none other than the principal conflict of modern man, is concentrated in a single image, the transference from the I to the We. And in the "Ode to Conger Eel Broth" which, in all reality can be placed among the post-revolutionary poetry, the poet has resolved all his problems, and with a smile on his face, he sits down at the table to enjoy the terrestrial maritime banquet.


I laugh
I smile
at the old poets.
I adore all
written poetry,
all the dew,
moon, diamond, drop
of immersed silver,
that was my ancient brother,
adding to the rose,
but I smile
they always say "I"
at every step
something happens to them
it's always "I"
on the streets
they walk alone
or with their sweethearts
nobody else,
fishermen do not pass by,
nor booksellers
construction workers don't pass by
nobody falls
from a scaffold,
nobody suffers,
nobody loves,
only my poor brother,
the poet,
everything happens
only to him
and to his sweet beloved one,
nobody else lives
but he alone,
nobody cries from hunger
nobody suffers in his verses
because he cannot
pay the rent,
in poetry nobody
is thrown out on the street
with bed and chairs
and in the factories
nothing happens either,
nothing happens
umbrellas are made, goblets,
guns, locomotive engines,
minerals are scratched
out of hell,
there is a strike,
soldiers come,
they shoot,
they shoot at the people
that is to say at poetry,
and my brother
the poet
was in love,
or suffered
because his feelings
are from the sea,
he loves the distant ports
for their names,
and he writes about oceans
he doesn't know;
he passes through life
which is filled
like a corn with grains,
without knowing how
to shell the grains,
he goes up and down
without touching the earth,
or sometimes
he feels very profound
and gloomy,
he is so big
that he doesn't fit in himself,
he entangles and disentangles himself,
he declares himself cursed,
he bears with great difficulty the cross
of darkness,
he thinks he is different
from the rest of the world,
every day he eats a loaf of bread
but he has never seen
a baker
nor has he been in a Bakers'
and so my poor brother
becomes obscure,
he winds himself over and over
and he finds himself
that's the word,
I don't feel superior
to my brother,
but I smile
because I go through the streets
and only I do not exist,
life flows
like all the rivers,
I am the only
invisible one,
there are no mysterious shadows,
there is no darkness,
everybody talks to me,
they want to tell me things,
they tell me about their families,
their misery
and their happiness,
they all pass by
and tell me something,
and how many things they do!
they chop wood,
set up electrical wires,
knead their daily bread
until late at night,
with an iron lance
they rip the guts
of the earth
and turn the iron
into locks,
they go up to the sky and bring
letters, sobs, kisses,
at each door
there is someone,
someone is born,
and the one I love waits for me
and I pass by and things
ask me to sing them,
I don't have time,
I have to think of everything,
I must go home,
go to the Party,
what can I do,
everything asks me
to sing and sing always,
everything is full
of dreams and sounds,
life is a box
filled with songs, it opens
and flies, and here comes
a flock
of birds
that want to tell me something
perched on my shoulders,
life is a fight
like a river that advances
and men
want to tell me,
to tell you,
why they fight,
they die,
why they die,
and I pass by and I don't have
time for so many lives,
I want
everyone to live
in my life
and sing in my song,
I am of no importance,
I don't have time
for my own affairs,
night and day
I must write down what is happening
and not forget anyone.
It's true that suddenly
I get tired
and look at the stars,
I lie down on the grass,
a violin-colored insect passes by,
I put my arm
on a small bosom
or the beloved waist
of the sweet one I love,
and I look at the hard
of the night that trembles
with its frozen constellations,
then I feel the wave of mysteries
ascend to my soul,
weeping in the corners,
sad adolescence,
and I get sleepy
and I sleep
like an apple tree
I fall asleep
with the stars or without the stars,
with my beloved or without her,
and when I get up
the night has gone
the street has awakened before I have,
poor girls go
to their jobs
fishermen come back from
the ocean,
the miners
walk with new shoes
into the mine,
everything lives,
everybody passes by,
they're in a hurry,
and I hardly have time
to get dressed,
I have to run:
no one can
pass by without my knowingwhere he goes, what
has happened to him.
I cannot
live without life,
be a man without man
and I run and see and listen
and sing,
the stars have nothing
to do with me,
loneliness doesn't have
flower nor fruit.
Give me for my life
all lives,
give me all the suffering
of the whole world,
I am going to turn it
into hope.
Give me
all the joys
even the most secret ones,
because if it weren't this way,
how would they be known?
I have to sing them,
give me
the daily
because they are my song,
and we will walk together
shoulder to shoulder
all men,
my song unites them:
the song of the invisible man
who sings with all men.



In the turbulent
of Chile
lives the pink conger-eel,
giant eel
of white meat.
And in the Chilean
on the coast
the broth was born
abundant and juicy,
Take to the kitchen
the skinned conger-eel,
its spotted skin peels off
like a glove
and the grapes of the sea
are exposed,
the tender conger-eel
for our appetite.
you get some
first caress
that precious
its angry fragrance,
let the chopped garlic
mix with the onion
and tomato
until the onion
is golden.
In the meantime
the wonderful
in the steam
and when they are
when the flavor condenses
in a sauce
made from the juice
of the ocean
and from the clear water
the light of the onion gives off,
put the conger-eel in
and let it drown in glory,
so that it shrinks
and saturates
in the pot of oil.
Now, all we need
is to let the cream
fall in this nectar
like a thick rose,
and slowly
deliver this treasure
to the fire
until in the broth
these essences of Chile
are cooked
the newlywed flavors
of earth and sea
get to the table
so that in that dish
you recognize heaven.

To sum up this superficial analysis, it could be said that the successful mission that Neruda has carried on in the course of 40 years of spiritual investigation has consisted of the suppression of the false personal problems that artificially darken one's view of the world, and the setting forth of the real problems followed by their corresponding solution. From all this a lesson emerges: that individual fulfillment is the natural result of man's rightful integration into the social struggle. Outside of it, outside of the social struggle, everything is pain, everything is darkness; every road leads to madness.

Contemporary man can perfectly well drug himself with whiskey, with religion, with "pure art", with sex, with words, with gold, with blood, with any of the poisoned fruits of the bourgeois culture, but he cannot feel at ease, cannot breathe deeply, cannot flourish in all the splendor of his body unless he fulfills his obligations as a contemporary man.



Yesterday the assessment of insurance by cards,
The divination of water; yesterday the invention
Of cartwheels and clocks, the taming of
Horses. Yesterday the bustling world of the navigators.

Yesterday the abolition of fairies and giants,
The fortress like a motionless eagle eyeing the valley,
The chapel built in the forest;
Yesterday the carving of angels and alarming gargoyles.

The trial of heretics among the columns of stone;
Yesterday the theological feuds in the taverns
And the miraculous cure of the fountain;
Yesterday the Sabbath of witches; but today the struggle.

Yesterday the installation of dynamos and turbines,
The construction of railways in the colonial desert;
Yesterday the classic lecture
Of the origin of Mankind. But today the struggle.
Yesterday the belief in the absolute value of Greece,
The fall of the curtain upon the death of a hero;
Yesterday the prayer to the sunset
And the adoration of madmen. But today the struggle.

Madrid is the heart. Our moments of tenderness blossom
As the ambulance and the sandbag;
Our hours of friendship into a people's army.

Tomorrow, perhaps the future. The research on fatigue
And the movement of packers; the gradual exploring of all
the octaves of radiation;
Tomorrow the enlarging of consciousness by diet and breathing.

Tomorrow the rediscovery of romantic love,
The photographing of ravens; all the fun under
Liberty's masterful shadow;
Tomorrow the hour of the pageant-master and the musician.

The beautiful roar of the chorus under the dome;
Tomorrow the exchanging of tips on the breeding of terriers
The eager election of chairmen
By the sudden forest of hands. But today the struggle.

Tomorrow the walks by the lake, the weeks of perfect communion;
Tomorrow the bicycle races
Through the suburbs on summer evenings. But today the struggle.


The significance and influence of Neruda is not at all limited to the level of poetic imagery. As Garcïa Lorca said, his poetry is closer to blood than to ink and is an important component of the revolutionary thought of the 20th century.

That is why we cannot speak of Neruda in the abstract, because he is not a drawing-room poet, nor is he a Buddha engrossed in the contemplation of his own navel. He is, fundamentally, a social poet, a Spanish-speaking Mayakovsky, a human being who has escaped all danger. The burning arrows he shoots into space no longer come back like the double-edged stones of El Hondero Entusiasta; rather they pierce deep into mind and heart of the reader, no matter how thick the layer of lead which covers them might be.

SISIB y Facultad de Filosofía y Humanidades - Universidad de Chile





    1. Copihue: National flower of Chile; it grows in the south of the country and it has the shape of a bell. volver

    2. Reference to the well known poem "A una nariz" ("To a Nose") from Sonetos burlescos of the Spanish poet Francisco de Quevedo y Villegas (1580-1645) . volver

    3. Gabriel González Videla, Chilean President during 1946-1952, after being supported by Neruda, became one of his detractors. volver

    4. A long poem of the gauchesque genre written by the Argentine poet José Hernández (1834-1886). volver

    5. The next five verses were omitted from the original. I have decided to insert them so that Canto I is complete. volver

    6. This is the original poem written by Wystan Hugh Auden. Parra used the Spanish translation of Jorge Elliott in his speech. volver