Treasure Island

Pablo Neruda

(12 July 1904 – 23 September 1973 / Parral / Chile)

A Song Of Despair


The memory of you emerges from the night around me.
The river mingles its stubborn lament with the sea.

Deserted like the wharves at dawn.
It is the hour of departure, oh deserted one!

Cold flower heads are raining over my heart.
Oh pit of debris, fierce cave of the shipwrecked.

In you the wars and the flights accumulated.
From you the wings of the song birds rose.

You swallowed everything, like distance.
Like the sea, like time. In you everything sank!

It was the happy hour of assault and the kiss.
The hour of the spell that blazed like a lighthouse.

Pilot's dread, fury of blind driver,
turbulent drunkenness of love, in you everything sank!

In the childhood of mist my soul, winged and wounded.
Lost discoverer, in you everything sank!

You girdled sorrow, you clung to desire,
sadness stunned you, in you everything sank!

I made the wall of shadow draw back,
beyond desire and act, I walked on.

Oh flesh, my own flesh, woman whom I loved and lost,
I summon you in the moist hour, I raise my song to you.

Like a jar you housed infinite tenderness.
and the infinite oblivion shattered you like a jar.

There was the black solitude of the islands,
and there, woman of love, your arms took me in.

There was thirst and hunger, and you were the fruit.
There were grief and ruins, and you were the miracle.

Ah woman, I do not know how you could contain me
in the earth of your soul, in the cross of your arms!

How terrible and brief my desire was to you!
How difficult and drunken, how tensed and avid.

Cemetery of kisses, there is still fire in your tombs,
still the fruited boughs burn, pecked at by birds.

Oh the bitten mouth, oh the kissed limbs,
oh the hungering teeth, oh the entwined bodies.

Oh the mad coupling of hope and force
in which we merged and despaired.

And the tenderness, light as water and as flour.
And the word scarcely begun on the lips.

This was my destiny and in it was my voyage of my longing,
and in it my longing fell, in you everything sank!

Oh pit of debris, everything fell into you,
what sorrow did you not express, in what sorrow are you not drowned!

From billow to billow you still called and sang.
Standing like a sailor in the prow of a vessel.

You still flowered in songs, you still brike the currents.
Oh pit of debris, open and bitter well.

Pale blind diver, luckless slinger,
lost discoverer, in you everything sank!

It is the hour of departure, the hard cold hour
which the night fastens to all the timetables.

The rustling belt of the sea girdles the shore.
Cold stars heave up, black birds migrate.

Deserted like the wharves at dawn.
Only tremulous shadow twists in my hands.

Oh farther than everything. Oh farther than everything.

It is the hour of departure. Oh abandoned one!

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003
Edited: Saturday, March 29, 2014

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Read poems about / on: sorrow, woman, lost, despair, sea, solitude, song, childhood, destiny, grief, flower, memory, river, kiss, rose, happy, water, fire, night, hope

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  • Kay Staley (8/26/2014 9:37:00 AM)

    How nice. Its utterly sad that Pablo Neruda never learned to rhyme. Poems like his could have been memorized and truly remembered if he had any rhyme scheme at all. His writings are fun to read, but at soon as they are finished, all but the idea of them slips out of your head...with none of his beautiful left to remain. The drastical language and ironicness of the writing style is what keeps this poem in print. (Report) Reply

  • Lyrias Poetry (2/10/2014 10:41:00 AM)

    and in every line I can feel my own sense of despair rising... as if he was saying my words out loud.... as If he lives inside my head. as if he had experienced the turmoil that i kept hidden in my soul. (Report) Reply

  • Alexander Opicho (12/2/2013 4:18:00 AM)

    good, nice, smart, philosophical, mature, ideological, surrealistic and of course nerudaistic in texture (Report) Reply

  • Amanda Laurent (10/27/2012 12:44:00 AM)

    My favorite line - Cemetery of kisses, there is still fire in your tombs Such power in the imagery he employs. He holds nothing back with regards to the deepest emotions. (Report) Reply

  • Sylva Portoian (6/17/2012 6:03:00 AM)

    I don't believe poems can be translated...
    As...I do repeat
    Every language has a soul...
    Noone can enter every soul...! (Report) Reply

  • A H (6/13/2012 9:42:00 PM)

    Stanza 7 Should read: Pale blind DIVER
    Stanza 24 Should read: You still BROKE IN currents (Report) Reply

  • Subrata Ray (4/19/2010 11:37:00 AM)

    The poet could otherwise depict his past, and muse over the gratification of carnal pleasure.There is no cause to mourn, no reason to brood over the battle of the bodies.Again there is no life -enhancing note in this poem.What has been perpetuating since the advent of human-animals on this earth finds repetition here.
    Again a poet must avoid erotic language, to paint the open -secret between the he-man and the she-man.
    There is no question on the irresistible sex-pleasure.I find no face of a poet in the poem.
    Poet, -subrataray, Uluberia, West Bengal.India (Report) Reply

  • Li Away (10/26/2008 4:27:00 PM)

    this poet by far the most delicate and beautiful

    you swallowed everything like distance, in you everything sank

    i am taken! (Report) Reply

  • Aijaz Asif (9/6/2008 12:32:00 PM)

    a beautiful write..lovely to read. i love it...10 is the least i can do with my bow to the great poet (Report) Reply

  • Naveed Akram (7/5/2008 11:14:00 AM)

    I like the song of despair, the singing of the desperate voice hurling and provoking and repeating. Beautiful words can match in many intriguing manners. I believe this poet sang the song of despair to the letter, and that is a heroic deed of written accomplishment! (Report) Reply

  • Dr.subhendu Kar (6/12/2008 4:33:00 AM)

    You girdled sorrow, you clung to desire,
    sadness stunned you, in you everything sank! ..................wonderful imagery of life by the sorrow, desire and sadness when everything sank within.great write, i do admire (Report) Reply

  • Irene Zammit (1/5/2008 6:17:00 PM)

    we've all been there, Pablo, your words ring true in the hearts of all who have loved with passion and hope and then lost. Still, at least we know we've lived. (Report) Reply

Read all 27 comments »

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