Treasure Island

Pablo Neruda

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

Fable of the Mermaid and the Drunks


All those men were there inside,
when she came in totally naked.
They had been drinking: they began to spit.
Newly come from the river, she knew nothing.
She was a mermaid who had lost her way.
The insults flowed down her gleaming flesh.
Obscenities drowned her golden breasts.
Not knowing tears, she did not weep tears.
Not knowing clothes, she did not have clothes.
They blackened her with burnt corks and cigarette stubs,
and rolled around laughing on the tavern floor.
She did not speak because she had no speech.
Her eyes were the colour of distant love,
her twin arms were made of white topaz.
Her lips moved, silent, in a coral light,
and suddenly she went out by that door.
Entering the river she was cleaned,
shining like a white stone in the rain,
and without looking back she swam again
swam towards emptiness, swam towards death.

Submitted: Saturday, January 25, 2003

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  • Miracle Morris (12/19/2013 5:19:00 PM)

    I loved the poem, the words draw your attention. Captivating you more and more as you read on,
    I was mad when it ended, for my eyes wanted to read more...
    -Miracle N. Morris (Report) Reply

  • Annas S (1/23/2010 4:12:00 AM)

    So interesting, all of the different views...
    This is not about mermaids, nor drunks, but rather the unwilling loss of innocence. The way someone can take your soul...
    (I have always thought of this poem metaphorically.) (Report) Reply

  • Taylor Butts (6/22/2009 10:48:00 PM)

    Actually Sarah Mann, I happen to think you are very wrong. It's more so about the conflict between nature and society. Allison Mo did a brilliant job of quoting Yahoo Answers on this one. You really should use proper citation when using a direct quote from a source though, Allison. Otherwise, it could be mistaken as plagiarism. (Report) Reply

  • Allison Mo (11/11/2007 5:24:00 PM)

    This poem is about the conflict between nature, the mermaid, and civilization, the drunks. It shows that nature cannot coexist with and is eventually overwhelmed by civilization. (Report) Reply

  • Sarah Mann (10/11/2007 12:19:00 AM)

    This is a poem about rape.

    After the men raped her, she drowned herself.

    'She was like a mermaid taken by drunk sailors' (Report) Reply

  • purple moon (6/29/2007 10:02:00 AM)

    how sad. very good poem, this is true, people can be so cruel to that wich is alien, yet harmless and beautiful. (Report) Reply

  • Agata Konopka (2/23/2005 1:55:00 PM)

    For some reason this poem moves me to tears, it saddens me so greatly that people are so cruel (Report) Reply

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