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Pablo Neruda

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

Saddest Poem


I can write the saddest poem of all tonight.

Write, for instance: "The night is full of stars,
and the stars, blue, shiver in the distance."

The night wind whirls in the sky and sings.

I can write the saddest poem of all tonight.
I loved her, and sometimes she loved me too.

On nights like this, I held her in my arms.
I kissed her so many times under the infinite sky.

She loved me, sometimes I loved her.
How could I not have loved her large, still eyes?

I can write the saddest poem of all tonight.
To think I don't have her. To feel that I've lost her.

To hear the immense night, more immense without her.
And the poem falls to the soul as dew to grass.

What does it matter that my love couldn't keep her.
The night is full of stars and she is not with me.

That's all. Far away, someone sings. Far away.
My soul is lost without her.

As if to bring her near, my eyes search for her.
My heart searches for her and she is not with me.

The same night that whitens the same trees.
We, we who were, we are the same no longer.

I no longer love her, true, but how much I loved her.
My voice searched the wind to touch her ear.

Someone else's. She will be someone else's. As she once
belonged to my kisses.
Her voice, her light body. Her infinite eyes.

I no longer love her, true, but perhaps I love her.
Love is so short and oblivion so long.

Because on nights like this I held her in my arms,
my soul is lost without her.

Although this may be the last pain she causes me,
and this may be the last poem I write for her.

Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003

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  • Marco Ribeiro (3/7/2007 9:42:00 PM)

    This is of course Poema de Amor 20

    The heart of this poem is:

    I no longer love her, true, but perhaps I love her.
    Love is so short and oblivion so long.

    translated elsewhere:

    'Love is so short, forgetting is so long'

    or: '..., forgetting lasts so long'

    The Spanish is ambiguous:

    'Es tan corto el amor, y es tan largo el olvido'

    can be glossed as both:

    1. 'Love is so short, and oblivion is so long' AND
    2. 'Love is so short, and forgetting takes so long.'

    I like the contrast this translation sets up, between love and oblivion.

    The consonance of these two words works very well.

    But this line loses sense number 2.

    This is a very good translation, does anyone know who did it? (Report) Reply

  • Christina Tucker (12/8/2006 9:56:00 PM)

    Actually this is a slightly different translation of the poem 'Puedo escribir' or 'Tonight I Can Write' in the book 'Twenty Love Poems And A Song Of Despair.' 'A Song Of Despair' is considered a song and not a poem and is actually 29 stanzas long as opposed to 16 or 17 stanzas shown above. I personally love this poem... both translations. (Report) Reply

  • Jessica Saenz (10/1/2006 12:15:00 PM)

    Great poem, wrong title. Pablo released poems called 'Twenty Love Poems and A Song Of Despair'. This one is 'A Song Of Despair', which is a much better, and correct, title than 'Saddest Poem' anyway. Do its' justice and correct it. (Report) Reply

  • Aliana Venegas (8/21/2006 2:06:00 PM)

    I've read a different translation of this poem, which was much better.

    But I've always come back to this poem. I first found out about Neruda in high school right before graduation. While I was deeply in love. The line, 'Love is so short, but forgetting is so long', really struck me even though I had yet to experience heart break.

    I love his poetry because a lot of his writing has double meaning and it can mean whatever to whomever reading it. (Report) Reply

  • Kate Roehr (7/21/2006 11:33:00 AM)

    I have loved this poem for about 4 years since I first read it, but you don't truly understand it until you share a love with someone who isn't ready for the same kind of love, and you have to watch them go, and try not to wait... (Report) Reply

  • Damian M (12/14/2005 11:43:00 PM)

    Beautiful Poem, really equates the powerless of his situation really well. (Report) Reply

  • Mark Luttrell (11/24/2005 10:56:00 AM)

    Cayetana,

    I read the 'I no longer love her...' in a more visceral and emotional way, when I read it I hear the loss. She was his in his arms now she is another's, he has lost her, she is gone so he says, I do not love her... but he cannot forget and the longing remains, perhaps he does love her - of course he does love her. I have read translations that use the word 'forgetting' where this translator uses oblivion, I think it makes more sense. (Report) Reply

Read all 11 comments »

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