Theater of Cruelty

Neruda's love for the earth

Hundreds of love sonnets
Earthly love shows the way to universal care.


In a collection of poems written as a tribute to his beloved Matilde, Pablo Neruda notes his preface: “With great humility I have prepared these sonets of wood; I gave them the sound of this opaque and pure substance and that is how they should reach your ears. Hiking in forests or on sandy beaches, along hidden lakes, along ash-gray expanses, you and I have collected bits of pure bark, bits of wood that were exposed to the volatility of the water and the weather. »A sonnet is a poem of fourteen lines with a special logical-rhetorical structure with the premise described in the first quartet (four lines), which in a pictorial form expands in the second and preferably the third quartet and then ends in a concluding or concluding part. Despite the logical structure of the sonnet, Neruda's sonnets are experienced as a thoughtful poetic dialogue he conducts with himself, his wife and the Chilean people.

Earth. The earth and the wear of things explain the foundations of his love. In a marvelous and accurate way, Neruda connects sensual descriptions of Matilde with a universal care of the Araucan landscape. There is something pagan about this tribute to the land and places of love. As if Neruda is looking for his soul out in the world, the soul like a mass that is gravitated towards its equivalence in the physical world. He sings his love for Matilde through the salty air of the Pacific, Chile's desert sand, the poor of Patagonia. “I love the handful of earth you are. Because of its meadows, wide as a planet, I have no other star. (…) Therefore, with my kisses, I search for your warm body, small and dense, planetary, my dove, my geography. ”Being bound to the place and confronting the inertia of time.

Inertia. This thoughtful love book keeps an eye on the earth, the worker, the bread, the stone, the salt of the sea. Today's deliverance from the burden of weight never lapses. A special inertia lies in the nature of love. The inertia arises from the encounter, a body against earth, a body where two people must understand each other – rooted in a physical reality. The world has weight and that is good, seems to be Neruda's message. Let it slide on you. Let your body get color, patina, voice, and then you might one day learn to love someone else's existence. Neruda's words are alive, never by virtue of the spirit alone, but by virtue of the created, the material and the physical in which the spirit manifests or breaks through.

«Now the earth has known you for a very long time:
You're stuck like a loaf of bread or a tree. "
"Age comes upon us like rain,
time is endless, sad and sad,
a feather of salt strokes your face,
a drop dripped through my shirt. "
"If I die, I want your hands on my eyes:
I want the light and wheat of your beloved hands,
once again they must iron me with their coolness:
I want to feel the gentleness that changed my destiny. ”
"I think, the time when you loved me
will fade away and another blue will come in,
another skin will cover the same bones,
and other eyes will see spring come. "

The Communists. Neruda belonged to a generation where as a poet one could act as a diplomat (Saint-John Perse, Octavio Paz). It was as a consul in Madrid that during the Spanish civil war he got his political revival and became a communist. His book (Spain at heart) was literally printed by the front soldiers while going to war. In uniform, they uttered his poems in the front line of fire. He met many of the great personalities of the time, from Lorca to Gandhi, but it is after returning from Spain through a stay in Buenos Aires that he finds his voice: «I went out to find the fallen. I had seen the factories from a tragic aspect, but had not seen the suffering under the roofs, on the streets, on all the stations, in the cities and in the countryside ”(recollections). He bid farewell to the artist myth and bridged the poetry and the concrete experience, between art and politics. From artistic loneliness, he opens his eyes to another loneliness, the beauty and solitude of the poor and vulnerable. This is where, from now on, he retrieves his sustenance as a poet and human being, a turning point described as a "newly discovered earth". "I suddenly see that from the South of Solitude I have gone to the North, who are the people, the people who my modest poetry will serve as swords, as handkerchiefs to dry its great pains, and as weapons in the battle for bread. Now the room is big, deep and permanent. ” As a Communist, he becomes a member of the Senate, something that persecutes him for the rest of his life. New information from 2015 reveals that he was probably poisoned, ie murdered.

Anarchist. Larrain's movie Neruda from last year draws a more quaint anarchist image of a man slipping effortlessly between poetry readings, bohemian life and political coffee meetings. Neruda seems to be too much outside and inside at the same time, at once politically sentimental and loud and poetically seductive, with a naive notion of letting literature cast its spell over a real-political reality. That in the film he does best as an escape king on horseback across the Andes, on his way to exile from the dictator González, is perhaps not a coincidence? In the years to come, the anarchist continues his poetic deed, and it is precisely here in Araucania (Central Chile) that he writes his best poems on earth, love and the new common loneliness, the hundred love sonets for his beloved Matilde.

"The loneliness, give me the seal of your unceasing spring,
the unremarkable path of the cruel birds
and the throbbing heart that precedes
the honey, the music, the sea, the birth. "

Alexander Carnera
Alexander Carnera
Carnera is a freelance writer living in Copenhagen.

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