Images of Nature in a Song of Despair and Body of a Woman by Pablo Neruda
Pablo Neruda is a Chilean poet who has won the Nobel-Prize Award and was once named as “the greatest poet of the twentieth century in any language.” During his early days, his poetry consisted of a sensuality that hadn’t been widely explored or accepted before by any other poet. His original poetry was sensual, earthy and different to previous notions of love. He explored this sensuality through his poetry as a frank spokesperson for love. He raised the traditional “women of nature view” to being on a cosmic level leading him to be one of the first who were widely accepted for his sensuality. Through many poems written by Pablo Neruda, we see a great quantity of figurative language and literary devices. Many of these instances can be found in Neruda’s Twenty Love Poems and A Song of Despair. The use of these devices brings Neruda’s poetry to life; it catches the reader’s attention and keeps them focused on the essence of the poems. Most of Neruda’s thematic elements are centralised around visual imagery and personification; these are used to help the reader understand the fundamental nature of Neruda’s works.
Twenty Love Poems and A Song of Despair are based around the magnificence the female body possesses and the effects of love mainly explored through images of nature.
“Cuerpo de mujer, blancas colinas, muslos blancos, pareces al mundo en tu actitud de entrega,”
This is just one of the many occurrences of figurative language found within his book of poems where he uses these images of nature. However, these poems are not just sensual poetry, but beautifully crafted uses of figurative language. Neruda’s unique use of language places him in his own class of poetry and Neruda creates a feeling of natural understanding through his poetry. Neruda’s love of nature and the beauty that exists amongst it blazes through his language and metaphors.
Neruda’s style and major themes changed and developed throughout his life but in the Twenty Love Poems, writing as a young man himself, he explores the ecstasies and torments of young love. Neruda seems to view love as a form of salvation from isolation, it is a way of crying out against life’s tragedies and a method for overcoming loneliness. In particular he portrays sex as a way of uniting with nature and the Earth. However, love and love-making, is not a straight-forward solution to the problems of existence because the person that you are in love with may be as flawed, weak and lonely as you are. This can be witnessed in A Song of Despair (Una Canción Desperada) where Neruda reminisces about a former lover and the effect she had on him. He remembers the way she loved but also the power that she held which he compares to the sea. In much of Neruda’s poetry he uses images of nature to portray love; its sensuality, its power and its sorrow.
“Emerge tu recuerdo de la noche en que estoy.
El rio anuda al mar su lament obstinado.”
Neruda is reminiscing about a woman, who was a force of nature so strong that she swallowed everything around her, using a simile to compare her with the sea; long and enormous like the time and distance they were apart. He uses this naturalistic imagery to show her power and presence in his life was powerful. He also uses personification to describe the river “mingling” with the sadness; an image representing how the river of sadness is now going out into the sea where all the sadness is collectively together.
Neruda also uses imagery of nature to portray much darker images of love as well as sorrowful images.
“Sobre mi corazón llueven frÍas corolas.
Oh sentina de escombros feroz cueva de naufragos.”
The image of dead flower heads pouring over his heart is quite bitter because he only mentions the flower heads but what happened to the stems and leaves? It can be interpreted as a metaphor of someone beautiful but cold hearted like his lover and the effect she had on him and how she was pouring life and love into his heart but now these dead flowers symbolise that she is doing the opposite. She has torn the love right out of him, now only injecting him with hurt. The cave of the shipwrecked is a metaphor that has been extended from the first line. She is the sea and he has been caught up in the shipwreck. He has been hit with the force of her power. He uses these conventionally beautiful and scenic images to portray love in a sorrowful light where these conventionally blissful images have turned into a symbol of hurt.
Further into the poem, Neruda also reminisces about how she was his salvation, not just his torture.
“Era la negra, negra soledad de las islas,
Y allí, mujer de amor, me acogieron tus brazos.”
Here, he could be metaphorically describing how he was mentally in a dark place, void of light and he continues to use the metaphor of the sea and now he’s at an island but not some sort of tropical holiday island. She saved him, embraced him, and loved him which saved him.
Neruda has a strong appreciation for women; we see this in A Song of Despair. Even though his lover caused him much grief and heartache, he still continues to talk about her more endearing qualities such as how she saved him even though she still did the opposite in the end. In many of Neruda’s poems, a loving appreciation of women can be found as a central theme.
In Body of a Woman (Cuerpo de una Mujer) Neruda uses sensual images of nature as well as phrases of gratitude to show his appreciation and love for women. The narrator talks of a difficulty in their life which they were saved from. The specific of the difficulty are unknown for their praise are the focus of the poem.
“Fui solo como un túnel. De mí huían los pájaros
y en mí la noche entraba su invasión poderosa.”
Neruda compares himself to a tunnel: empty. He was in a dark place mentally where he couldn’t find any positivity and even when positivity came to him, his negativity repelled it such as the birds: a symbol of happiness and care-free. No matter what goes through this tunnel, whether it is joyous like the birds mentioned, or not, he cannot shake this feeling of the loneliness swallowing them up which would be worse during nightfall as that is especially when this feeling devoured him.
“Pero cae la hora de la venganza, y te amo.
Cuerpo de piel, de musgo, de leche ávida y firme.”
Again, Neruda employs images of nature but he uses them to craft a woman of nature- Mother Nature/Earth. Mother Nature is described and he praises her for being able to do things which he cannot. A woman can produce nourishment and give life unlike their male counterparts. At the beginning of the poem he states:
“Mi cuerpo de labriego salvaje te socava
y hace saltar el hijo del fondo de la tierra.”
Neruda describes the body of a woman and then describes his own body. He describes it as being rough, peasant, and by comparison it is unworthy of “digging” into her. He describes a son “leaping from the earth” and all these descriptions are about love-making and reproduction. The magnificence of a woman being able to reproduce which is something that a man cannot do, so by comparison a woman is far mightier as he talks lowly of himself. This kind of figurative language of appreciation is what fuelled to Neruda being one of the first to be hugely successful in sensual poetry. By portraying women in this new light, one in which they were worshipped and connected with nature, being true to themselves with not only who but what, they are.
To conclude, images of nature are of prominent use in Pablo Neruda’s poetry, especially within the theme of love. Una Canción Desperada shows love in multiple perspectives. Love; the salvation, the heartbreak, the naivety. All these different perspectives are portrayed using images of nature, from being positive images to cynical ones, Neruda captures it all in one poem. He shows that there are many ways in which one person’s love can affect us and that the feelings can be very varied. In Cuerpo de una Mujer Neruda here shows his love and appreciation for women. A completely different type of love, he isn’t in love, he’s in admiration and awe. There are far more sensual images used here in comparison to different types of love portrayed in Un Canción Desperado. Overall, Neruda successfully uses these images to create a varied view of love which is a central theme in both poems. Neruda’s earthy, sensual poetry preceded previous notions of intimacy which gives his poetry authenticity. Love can make us feel a variety of feelings, each one different but yet all within one love.
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Pablo Neruda is a Chilean poet who has won the Nobel-Prize Award and was once named as “the greatest poet of the twentieth century in any language.” During his early […]