Neruda XVII: Queue Jumper

Robin Williams performs (I use the word advisedly) Pablo Neruda’s sonnet XVII in a scene from Williams’s movie “Patch Adams” ( “Patch” recites the poem at the grave of his dead girlfriend.

I recoil at the acting out of poetry. I long to say to the poor man:

Desist, friend. Wipe your face, go home and grieve. Recite your Neruda sonnet when you feel able to get out of the sonnet’s way. Give voice to the poem, not to yourself. It’s not your vehicle; you’re its. Be worthy, and let it’s words work.

My embarrassment at histrionic recitation of poetry is deeply unexamined. Whether it comports with informed opinion or not, that’s where I am.

Here’s my translation of sonnet XVII, while I’m here:

No te amo como si fueras rosa de sal, topacio
I don’t love you as if you were a rose of salt, topaz
o flecha de claveles que propagan el fuego:
or an arrow of carnations propagating fire:
te amo como se aman ciertas cosas oscuras,
I love you as certain obscure things are loved,
secretamente, entre la sombra y el alma.
secretly, between the shadow and the soul.

Te amo como la planta que no florece y lleva
I love you like the plant that doesn’t bloom yet carries
dentro de sí, escondida, la luz de aquellas flores,
hidden in itself those flowers’ light;
y gracias a tu amor vive oscuro en mi cuerpo
and thanks to your love there lives dark in my body
el apretado aroma que ascendió de la tierra.
the squeezed aroma that rose from the soil.

Te amo sin saber cómo, ni cuándo, ni de dónde,
I love you knowing neither how nor when nor whence,
te amo directamente sin problemas ni orgullo:
I love you directly without problems or pride:
así te amo porque no sé amar de otra manera,
I love you thus because I know no other way

sino así de este modo en que no soy ni eres,
but this way in which I’m not me and you’re not you,
tan cerca que tu mano sobre mi pecho es mía,
so close that your hand on my chest is mine,
tan cerca que se cierran tus ojos con mi sueño.
so close the eyes I shut in my sleep are yours.

Veinte poemas de amor y una canción desesperada. Cien sonetos de amor
1924, Pablo Neruda y Herederos de Pablo Neruda
1994, Random House Mondadori
Cuarta edición en U.S.A: febrero 2004

[English translation JMN]

(c) 2021 JMN

About JMN

I live in Texas and devote much of my time to easel painting on an amateur basis. I stream a lot of music, mostly jazz, throughout the day. I like to read and memorize poetry.
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