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Friday Poem: Pablo Neruda


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Pablo Neruda was a Chilean poet and diplomat, born on July 12th in 1904.

He was born Ricardo Eliécer Neftalí Reyes Basoalto, but later became known by his pen name Pablo Neruda, which he then changed to his legal name.

He wrote poetry in a variety of styles, and won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971.

As well as writing poetry, Neruda was an ardent politician and diplomat. He served as senator for the Chilean Communist Party until the then president outlawed communism in 1948, causing Neruda to have to hide for months in the basement of a friend’s house to avoid arrest.

He later served as a close advisor to president Salvador Allende, but was in hospital with cancer at the time of the coup which replaced Allende with Augusto Pinochet in 1973.

Neruda returned from hospital claiming that a doctor had injected him a poison to kill him on Pinochet’s orders, and indeed he died hours later. The Chilean authorities claimed his death had been an accident until a statement released in 2015 acknowledged that Neruda may in fact have been murdered.

Below is a quotation from ‘Ah vastedad de pinos’, (Ah Vastness of Pines) published in his collection ‘Veinte poemas de amor y una canción desesperada’ (Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair). The English translation is by W. S. Merwin (Neruda, P., Tarn, N., & Kerrigan, A. (1990). Selected poems : A bilingual edition. Boston, Mass.: Houghton Mifflin.)


Ah vastedad de pinos

Ah vastedad de pinos, rumor de olas quebrándose,

lento juego de luces, campana solitaria,

crepúsculo cayendo en tus ojos, muñeca,

caracola terrestre, en ti la tierra canta!


En ti los ríos cantan y mi alma en ellos huye

como tú lo desees y hacia donde tú quieras.

Márcame mi camino en tu arco de esperanza

y soltaré en delirio mi bandada de flechas.


Ah vastness of pines

Ah vastness of pines, murmur of waves breaking,

slow play of lights, solitary bell,

twilight falling in your eyes, toy doll,

snail of the earth, the earth sings in you!


In you the rivers sing and my soul flees in them

as you desire, and you send it where you will.

Aim my road on your bow of hope

and in a frenzy I will free my flock of arrows.


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