Against the backdrop of Isla Negra — the sea and wind, the white sand with its scattering of delicate wild flowers, the hot sun and salty smells of the Pacific — Nobel laureate Pablo Neruda sets these joyfully sensual poems in celebration of his love. The subject of that love: Matilde Urrutia de Neruda, the poet's "beloved wife."
As popular in the Hispanic world as the poet's renowned Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair, One Hundred Love Sonnets has never before been published in its entirety in English translation. The reason for this astonishing neglect may lie in the historical circumstances that surrounded Neruda's "discovery " by English-speaking readers. In the United States he came to popularity during the turmoil of the sixties, when Americans needed a politically committed poet, and much of Neruda's canon answered that need. But, in his native Chile and throughout Latin America, Neruda has always been cherished as dearly for the earthly sensuality and eroticism of his love poetry as for his statements of political belief. To know this work, then is to understand the poet's art more thoroughly.
I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.
I love you as the plant that never blooms
but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;
thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,
risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.
I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way
than this: where I does not exist, or you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.
By Pablo Neruda
This bilingual edition of One Hundred Love Sonnets reproduces the text of the 1959 Spanish original en face with Stephen Tapscott's graceful English translation. Associate professor of literature at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Tapscott is a widely published poet who brings to this work the sensitivity of the creative artist as well as the skills of the accomplished translator.