Few poets manage to achieve a national level of prestige like Pablo Neruda. This famed poet is usually seen as the national poet of Chile, and his works have been deeply influential on many poets over the decades. While there are many love poems by Pablo Neruda that are considered to be some of his most famous, we are going to look at ten of the most famous Pablo Neruda poems, and a good few of them will have nothing to do with love. If you want to learn a little more about Pablo Neruda’s poems, then look no further. We have some reading to do!
Table of Contents
- 1 Famous Pablo Neruda Poems
- 2 Frequently Asked Questions
Famous Pablo Neruda Poems
Pablo Neruda was a poet, but he did a lot more than contribute solely to the literary arts. Instead, he was also well-known for being an important political figure. He was a Chilean poet and diplomat who was involved in the Chilean Communist Party, and when that party was eventually outlawed, Neruda had an arrest warrant issued under his name. This led him to be exiled from Chile for several years until he did eventually return.
His life as a poet and a political dissident has contributed to his immense fame as a literary figure, and he has come to be considered the national poet of the nation. His wide array of styles included surrealist poems, manifestos, and love poems by Pablo Neruda. And in 1971, he became the recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature, and this award is generally seen as one of the highest honors the literary world has to offer.
Pablo Neruda (1963); Unknown (Mondadori Publishers), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Today, we are going to have a look at a number of famous Pablo Neruda poems. We will have a look at the various topics that he explored, but something should be kept in mind when it comes to a poet like Pablo Neruda. As this article is in English, we are examining the Pablo Neruda poems that have been translated into English, and when anything is translated into another language, certain elements of the original can be lost.
Translation cannot retain a perfect form of something as it transitions from one language to another. For instance, the rhyme and syllable count of one language to another will generally not be maintained across languages. The various Pablo Neruda poems we will discuss were written in Spanish, so these kinds of issues will persist, but the poems are still enjoyable when translated from one language to the next.
With all of this now explained, let’s have a look at some of the most famous Pablo Neruda poems.
Your Feet (1924)
|Type of Poem||Free verse|
Your Feet is one of the best love poems by Pablo Neruda, but it frames love around a rather interesting thing, and that is the feet of the one who is the object of love. This is one of the ways in which Pablo Neruda is considered to be such a great poet, and it is thanks to his ability to examine ideas from perspectives that may not have ordinarily been used to convey the kinds of ideas that he wishes to convey.
The poem fixates on the feet of this person and gives a few details about these particular feet before moving on to some of the other features of this person. The opening line of the poem shows the reason for this fixation on the feet, and it’s when you “cannot look at your face”, you may instead focus on some other part of the body of the one that you love.
It uses this focus on the feet to reinforce an idea about the bodies of those we love, because while we may love physical attributes of them, it is their feet that have allowed them to walk on the earth with us.
Tonight I Can Write (The Saddest Lines) (1924)
|Type of Poem||Lyric poem|
|Topic||Loss and despair|
Tonight I Can Write (The Saddest Lines) is, as the name would suggest, a rather sad poem. It is concerned with feelings of loneliness and pain, and it comes as a result of heartbreak following a breakup. This can mean that it’s something of an aftermath to a love poem because this is once the love has come to an end. It also focuses on something that is often associated with a more positive way of viewing the world: a starry night.
This otherwise lovely starry night is now something dark and cold, and something that no longer holds any kind of romantic attachments. There is also a repetition of the idea of Pablo Neruda writing “the saddest lines” that night because he has become lost without her in his life.
One of the most potent lines in this particular poem being the proclamation that “love is so short, forgetting is so long”.
Every Day You Play (1924)
|Type of Poem||Free verse|
Every Day You Play is another of the famous love poems by Pablo Neruda, and it is focused on a variety of natural images to try and demonstrate this kind of love for the reader of the poem. The way in which the poem is also directed at “you” can make it seem that the poem is directly addressed to the one who is loved by the speaker as they use the images of fish, birds, the wind, and various other natural imagery to reinforce this view of the one that the speaker loves.
This natural imagery may be used to create a positive association between the love that the speaker has and the person who serves as the object of this love, but it also uses that same kind of imagery to examine some of the consequences of that love coming to an end. For instance, it uses the expression of “slaughtering butterflies” to create an unpleasant and uncomfortable feeling surrounding the idea of such a love coming to an end.
It also makes us consider what it will mean for the one who now loses the one he loves.
The Dead Woman (1952)
|Type of Poem||Free verse|
|Topic||Love and death|
The Dead Woman is another of the famous Pablo Neruda poems that is focused on the idea of love, but specifically through tragedy and death. The poem examines the sudden death of the one that the speaker loves and states that if “suddenly you do not exist” then the speaker will still live on.
Death of Cleopatra (c. 1624) by Johann Liss; Johann Liss, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
This is a realistic kind of idea as it does not use the kind of hyperbolic sentiment often found in love poetry that claims a more spiritual connection between those who are in love by claiming something along the lines of one perishing means that the other will perish. However, the poem does take this more realistic stance as it considers the immense loss that the speaker is likely to feel thanks to the loss of this person who is so beloved.
It also looks at how the speaker knows that they will keep fighting in this world without her because “you wanted me indomitable”, and as someone who will never give up even if the world has robbed them of the one that they loved more than anything else in the world.
If You Forget Me (1952)
|Type of Poem||Free verse|
If You Forget Me is one of the most famous Pablo Neruda poems and it is another of the love poems that this figure produced over the course of his life. However, like many of his poems, it also has a more realistic focus as it examines the ways in which love can also result in heartbreak. It also uses some truly beautiful imagery, such as in the lines that state that if everything about this object of love was a series of “little boats/that sail/toward those isles of yours that wait for me”.
The Love Song (c. 1717) by Jean-Antoine Watteau; Jean-Antoine Watteau, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
The poem ultimately provides many similar ideas throughout the text to reinforce the idea of this deep love that he feels for the object of his affection, but it eventually ends on a far darker note when it states that all of this will continue to be good because his love feeds on their love and all will be well as long as they are in each other’s arms “without leaving mine”. The final line does, very briefly, touch on the idea that this could come to an end if this object of love were to decide that the relationship must end, and the fire within him would be extinguished if that were to be the case.
This is more in keeping with the kind of hyperbolic statements that can be found in many instances of more traditional love poetry.
Ode to My Socks (1955)
|Type of Poem||Ode|
Ode to My Socks is one of the examples of the kind of seemingly peculiar topics that Pablo Neruda was particularly adept at choosing for his poems. The poem, as the name suggests, is a celebration of socks. In more specific terms, it is the celebration of a very specific pair of socks that he received as a gift. These socks are seemingly perfect and wonderful things, even though they are simple, and the poem explores the way in which he resists the urge to never wear them.
When we absolutely adore something, we can often have the tendency to shun that thing. We do not want it to become worn down, and so we do not use it. We treat it as if it is something that should be kept away from us to preserve it for as long as possible. However, socks are meant to be worn, and Pablo Neruda here encourages us to use these things in our lives that may otherwise never be used.
We should live our lives as happily as we can, and if a pair of simple woolen socks can help us to live our lives happily, then that is something that we should do.
Ode to Tomatoes (1955)
|Type of Poem||Ode|
Ode to Tomatoes is another of the more peculiar topics that Pablo Neruda celebrates, and it focuses on the way that the tomato is used in our food. However, it does use rather dark imagery to accomplish this idea when it states that “unfortunately, we must/murder it” with our knives as they sink “into (the) living flesh” of the tomato so that we may prepare it for the salad into which it will soon be thrown.
The tomato is a foodstuff that is found in food around the world, and Pablo Neruda looks at it in Chilean food and how it has come to be an essential part of the diets of places like Chile. We do not often see a fixation on something as seemingly mundane as food in poetry.
However, food can tell us a lot about ourselves and our culture, and Pablo Neruda is able to see that this is the case in one of his most famous poems.
One Hundred Love Sonnets: XVII (1959)
|Type of Poem||Sonnet|
The One Hundred Love Sonnets: XVII, as the name suggests, is a love sonnet, and this particular sonnet has come to be one of the most famous Pablo Neruda poems. In the case of this love poem by Pablo Neruda, it is focused on the way in which love can be felt. The opening stanza begins with a negative, with the way in which the speaker does not love the person.
The way the speaker does not love is what may be termed a more traditional view of love, and instead, he loves her like “obscure things,/secretly”. The love that this poem explores is not the kind that is typical. It does not flare up as some grand and powerful gesture but is instead something deeply intimate. It cannot be as easily understood as the kind of hyperbolic love that is often found in many examples of love poetry.
Instead, it has the kind of realistic presentation of love that can be found in a number of the most famous Pablo Neruda poems, as has been discussed in some of the poems above.
Cat’s Dream (Before 1973)
|Date Published||Before 1973|
|Type of Poem||Lyric poem|
Cat’s Dream is a poem that focuses on exactly what the title suggests that it focuses on. It examines the life of a cat through the way that said cat dreams. It looks at the way in which cats choose a life of solitude, and how they can simply go to sleep “after speaking to no one” and stretching themselves out in places like roofs and other distant landscapes.
Their ability to go wherever they wish and to sleep wherever they want allows them to be free creatures that the speaker has some level of envy towards. The focus on the dream of the cat also allows us to focus on the humans who see and perceive the cats in our world.
It allows us to use our imaginations to consider the way that other creatures live their lives and that we too can achieve the kind of dreams that the cat also dreams of.
A Dog Has Died (1974)
|Type of Poem||Elegy|
|Topic||A dog’s life and death|
A Dog Has Died is one of the most beautiful and famous Pablo Neruda poems because rather than the constant focus on other humans, it takes time to instead focus on a different kind of friend and companion. This poem serves as a eulogy to a dog, a dog that Pablo Neruda loved and adored, and the poem is an exploration of the relationship that these two had with one another over the course of their lives. It examines ideas around the relationship between humans and animals, the afterlife, and companionship.
Pablo Neruda during a Library of Congress recording session (1966); USGov, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
The poem explores numerous aspects of the personality of this dog as it details how this creature was never overly affectionate or difficult and was instead a creature that only needed attention when they wanted that attention. However, it also shows how that dog took absolute joy in everything that the fellow creature brought to Pablo Neruda’s life, and the poem’s end is especially poignant as it suddenly ends because the life of the dog has come to an even more abrupt end.
When it comes to famous Pablo Neruda poems, there are many to choose from. This has been a short list of only ten of the many poems that he produced over the course of his life. He started writing when he was young, and his poetry can be charted through decades of his existence on the planet. While we may have examined a short list of the poems that Neruda produced, this article should have given a general overview of his poetry. However, there are many other famous Pablo Neruda poems out there that could be worth perusal.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who Was Pablo Neruda?
Pablo Neruda was a Chilean poet and politician. He served as a member of the Chilean Communist Party and was a political exile from his country for several years. He has come to be known as, arguably, the most important figure in Latin American poetry in the 20th century. His work has been immensely influential on a number of different writers through the years. His fame and prestige even led him to win one of the most important awards in the literary world when, in 1971, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. He would pass away only two years after achieving that particular honor.
What Did Pablo Neruda Do Other Than Poetry?
Other than his poetry, Pablo Neruda was a noted political figure. His most persistent role was as a diplomat for various countries. However, he would also become a Senator for the Chilean Communist Party. This led to political issues for the poet when there was a ban on communism in the country. Thanks to this, Pablo Neruda became a political exile for several years, as he was forced to flee the country for his life in 1948. He would eventually be able to return in 1952. While his political career was an important one, he is likely best known today for his poetry, especially on the international stage.
Which Poets Have Been Influenced by Pablo Neruda?
A question like this is a rather difficult one because the influence that Pablo Neruda exerted through his work is unquestionable, but it can be challenging to pinpoint the full extent when using English sources as he predominantly wrote in Spanish. As he is often considered to be the national poet of Chile, his influence on Chilean writers is extensive. His influence on many Spanish writers is also incredible. His primary literary legacy has been on many contemporary poets who were inspired by his diversity of forms and the power of his voice. So, there are many who have been inspired by his work but pinpointing a few of them will be a difficult task to achieve.
What Are the Most Famous Pablo Neruda Poems?
Pablo Neruda is well-known for writing a massive array of works over the course of his life. He is best known for his poetry, but also wrote a number of other texts over his career. Some of his best-known poems include Your Feet (1924), If You Forget Me (1952), and A Dog Has Died (1974). This is a tiny subsection of the full breadth of his full oeuvre, and there are many other poems that are worth exploring.
Why Was Pablo Neruda Opposed by Feminists in Chile?
The various love poems by Pablo Neruda ring hollow to many because this poet was also implicated in a variety of ways. In the literary sense, some of his work has been perceived as sexist, but many feminists take greater issue with some of the other elements of his life rather than his work. He abandoned his own daughter and also seemingly confessed, in his own memoirs, to raping a woman. During the #MeToo movement of recent years, at the time of writing, his work has become more controversial because of its attachment to the man that he was in life. His work may have been influential to many, but the man behind the words has soured his writings for many.
Justin van Huyssteen is a freelance writer, novelist, and academic originally from Cape Town, South Africa. At present, he has a bachelor’s degree in English and literary theory and an honor’s degree in literary theory. He is currently working towards his master’s degree in literary theory with a focus on animal studies, critical theory, and semiotics within literature. As a novelist and freelancer, he often writes under the pen name L.C. Lupus.
Justin’s preferred literary movements include modern and postmodern literature with literary fiction and genre fiction like sci-fi, post-apocalyptic, and horror being of particular interest. His academia extends to his interest in prose and narratology. He enjoys analyzing a variety of mediums through a literary lens, such as graphic novels, film, and video games.
Justin is working for artincontext.org as an author and content writer since 2022. He is responsible for all blog posts about architecture, literature and poetry.
Cite this Article
Justin, van Huyssteen, “Pablo Neruda Poems – Explore the Works of the Prestigious Poet.” Art in Context. November 9, 2023. URL: https://artincontext.org/pablo-neruda-poems/
van Huyssteen, J. (2023, 9 November). Pablo Neruda Poems – Explore the Works of the Prestigious Poet. Art in Context. https://artincontext.org/pablo-neruda-poems/