Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Pablo Neruda, pen name for Neftalí Ricardo Reyes Basoalto

Chilean Poet and Diplomat, Awarded Nobel Prize for Literature

"All paths lead to the same goal: to convey to others what we are. And we must pass through solitude and difficulty, isolation and silence, in order to reach forth to the enchanted place where we can dance our clumsy dance and sing our sorrowful song - but in this dance or in this song there are fulfilled the most ancient rites of our conscience in the awareness of being human and of believing in a common destiny."

"Love is so short, and forgetting so long."

"I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where. I love you simply, without problems or pride: I love you in this way because I do not know any other way of loving but this, in which there is no I or you, so intimate that your hand upon my chest is my hand, so intimate that when I fall asleep your eyes close."

"I love you as certain dark things are to be loved, in secret, between the shadow and the soul."

"Someday, somewhere - anywhere, unfailingly, you'll find yourself, and that, and only that, can be the happiest or bitterest hour of your life."

"I want to do with you what spring does with the cherry trees."

"But I love your feet only because they walked upon the earth and upon the wind and upon the waters, until they found me."

"Laughter is the language of the soul."

"Let us forget with generosity those who cannot love us."

"We the mortals touch the metals, the wind, the ocean shores, the stones, knowing they will go on, inert or burning, and I was discovering, naming all the these things: it was my destiny to love and say goodbye."

"It was at that age that poetry came in search of me."

"I got lost in the night, without the light of your eyelids, and when the night surrounded me I was born again: I was the owner of my own darkness."

"To feel the love of people whom we love is a fire that feeds our life."

"Laugh at the night, at the day, at the moon, laugh at the twisted streets of the island, laugh at this clumsy fool who loves you, but when I open my eyes and close them, when my steps go, when my steps return, deny me bread, air, light, spring, but never your laughter."

"If you think it long and mad, the wind of banners that passes through my life, and you decide to leave me at the shore of the heart where I have roots, remember that on that day, at that hour, I shall lift my arms and my roots will set off to seek another land. But if each day, each hour, you feel that you are destined for me with implacable sweetness, if each day a flower climbs up to your lips to seek me, ah my love, ah my own, in me all that fire is repeated, in me nothing is extinguished or forgotten, my love feeds on your love, beloved, and as long as you live it will be in your arms without leaving mine"

"Then love knew it was called love. And when I lifted my eyes to your name, suddenly your heart showed me my way."

"Love is the mystery of water and a star."

"Sleep doesn't divide life into halves, or action, or silence, or honor: life is like a stone, a single motion, a lonesome bonfire reflected on the leaves, an arrow, only one, slow or swift, a metal that climbs or descends burning in your bones."

"Who writes your name in letters of smoke among the stars of the south? Oh let me remember you as you were before you existed."

"Love, how many roads to reach a kiss."

"My poetry was born between the hill and the river, it took its voice from the rain, and like the timber, it steeped itself in the forests."

"If we were not so single-minded about keeping our lives moving and for once could do nothing, perhaps a huge silence might interrupt this sadness of never understanding ourselves and of threatening ourselves with death. Perhaps the world can teach us as when everything seems dead but later proves to be alive."

"And I, infinitesima­l being, drunk with the great starry void, likeness, image of mystery, I felt myself a pure part of the abyss, I wheeled with the stars, my heart broke loose on the wind."

"Death is the stone into which our oblivion hardens."

"There's a country spread out in the sky, a credulous carpet of rainbows and crepuscular plants: I move toward it just a bit haggardly, trampling a gravedigger's rubble still moist from the spade to dream in a bedlam of vegetables."

"A child who does not play is not a child, but the man who doesn't play has lost forever the child who lived in him and who he will miss terribly."

"I like for you to be still: it is as though you were absent, and you hear me from far away and my voice does not touch you."

"And the verse falls to the soul like dew to the pasture."

"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."

"Whom can I ask what I came to make happen in this world? Why do I move without wanting to, why am I not able to sit still? Why do I go rolling without wheels, flying without wings or feathers, and why did I decide to migrate if my bones live in Chile?"

"Where is the child I was, still inside me or gone?"

"And I, a materialist who does not believe in the starry heaven promised to a human being, for this dog and for every dog I believe in heaven, yes, I believe in a heaven that I will never enter, but he waits for me wagging his big fan of a tail so I, soon to arrive, will feel welcomed."

"Mondays are meshed with Tuesdays and the week with the whole year. Time cannot be cut with your weary scissors, and all the names of the day are washed out by the waters of the night."

"Everything is ceremony in the wild garden of childhood."

"Someone will ask later, sometimes searching for a name, his own or someone's else's why I neglected his sadness or his love... But I didn't have enough time or ink for everyone. Or maybe it was the strain of the city, of time the cold heart of the clocks."

"The tears I cry are not expected in small lakes? or be invisible rivers that flow into the sadness?"

"Once more I am the silent one who came out of the distance wrapped in cold rain and bells: I owe to earth's pure death the will to sprout."

"I ask permission to be like everybody else, like the rest of the world and what's more, like anybody else: I beg you, with all my heart, if we are talking about me, since we are talking about me, please resist blasting the trumpet during my visit and resign yourselves to my quiet absence."

"This means that we have barely disembarked into life, that we’ve only just now been born, let’s not fill our mouths with so many uncertain names, with so many sad labels, with so many pompous letters, with so much yours and mine, with so much signing of papers. I intend to confuse things, to unite them, make them new-born intermingle them, undress them, until the light of the world has the unity of the ocean, a generous wholeness, a fragrance alive and crackling."

"Let us look for secret things somewhere in the world on the blue shore of silence or where the storm has passed rampaging like a train. There the faint signs are left, coins of time and water, debris ,celestial ash and the irreplaceable rapture of sharing in the labour of soitude in the sand."

"Now we will count to twelve and we will all keep still. For once on the face of the earth, let's not speak in any language; let's stop for one second, and not move our arms so much. It would be an exotic moment without rush, without engines; we would all be together in a sudden strangeness. Fisherman in the cold sea would not harm whales and the man gathering salt would look at his hurt hands. Those who prepare green wars, wars with gas, wars with fire, victories with no survivors, would put on clean clothes and walk about with their brothers in the shade, doing nothing. What I want should not be confused with total inactivity. Life is what it is about; I want no truck with death. If we were not so single-minded about keeping our lives moving, and for once could do nothing, perhaps a huge silence might interrupt this sadness of never understanding ourselves and of threatening ourselves with death. Perhaps the earth can teach us as when everything seems dead and later proves to be alive. Now I'll count up to twelve and you keep quiet and I will go."

"Because of you, in gardens of blossoming flowers I ache from the perfumes of spring. I have forgotten your face, I no longer remember your hands; how did your lips feel on mine? Because of you, I love the white statues drowsing in the parks, the white statues that have neither voice nor sight. I have forgotten your voice, your happy voice; I have forgotten your eyes. Like a flower to its perfume, I am bound to my vague memory of you. I live with pain that is like a wound; if you touch me, you will do me irreparable harm. Your caresses enfold me, like climbing vines on melancholy walls. I have forgotten your love, yet I seem to glimpse you in every window. Because of you, the heady perfumes of summer pain me; because of you, I again seek out the signs that precipitate desires: shooting stars, falling objects."

"Do you not hear the constant victory, in the human footrace of time, slow as fire, sure, and thick and Herculean accumulating its volume and adding its sad fiber?"

"How long does a man live, after all? Does he live a thousand days, or one only a week, or several centuries? How long does a man spend dying? What does it mean to say 'forever'? Lost in these preoccupations I set myself to clear things up... In my own country the undertakers answered me, between drinks: 'Get yourself a good woman and give up this nonsense.'"

"I move in the university of the waves."

"I want to see the thirst inside the syllables I want to touch the fire in the sound: I want to feel the darkness of the cry. I want words as rough as virgin rocks."

"In the eyes of mourning the land of dreams begins."

"It so happens I am sick of being a man. And it happens that I walk into tailor shops and movie houses dried up, waterproof, like a swan made of felt steering my way in a water of wombs and ashes. The smell of barbershops makes me break into hoarse sobs. The only thing I want is to lie still like stones or wool. The only thing I want is to see no more stores, no gardens, no more goods, no spectacles, no elevators. It so happens that I am sick of my feet and my nails and my hair and my shadow. It so happens I am sick of being a man. Still it would be marvelous to terrify a law clerk with a cut lily, or kill a nun with a blow on the ear. It would be great to go through the streets with a green knife letting out yells until I died of the cold. I don't want to go on being a root in the dark, insecure, stretched out, shivering with sleep, going on down, into the moist guts of the earth, taking in and thinking, eating every day. I don't want so much misery. I don't want to go on as a root and a tomb, alone under the ground, a warehouse with corpses, half frozen, dying of grief. That's why Monday, when it sees me coming with my convict face, blazes up like gasoline, and it howls on its way like a wounded wheel, and leaves tracks full of warm blood leading toward the night. And it pushes me into certain corners, into some moist houses, into hospitals where the bones fly out the window, into shoe shops that smell like vinegar, and certain streets hideous as cracks in the skin. There are sulphur-colored birds, and hideous intestines hanging over the doors of houses that I hate, and there are false teeth forgotten in a coffeepot, there are mirrors that ought to have wept from shame and terror, there are umbrellas everywhere, and venoms, and umbilical cords. I stroll along serenely, with my eyes, my shoes, my rage, forgetting everything, I walk by, going through office buildings and orthopedic shops, and courtyards with washing hanging from the line: underwear, towels and shirts from which slow dirty tears are falling"

"Was it where they lost me that I finally found myself?"

"We must dream our way."