Love Sonnet 17
by Pablo Neruda
Stanza 2 Summary
Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
I love you as the plant that does not flourish, and carries
Hidden within itself the light of its flowers;
- Time for some more 4-1-1 on the speaker’s love. This time he loves his lady as if she were a barren plant, one that does not "flourish" (in Spanish, the word is florecer, to bloom) but keeps its beauty, the "light of its flowers," hidden.
- "I love you as" means, "I love you as if you were" or "I love you like I love the plant that."
- The image here reminds us a little of a flower in the winter: it isn't in bloom, and looks almost dead, but we know that in the spring all that "hidden" beauty will appear.
- Speaking of hidden beauty, he might be referring to his lover's internal beauty. We already know he doesn't love her like he loves beautiful flowers and gems (remember the first stanza?), so his love isn't the superficial kind. It's what's on the inside that counts.
And, thanks to your love, there lives darkly in me
The quickening aroma that rose from the soil.
- As a result of the paramour’s love, a "quickening aroma" now lives "darkly" (or secretly) within the speaker.
- This is very sensual, but also bizarre. What "aroma…rose from the soil"?
- It sounds like the speaker is describing a plant sprouting from the earth; probably that barren plant we met before. The aroma that results from the new growth of a plant becomes a metaphor to describe the feeling of love. New love, perhaps.
- The word "quickening" makes us think of the passion of new love; once it starts, it almost explodes into something beautiful.
- Being loved by somebody is like smelling a new flower. And apparently Neruda likes the secretive parts of new love. He's not shouting it from the rooftops; instead, he's carrying the feeling inside him.
- We notice here that Neruda is invoking the sense of smell. This is a very sensory poem: he also references sight and touch quite a bit (can you find those lines?). You'll notice that all of our "Symbols" are sensory ones!