Love Sonnet 17
by Pablo Neruda
Stanzas 3-4 Summary
Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
I love you . . . I don't know how or when or where.
I simply love you, no problem, no pride.
- Here's what it boils down to: the speaker loves this woman, plain and simple. He doesn’t know the specifics; he "simply" loves her.
- Is the speaker suggesting that he can’t explain why he loves the paramour? Sounds like it. This is a common problem we all have. It's not easy to define love or to explain it away – we just feel it, right?
- "No problem, no pride"? Hmmm. This sounds odd in a love poem, but it seems to be some kind of comment on the purity of the speaker’s love: he's humble and his love is legit. No drama, please. Or so he says.
- The idea of having "no pride" in love will pop up again later in the poem, so keep it in mind.
- The ninth line of a Petrarchan sonnet is usually supposed to change the direction of the poem. Sometimes it offers a resolution to the problems posed in the first eight lines, or it just marks a shift in tone. It is often called the volta (in Italian), or turn.
- Do you think the poem shifts gears in line 9?
I love you thus because I love no other way,
Except this way, in which I am not and you are not.
- The speaker explains why he loves his paramour the way he does. Answer? Because it's the only way he knows how. He can only love when "I am not and you are not."
- This sounds like a very powerful love in which the two lovers become one person; they cease to be their individual selves and instead become one.
- This reminds us of the whole "I simply love you, no problem, no pride" thing from line 10. Without any pride in a relationship, the two individuals are able to forget about their own self-interests and focus on the couple instead.
- There seems to be a faint echo here of the first book of the Bible, Genesis. In that super important and often-referenced book, marriage is described as a union in which the bride and groom become "one flesh."
- You'll also notice that this is the third time the words "I love you" have opened a line in the poem. This repetition of words at the beginnings of lines is called anaphora. What effect does it have on the poem?
- A cool note on structure: in order to get to the end of the sentence that starts in line 11, you have to move from the third to the fourth stanza, from the first to the second tercet. What is the effect of this structure? Why didn't Neruda make the content of the stanzas align with their structure?
So close that your hand on my chest is mine,
So close that your eyes close on my dreams.
- The speaker further describes the way he loves: he and his paramour are so close that they switch body parts. Her hand is his, and her eyes see his dreams.
- Obviously this is physically impossible, but it’s the speaker’s beautifully metaphorical way of describing the ways in which lovers share every part of themselves.
- It is a love in which there are no barriers; the speaker and his paramour are completely open with each other.
- You know when you're holding someone's hand and you look down and can't tell whose fingers are whose? That's kind of what this is like.
- We’ll give you the Spanish so you can see how pretty it is too: "Tan cerca que tu mano sobre mi pecho es mía, / Tan cerca que se cierran tus ojos con mi sueño."
- Notice that each of the final two lines of the poem start with the words "So close" (Tan cerca). This is another instance of anaphora (when words are repeated at the beginning of lines.) Why do you think Neruda chose to do this? And why now, at the end of the poem?