Study Guide

A Song of Despair Memory and the Past

By Pablo Neruda

Memory and the Past

The memory of you emerges from the night around me. (1)

The whole poem begins with the figure of the memory rising up out of the darkness. Opening this way lets us know that memory will be an important theme throughout the poem.

You swallowed everything, like distance.
Like the sea, like time. In you everything sank! (9-10)

Time is compared to the sea in these lines, because it can swallow up every single thing, like love affairs or happy times.

It was the happy hour of assault and the kiss.
The hour of the spell that blazed like a lighthouse. (11-12)

These lines give us the exact coordinates of the memory that the speaker mentions in the first line: it was a time when he was wildly happy with his lover. Sadly, that didn't last.

In the childhood of mist my soul, winged and wounded. (15)

Hmm. What does mist look like as a child? We can only guess. Still, the image here reminds us that, really, it's the speaker's soul—and specifically the long-last past of that soul—that we're dealing with here.

Cemetery of kisses, there is still fire in your tombs, (33)

So you're saying there's a chance. At least, the speaker seems to think so, even after all this time has passed. The speaker still seems to cling to some fantasy of "fire" that continues to burn, despite what's happened in the past.