Study Guide

Love Sonnet 17 Quotes

  • Love

    I do not love you as though you were the salt-rose, topaz
    Or the carnation-arrow begot in flames (1-2)

    The speaker says he doesn’t love his paramour as if she were a flower or precious gem. Because he refers to flowers that are common symbols of love and affection – roses and carnations – it is also as if the speaker is describing an unconventional love. His poetry and his feelings are unique, to say the least.

    I love you as are loved certain dark things,
    In secret, between shadow and soul (3-4)

    "Dark things" makes the speaker’s love seem very illicit or inappropriate, a suggestion heightened with "in secret" and "shadow." The speaker suggests that powerful love feels dangerous. Do you agree?

    I love you as the plant that does not flourish, and carries
    Hidden within itself the light of its flowers (5-6)

    Love isn’t about external or outer beauty, here symbolized by the phrase "lights of its flowers." Real love is about internal beauty, about the beauty that is "hidden." The emphasis on hidden beauty echoes the speaker’s declaration that he carries his love "in secret."

    And, thanks to your love, there lives darkly in me
    The quickening aroma that rose from the soil (7-8)

    Neruda compares the feelings his lover inspires in him to an "aroma," a smell. It sounds weird at first, but once you start to imagine how a smell affects you, it makes more sense. A smell can be so powerful that you feel like it's inside of you. It travels through the air and into your body in a way that a sight cannot. This is what love is like, infectious to the core.

  • Identity

    I love you as are loved certain dark things
    In secret, between shadow and soul (3-4)

    The speaker says he loves his paramour "in secret." If we do something in secret, does it become a more fundamental part of our identity?

    I love you as the plant that does not flourish, and carries
    Hidden within itself the light of its flowers (5-6)

    This plant seems to symbolize the question of human identity (sounds weird, but trust us for a second). The plant doesn't show who it is on the outside but "carries/ Hidden within itself" its true beauty. What other people see in us isn't our identity; it's what we see in ourselves.

    I love you thus because I love no other way,
    Except this way, in which I am not and you are not (11-12)

    Neruda seems to imply that powerful love involves the loss of individuality for the lovers. The phrase "I am not and you are not" suggests that people in love lose themselves in one another, to the point that their individual identities fall by the wayside. These lines anticipate the poem’s concluding lines, which explore a similar theme.

    So close that your hand on my chest is mine,
    So close that your eyes close on my dreams (13-14)

    The closeness (both physical and emotional) described here points to the loss of self described in the preceding lines. The lovers are so close that they have become one, and they are no longer distinct individuals.

  • Man and the Natural World

    I do not love you as though you were the salt-rose, topaz
    Or the carnation-arrow begot in flames (1-2)

    The speaker says that he loves his paramour differently than he loves natural objects like flowers and minerals. She is, by implication, more beautiful than roses and carnations. She is almost like a work of art, better than anything nature can produce.

    I love you as the plant that does not flourish, and carries
    Hidden within itself the light of its flowers (5-6)

    These lines contrast with the speaker’s remarks in the first stanza. There, he says he doesn’t love his paramour as if she were a flower, but here he says he loves her "as the plant that does not flourish." Does this change in attitude suggest that the speaker is changing his ideas about love and nature as the poem progresses?

    And, thanks to your love, there lives darkly in me
    The quickening aroma that rose from the soil (7-8)

    The speaker compares his experience of love to something natural, to an "aroma" that emerges from the soil. This also contrasts with the first stanza of the poem, where the speaker says that it is impossible to understand his love in terms of one’s love for natural things like flowers. Can both be true?