Study Guide

Love Sonnet 17 Identity

By Pablo Neruda


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.