Study Guide

Love Sonnet 17 Love

By Pablo Neruda


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.