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Pablo Neruda: Stylistic Elements and Literary Devices

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1228 words Published: 28th Sep 2017

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Language A: English; Written assignment essay – Pablo Neruda’s poems

How has Pablo Neruda used stylistic elements and literary devices in his poems?

Deriving his name from a Czech Republican poet named Jan Neruda, the Chilean poet with a Spanish background, Neftali Ricardo Reyes’ life was always kaleidoscopic. His life was subjected to a multitude of colours like the Spanish Civil war, being a ‘Consul General’ in Mexico, communism and exile. From being a prolific poet to donning a prominent political persona, he mustered awards like the International Peace Prize (1950) and even the Nobel Prize in Literature (1971). Born in 1904, time set him up perfectly to be part of the surrealistic art movement of the early 20th century. As his poetic career went, he predominantly wrote poems that featured intimacy and endearment, evident history and open political agendas. Quite interestingly, it is said that he even symbolized the colour of ink that he used to write in. As it goes, he manoeuvred the mighty pen that put to use green coloured ink as he was of the opinion that the colour stood for hope and desire.

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From an analytical point of view, it may seem that a load of meaning may have been lost during the time of translation of all his, Pablo’s, poems because all were composed in his mother-tongue, Spanish. Although, there are many of them in which Neruda has encompassed numerous stylistic elements and literary devices which appended figurative language, sound techniques and structure, and this makes it logical even having gone through the Spanish-English translation.

When taken into account holistically, Pablo Neruda’s poems present him as the ever-present voice and using his talent of rigorous personification, he speaks as a seer in all of them. This is because he mostly speaks in first-person, that is, “I…”. Moving on, the structures of his works and the language he portrays them in are affected greatly by his vivid life. At age thirteen, despite his father’s dissent, Pablo was encouraged by Gabriela Mistral (also a Nobel Prize in Literature awardee) to publish his first work “Entusiasmo y perseverancia” (Enthusiasm and perseverance). He continued then on under a pseudonym. After having completed his college, and studying French, he wrote entire sets of poems, the most celebrated of which is ‘Veinte Poemas de Amor y una Canción Desesperada’ (Twenty love poems and a song of despair). To continue describing his life anymore would be a futile exercise as I will deviate from my primary topic.

From my understanding, I think a part of Pablo Neruda’s unexcelled success as a romantic poet could be attributed to his utilitarian stylistic elements and literary devices. The very first of which is imagery. His use of imagery has associated significant facets of nature to his personal poetic experience and this gives the reader something interesting. More than experiences, it is his emotions that talk volumes. The fact that he found and embraced his creativity in many of his poems, progressing in time, is one that engages a reader even further. Another explanation could be that his fixated inclusion of personification along with imagery, in parts of ‘Veinte Poemas de Amor y una Canción Desesperada’ presented the majesty of the human figure and the splendor that is possessed by the female human body. These can be found in the lines, “Body of a woman, white hills, white thighs, you look like a world, lying in surrender…”. If we throw light on another poem, “If You Forget Me” is an example where Pablo utilized an impressive diction to help the reader comprehend the words he structured in his unique format. His unique format basically is a format-free structure and therefore, is a free verse. Despite the inconsistent pattern of the poem, elements of rhyme can affirmatively be found. This is evident in the lines, “But if each day, each hour, you feel that you are destined for me with implacable sweetness, if each day a flower”.

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When we move on to Pablo’s acclimation to being a more sensual poet, he has strategically placed numerous metaphors in his twenty poems from the aforementioned set. A random example of a metaphor could be, “es tan corto el amor” from the twentieth poem in ‘Veinte Poemas de Amor’. It is Spanish for “love is so short” and the essence of this, at its core, is the “love is time” allegory. As we go ahead, a reader would notice that in the course of his twenty love poems, Neruda has effectively realized the need of repetition via the reiteration of common metaphors. Maybe because all his twenty poems (and the others) hold interconnected themes of love, nature, etc. Repetition is also an influential literary device when reading “Tonight I Can Write The Saddest Lines”. Neftali devoted his life to writing about love and intimacy, additionally, he married thrice. This suggests that the man stayed in love for most of his time, though the topic that his love-conquests met closure or not is totally something apart. He repeats the titular lines thrice (up until the 11th line only) and this, one can assume, expresses his sense of loneliness and solitude and the fact that perchance he will never ever have back that one woman (many women, actually) he loved and cared for with all his heart. These emotions are apparent in the lines, “Tonight I can write the saddest lines. To think that I do not have her. To feel that I have lost her. To hear the immense night, still more immense without her. And the verse falls to the soul like dew to the pasture”.

Picking up from where I wrote of ‘If You Forget Me’, symbolism and personification play a humungous role abiding by which Pablo benevolently grants many vivid things basic human characteristics. This encompasses the aspect of personification quite illustratively when he talks of “aromas, light and metals” as the things that carried (reminded him of) him to his love. Along with this, Neruda so diligently symbolized him being intimate with the love of his life even when he inhaled his last, that it efficiently coloured the mood and atmosphere of the poem, permitting the reader to ponder upon the same.

Coming back to square one, I strongly feel that all his decisions (Pablo’s) as a poet, when employing each and every literary device and stylistic element that he has, have stalwartly built him a reputation that has been, is and will be successful enough in keeping readers beseeching the magic that his motifs and themes have created and presented the curious reader with. In general terms, Pablo does not usually have a plot or even a consistent structure for that matter. Nevertheless, this does not necessarily mean that a conventional reader would be subject to ennui. Pablo has made sure that the polychromatic and vibrant mix of stylistic elements and literary devices such as personification, symbolism, imagery, repetition, etc., that he incorporates every time keeps the reader zealous. I think Neftali is unique in his way of painting emotions, love and loss especially, and this is something that he should always be commended for.


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