Neruda’s Sonnet XVII: I Do Not Love You…

I do not love you as if you were salt-rose or topaz,

or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.

I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,

in secret, between the shadow of the soul.


I love you is the plant that never blooms

but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;

thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,

risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.


I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.

I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;

so I love you because I know no other way.


than this: where I does not exist, nor you,

so close to your hand on my chest is my hand,

so close to your eyes close as I fall asleep.

This will be my last entry on Neruda, because this is my favorite poem.

It takes my breath away every time I read it. There is something so simple and elegant about Sonnet XVII; and ineffable quality to this love. It’s not a showy love, not like jewels or bright flowers. This is deeper than the surface things. This beloved is not flower but the force behind the flower blossoming. A secret not because the poet is ashamed, but because this is love cannot be expressed.

But as dark and mysterious this person is, the poet insists his feelings are straightforward, “without complexities of pride.” Just the oneness of two people in love.

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