Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Pablo Neruda - I Like For You To Be Still

Silence (M.A. Reilly, 2010)

Pablo Neruda - I Like For You To Be Still

I like for you to be still
It is as though you are absent
And you hear me from far away
And my voice does not touch you
It seems as though your eyes had flown away
And it seems that a kiss had sealed your mouth
As all things are filled with my soul
You emerge from the things
Filled with my soul
You are like my soul
A butterfly of dream
And you are like the word: Melancholy

I like for you to be still
And you seem far away
It sounds as though you are lamenting
A butterfly cooing like a dove
And you hear me from far away
And my voice does not reach you
Let me come to be still in your silence
And let me talk to you with your silence
That is bright as a lamp
Simple, as a ring
You are like the night
With its stillness and constellations
Your silence is that of a star
As remote and candid

I like for you to be still
It is as though you are absent
Distant and full of sorrow
So you would’ve died
One word then, One smile is enough
And I’m happy;
Happy that it’s not true


  1. Mary Ann,
    Beautiful blog you have here, perfect for such a beautiful poem. Especially with the teachings in your book, I think you'd appreciate exploring US Poet Laureate emeritus Robert Hass' translation of the for poem,
    for full Pablo Neruda site: http://www.redpoppy.net/pablo_neruda.php
    for the Essential Neruda book it's in on Amazon, though I urge you to buy it through Red Poppy or an indie book store if you do care to buy it: http://amzn.com/0872864286

    It's a little different from mostl because he kept it with the original rhyme scheme, not easy to do do when translating from one language to another. the literal translation into English of the first line of the opening and closing stanzas of “Poem 15”, “Me gustas cuando callas porque estás como ausente,” becomes “I like it when you become quiet because it’s as if you were absent”. But Bob, a Pulitzer Prize-winner besides, former US Poet Laureate Robert Hass ,chose not to use the traditional translation. Instead, he wrote, “I like it when you’re quiet. It’s as if you weren’t here now.” Hass justifies his decision by stating the following, declaring that it was because of “sound, which may or may not be a good reason. I was trying to imitate the meter--which ‘as if you weren't here now’ fit and which the more abrupt ‘as if you were absent’ didn't. ‘As if you weren't here now’ sounded more like ‘porque estás como ausente’, especially if the vowels are elided in ‘com'ausente.’”
    This breakthrough poem of the still-teenaged Neruda uses a traditional verse form, the alexandrine, which is a fourteen-syllable line standardized in serious Spanish narrative poetry since the later Middle Ages. In an alexandrine, the second and fourth lines of each stanza rhyme, and the genius of Hass’ translation is that he maintains this pattern in the English, like none other published version.
    The art of translation revolves around the challenge that both the meaning and the inherent poetry of the poem have to be translated, the tricky balance of remaining faithful to the literal interpretation of the words and what they infer, while still needing to recreate the poem’s inherent lyrical beauty.
    As a further side note, when he first sent me his translation for The Essential Neruda, which I was editing, Bob wrote, “I was reading 15 out loud to myself and it struck me that the alexandrines sounded exactly like an old Leonard Cohen lyric—‘Suzanne’--so I tried to render that rhythm.” (If you’re listening to the song and reading Neruda’s poem, you can hear it in the middle refrains of “And you want to travel with her,” and “And Jesus was a sailor,” as well as the closing, “And you want to travel with him. . .”).
    Hope you find this interesting,
    Paz, pan, flores y amor,

    1. Mark,

      Thank you so much for such an interesting and thorough response to the poem. I will check out red poppy. Would prefer it to amazon--esp with the issues arising from amazon for authors.

      When I get home later I'll make the donation and purchase the book via red Poppy site.
      Perfect father's day gift for my husband.

      Thanks so much

      Mary Ann