World Poetry Day, 21 March
40 best poems from nobel org posted here for all my poetry lovers and readers
Source: http://www.nobelprize.org/Diversity in dialogue, free flow of ideas by word, creativity and innovation. UNESCO's World Poetry Day is an invitation to reflect on the power of language and the full development of each person's creative abilities.
"I play Haydn after a black day
and feel a simple warmth in my hands ..."
Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer, 2011 Nobel Laureate in Literature, thought for a long time that music should be his profession. But the poetry took over.
Five poems by Wislawa Szymborska
Selected by Åke Erlandsson, chief librarian, Nobel Library of the Swedish Academy, and Michal Bron.
The Joy of Writing
Why does this written doe bound through these written woods?
For a drink of written water from a spring
whose surface will xerox her soft muzzle?
Why does she lift her head; does she hear something?
Perched on four slim legs borrowed from the truth,
she pricks up her ears beneath my fingertips.
Silence - this word also rustles across the page
and parts the boughs
that have sprouted from the word "woods."
Lying in wait, set to pounce on the blank page,
are letters up to no good,
clutches of clauses so subordinate
they'll never let her get away.
Each drop of ink contains a fair supply
of hunters, equipped with squinting eyes behind their sights,
prepared to swarm the sloping pen at any moment,
surround the doe, and slowly aim their guns.
They forget that what's here isn't life.
Other laws, black on white, obtain.
The twinkling of an eye will take as long as I say,
and will, if I wish, divide into tiny eternities,
full of bullets stopped in mid-flight.
Not a thing will ever happen unless I say so.
Without my blessing, not a leaf will fall,
not a blade of grass will bend beneath that little hoof's full stop.
Is there then a world
where I rule absolutely on fate?
A time I bind with chains of signs?
An existence become endless at my bidding?
The joy of writing.
The power of preserving.
Revenge of a mortal hand.
I prefer movies.
I prefer cats.
I prefer the oaks along the Warta.
I prefer Dickens to Dostoyevsky.
I prefer myself liking people
to myself loving mankind.
I prefer keeping a needle and thread on hand, just in case.
I prefer the color green.
I prefer not to maintain
that reason is to blame for everything.
I prefer exceptions.
I prefer to leave early.
I prefer talking to doctors about something else.
I prefer the old fine-lined illustrations.
I prefer the absurdity of writing poems
to the absurdity of not writing poems.
I prefer, where love's concerned, nonspecific anniversaries
that can be celebrated every day.
I prefer moralists
who promise me nothing.
I prefer cunning kindness to the over-trustful kind.
I prefer the earth in civvies.
I prefer conquered to conquering countries.
I prefer having some reservations.
I prefer the hell of chaos to the hell of order.
I prefer Grimms' fairy tales to the newspapers' front pages.
I prefer leaves without flowers to flowers without leaves.
I prefer dogs with uncropped tails.
I prefer light eyes, since mine are dark.
I prefer desk drawers.
I prefer many things that I haven't mentioned here
to many things I've also left unsaid.
I prefer zeroes on the loose
to those lined up behind a cipher.
I prefer the time of insects to the time of stars.
I prefer to knock on wood.
I prefer not to ask how much longer and when.
I prefer keeping in mind even the possibility
that existence has its own reason for being.
The Three Oddest Words
When I pronounce the word Future,
the first syllable already belongs to the past.
When I pronounce the word Silence,
I destroy it.
When I pronounce the word Nothing,
I make something no non-being can hold.
On Death, without Exaggeration
It can't take a joke,
find a star, make a bridge.
It knows nothing about weaving, mining, farming,
building ships, or baking cakes.
In our planning for tomorrow,
it has the final word,
which is always beside the point.
It can't even get the things done
that are part of its trade:
dig a grave,
make a coffin,
clean up after itself.
Preoccupied with killing,
it does the job awkwardly,
without system or skill.
As though each of us were its first kill.
Oh, it has its triumphs,
but look at its countless defeats,
and repeat attempts!
Sometimes it isn't strong enough
to swat a fly from the air.
Many are the caterpillars
that have outcrawled it.
All those bulbs, pods,
tentacles, fins, tracheae,
nuptial plumage, and winter fur
show that it has fallen behind
with its halfhearted work.
Ill will won't help
and even our lending a hand with wars and coups d'etat
is so far not enough.
Hearts beat inside eggs.
Babies' skeletons grow.
Seeds, hard at work, sprout their first tiny pair of leaves
and sometimes even tall trees fall away.
Whoever claims that it's omnipotent
is himself living proof
that it's not.
There's no life
that couldn't be immortal
if only for a moment.
always arrives by that very moment too late.
In vain it tugs at the knob
of the invisible door.
As far as you've come
can't be undone.
Island where all becomes clear.
Solid ground beneath your feet.
The only roads are those that offer access.
Bushes bend beneath the weight of proofs.
The Tree of Valid Supposition grows here
with branches disentangled since time immemorial.
The Tree of Understanding, dazzlingly straight and simple,
sprouts by the spring called Now I Get It.
The thicker the woods, the vaster the vista:
the Valley of Obviously.
If any doubts arise, the wind dispels them instantly.
Echoes stir unsummoned
and eagerly explain all the secrets of the worlds.
On the right a cave where Meaning lies.
On the left the Lake of Deep Conviction.
Truth breaks from the bottom and bobs to the surface.
Unshakable Confidence towers over the valley.
Its peak offers an excellent view of the Essence of Things.
For all its charms, the island is uninhabited,
and the faint footprints scattered on its beaches
turn without exception to the sea.
As if all you can do here is leave
and plunge, never to return, into the depths.
Into unfathomable life.
By Wislawa Szymborska
From "A large number", 1976
Translated by S. Baranczak & C. Cavanagh
Copyright © Wislawa Szymborska, S. Baranczak & C. Cavanagh
The Nobel Prize in Literature 1995
Three poems by Seamus HeaneySelected by Åke Erlandsson, chief librarian, Nobel Library of the Swedish Academy
The annals say: when the monks of Clonmacnoise
Were all at prayers inside the oratory
A ship appeared above them in the air.
The anchor dragged along behind so deep
It hooked itself into the altar rails
And then, as the big hull rocked to a standstill,
A crewman shinned and grappled down the rope
And struggled to release it. But in vain.
'This man can't bear our life here and will drown,'
The abbot said, 'unless we help him.' So
They did, the freed ship sailed, and the man climbed back
Out of the marvellous as he had known it.
The Haw Lantern
The wintry haw is burning out of season,
crab of the thorn, a small light for small people,
wanting no more from them but that they keep
the wick of self-respect from dying out,
not having to blind them with illumination.
But sometimes when your breath plumes in the frost
it takes the roaming shape of Diogenes
with his lantern, seeking one just man;
so you end up scrutinized from behind the haw
he holds up at eye-level on its twig,
and you flinch before its bonded pith and stone,
its blood-prick that you wish would test and clear you,
its pecked-at ripeness that scans you, then moves on.
Mossbawn: Two Poems in Dedication
For Mary Heaney
There was a sunlit absence.
The helmeted pump in the yard
heated its iron,
in the slung bucket
and the sun stood
like a griddle cooling
against the wall
of each long afternoon.
So, her hands scuffled
over the bakeboard,
the reddening stove
sent its plaque of heat
against her where she stood
in a floury apron
by the window.
Now she dusts the board
with a goose's wing,
now sits, broad-lapped,
with whitened nails
and measling shins:
here is a space
again, the scone rising
to the tick of two clocks.
And here is love
like a tinsmith's scoop
sunk past its gleam
in the meal-bin.
By Seamus Heaney
From "North", 1975
Copyright © Seamus Heaney
The Nobel Prize in Literature 1992 Derek Walcott.
That sail which leans on light,
tired of islands,
a schooner beating up the Caribbean
for home, could be Odysseus,
home-bound on the Aegean;
that father and husband's
longing, under gnarled sour grapes, is like
the adulterer hearing Nausicaa's name in
every gull's outcry.
This brings nobody peace. The ancient war
between obsession and responsibility will
never finish and has been the same
for the sea-wanderer or the one on shore now
wriggling on his sandals to walk home, since
Troy sighed its last flame,
and the blind giant's boulder heaved the trough from
whose groundswell the great hexameters come to the
conclusions of exhausted surf.
The classics can console. But not enough.
This is Fame: Sundays,
as in Balthus,
a wall, a brown tower
at the end of a street,
a blue without bells,
like a dead canvas
set in its white
frame, and flowers:
gladioli, stone petals
in a vase. The choir's
turned off. A book
of prints that turns
by itself. The ticktock
of high heels on a sidewalk.
A crawling clock.
A craving for work.
"Fame" from THE ARKANSAS TESTAMENT by Derek Walcott.
Copyright © 1987 by Derek Walcott.
Used by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC.
All rights reserved.
CAUTION: Users are warned that this work is protected under copyright laws and downloading is strictly prohibited. The right to reproduce or transfer the work via any medium must be secured with Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC.
Poem selected by Lars Rydquist, head librarian,
Nobel Library of the Swedish Academy.
The Nobel Prize in Literature 1990
If you are the amber mare
I am the road of blood
If you are the first snow
I am he who lights the hearth of dawn
If you are the tower of night
I am the spike burning in your mind
If you are the morning tide
I am the first bird's cry
If you are the basket of oranges
I am the knife of the sun
If you are the stone altar
I am the sacrilegious hand
If you are the sleeping land
I am the green cane
If you are the wind's leap
I am the buried fire
If you are the water's mouth
I am the mouth of moss
If you are the forest of the clouds
I am the axe that parts it
If you are the profaned city
I am the rain of consecration
If you are the yellow mountain
I am the red arms of lichen
If you are the rising sun
I am the road of blood
"Motion/Movimiento" By Octavio Paz, Translated by Eliot Weinberger, from COLLECTED POEMS 1957-1987, copyright ©1986 by Octavio Paz and Eliot Weinberger.
Reprinted with the permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation, agents.
Poem selected by Lars Rydquist, head librarian, Nobel Library of the Swedish Academy.
The Nobel Prize in Literature 1987
I was but what you'd brush
with your palm, what your leaning
brow would hunch to in evening's
I was but what your gaze
in that dark could distinguish:
a dim shape to begin with,
later – features, a face.
It was you, on my right,
on my left, with your heated
sighs, who molded my helix,
whispering at my side.
It was you by that black
window's trembling tulle pattern
who laid in my raw cavern
a voice calling you back.
I was practically blind.
You, appearing, then hiding,
gave me my sight and heightened
it. Thus some leave behind
a trace. Thus they make worlds.
Thus, having done so, at random
wastefully they abandon
their work to its whirls.
Thus, prey to speeds
of light, heat, cold, or darkness,
a sphere in space without markers
spins and spins.
"Seven Strophes" from COLLECTED POEMS IN ENGLISH
by Joseph Brodsky.
Copyright © 2000 by the Estate of Joseph Brodsky.
Used by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC.
All rights reserved.
CAUTION: Users are warned that this work is
protected under copyright laws and downloading is strictly prohibited. The right to reproduce or transfer the work via any medium must be secured with Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC.
Poem selected by Lars Rydquist, head librarian, Nobel Library of the Swedish Academy.
The Nobel Prize in Literature 1984
when she would talk about herself
my mother would say:
My life was sad and quiet,
I always walked on tip-toe.
But if I got a little angry
and stamped my foot
the cups, which had been my mother's,
would tinkle on the dresser
and make me laugh.
At the moment of my birth, so I am told,
a butterfly flew in by the window
and settled on my mother's bed,
but that same moment a dog howled in the yard.
My mother thought
it a bad omen.
My life of course has not been quite
as peaceful as hers.
But even when I gaze upon our present days
as if at empty picture frames
and all I see is a dusty wall,
still it has been so beautiful.
There are many moments
I cannot forget,
moments like radiant flowers
in all possible colours and hues,
evenings filled with fragrance
like purple grapes
hidden in the leaves of darkness.
With passion I read poetry
and loved music
and blundered, ever surprised,
from beauty to beauty.
But when I first saw
the picture of a woman nude
I began to believe in miracles.
My life unrolled swiftly.
It was too short
for my vast longings,
which had no bounds.
Before I knew it
my life's end was drawing near.
Death soon will kick open my door
With startled terror I'll catch my breath
and forget to breathe again.
May I not be denied the time
once more to kiss the hands
of the one who patiently and in step with me
walked on and on and on
and who loved most of all.
2. An Umbrella from Piccadilly
If you're at your wits' end concerning love
try falling in love again —
say, with the Queen of England.
Her features are on every postage stamp
of that ancient kingdom.
But if you were to ask her
for a date in Hyde Park
you can bet that
you'd wait in vain.
If you've any sense at all
you'll wisely tell yourself:
Why of course, I know:
it's raining in Hyde Park today.
When he was in England
my son bought me in London's Piccadilly
an elegant umbrella.
I now have above my head
my own small sky
which may be black
but in its tensioned wire spokes
God's mercy may be flowing like
an electric current.
I open my umbrella even when it's not raining,
as a canopy
over the volume of Shakespeare's sonnets
I carry with me in my pocket.
But there are moments when I am frightened
even by the sparkling bouquet of the universe.
Outstripping its beauty
it threatens us with its infinity
and that is all too similar
to the sleep of death.
It also threatens us with the void and frostiness
of its thousands of stars
which at night delude us
with their gleam.
The one we have named Venus
is downright terrifying.
Its rocks are still on the boil
and like gigantic waves
mountains are rising up
and burning sulphur falls.
We always ask where hell is.
It is there!
But what use is a fragile umbrella
against the universe?
Besides, I don't even carry it.
I have enough of a job
to walk along
clinging close to the ground
as a nocturnal moth in daytime
to the coarse bark of a tree.
All my life I have sought the paradise
that used to be here,
whose traces I have found
only on women's lips
and in the curves of their skin
when it is warm with love.
All my life I have longed
At last I've discovered the door
that leads to it.
It is death.
Now that I'm old
some charming woman's face
will sometimes waft between my lashes
and her smile will stir my blood.
Shyly I turn my head
and remember the Queen of England,
whose features are on every postage stamp
of that ancient kingdom.
God save the Queen!
Oh yes, I know quite well:
it's raining in Hyde Park today.
3. Fragment of a Letter
All night rain lashed the windows.
I couldn't go to sleep.
So I switched on the light
and wrote a letter.
If love could fly,
as of course it can't,
and didn't so often stay close to the ground,
it would be delightful to be enveloped
in its breeze.
But like infuriated bees
jealous kisses swarm down upon
the sweetness of the female body
and an impatient hand grasps
whatever it can reach,
and desire does not flag.
Even death might be without terror
at the moment of exultation.
But who has ever calculated
how much love goes
into one pair of open arms!
Letters to women
I always sent by pigeon post.
My conscience is clear.
I never entrusted them to sparrowhawks
Under my pen the verses dance no longer
and like a tear in the corner of an eye
the word hangs back.
And all my life, at its end,
is now only a fast journey on a train:
I'm standing by the window of the carriage
and day after day
speeds back into yesterday
to join the black mists of sorrow.
At times I helplessly catch hold
of the emergency brake.
Perhaps I shall once more catch sight
of a woman's smile,
trapped like a torn-off flower
on the lashes of her eyes.
Perhaps I may still be allowed
to send those eyes at least one kiss
before they're lost to me in the dark.
Perhaps once more I shall even see
a slender ankle
chiselled like a gem
out of warm tenderness,
so that I might once more
half choke with longing.
How much is there that man must leave behind
as the train inexorably approaches
with its plantations of shimmering asphodels
amidst whose perfume everything is forgotten.
Including human love.
That is the final stop:
the train goes no further.
4. To Be a Poet
Life taught me long ago
that music and poetry
are the most beautiful things on earth
that life can give us.
Except for love, of course.
In an old textbook
published by the Imperial Printing House
in the year of Vrchlický's death
I looked up the section on poetics
and poetic ornament.
Then I placed a rose in a tumbler,
lit a candle
and started to write my first verses.
Flare up, flame of words,
even if my fingers get burned!
A startling metaphor is worth more
than a ring on one's finger.
But not even Puchmajer's Rhyming Dictionary
was any use to me.
In vain I snatched for ideas
and fiercely closed my eyes
in order to hear that first magic line.
But in the dark, instead of words,
I saw a woman's smile and
That has been my destiny.
And I've been staggering towards it breathlessly
all my life.
"To Be a Poet" from The Poetry of Jaroslav Seifert
Translated from the Czech by Ewald Osers
Edited by George Gibian
Copyright © 1998 by Ewald Osers and George Gibian
Used by permission of Catbird Press
All rights reserved
Poem selected by Carola Hermelin, assistant head librarian,
Nobel Library of the Swedish Academy.
The Nobel Prize in Literature 1980
1. So Little
I said so little.
Days were short.
I said so little.
I couldn't keep up.
My heart grew weary
The jaws of Leviathan
Were closing upon me.
Naked, I lay on the shores
Of desert islands.
The white whale of the world
Hauled me down to its pit.
And now I don't know
What in all that was real.
I looked at that face, dumbfounded. The lights of métro stations flew by; I didn't notice them. What can be done, if our sight lacks absolute power to devour objects ecstatically, in an instant, leaving nothing more than the void of an ideal form, a sign like a hieroglyph simplified from the drawing of an animal or bird? A slightly snub nose, a high brow with sleekly brushed-back hair, the line of the chin - but why isn't the power of sight absolute? - and in a whiteness tinged with pink two sculpted holes, containing a dark, lustrous lava. To absorb that face but to have it simultaneously against the background of all spring boughs, walls, waves, in its weeping, its laughter, moving it back fifteen years, or ahead thirty. To have. It is not even a desire. Like a butterfly, a fish, the stem of a plant, only more mysterious. And so it befell me that after so many attempts at naming the world, I am able only to repeat, harping on one string, the highest, the unique avowal beyond which no power can attain: I am, she is. Shout, blow the trumpets, make thousands-strong marches, leap, rend your clothing, repeating only: is!
She got out at Raspail. I was left behind with the immensity of existing things. A sponge, suffering because it cannot saturate itself; a river, suffering because reflections of clouds and trees are not clouds and trees.
We were riding through frozen fields in a wagon at dawn.
A red wing rose in the darkness.
And suddenly a hare ran across the road.
One of us pointed to it with his hand.
That was long ago. Today neither of them is alive,
Not the hare, nor the man who made the gesture.
O my love, where are they, where are they going
The flash of a hand, streak of movement, rustle of pebbles.
I ask not out of sorrow, but in wonder.
4. A Poor Christian Looks at the Ghetto
Bees build around red liver,
Ants build around black bone.
It has begun: the tearing, the trampling on silks,
It has begun: the breaking of glass, wood, copper, nickel, silver, foam
Of gypsum, iron sheets, violin strings, trumpets, leaves, balls, crystals.
Poof! Phosphorescent fire from yellow walls
Engulfs animal and human hair.
Bees build around the honeycomb of lungs,
Ants build around white bone.
Torn is paper, rubber, linen, leather, flax,
Fiber, fabrics, cellulose, snakeskin, wire.
The roof and the wall collapse in flame and heat seizes the foundations.
Now there is only the earth, sandy, trodden down,
With one leafless tree.
Slowly, boring a tunnel, a guardian mole makes his way,
With a small red lamp fastened to his forehead.
He touches buried bodies, counts them, pushes on,
He distinguishes human ashes by their luminous vapor,
The ashes of each man by a different part of the spectrum.
Bees build around a red trace.
Ants build around the place left by my body.
I am afraid, so afraid of the guardian mole.
He has swollen eyelids, like a Patriarch
Who has sat much in the light of candles
Reading the great book of the species.
What will I tell him, I, a Jew of the New Testament,
Waiting two thousand years for the second coming of Jesus?
My broken body will deliver me to his sight
And he will count me among the helpers of death:
The Nobel Prize in Literature 1979
Excerpt from The Axion Esti
From The Gloria
/- - -/
PRAISED BE Myrto standing
on the stone parapet facing the sea
like a beautiful eight or a clay pitcher
holding a straw hat in her hand
The white and porous middle of day
the down of sleep lightly ascending
the faded gold inside the arcades
and the red horse breaking free
Hera of the tree's ancient trunk
the vast laurel grove, the light-devouring
a house like an anchor down in the depths
and Kyra-Penelope twisting her spindle
The straits for birds from the opposite shore
a citron from which the sky spilled out
the blue hearing half under the sea
the long-shadowed whispering of nymphs and maples
PRAISED BE, on the remembrance day
of the holy martyrs Cyricus and Julitta,
a miracle burning threshing floors in the heavens
priests and birds chanting the Aye:
HAIL Girl Burning and hail Girl Verdant
Hail Girl Unrepenting, with the prow's sword
Hail you who walk and the footprints vanish
Hail you who wake and the miracles are born
Hail O Wild One of the depths' paradise
Hail O Holy One of the islands' wilderness
Hail Mother of Dreams, Girl of the Open Seas
Hail O Anchor-bearer, Girl of the Five Stars
Hail you of the flowing hair, gilding the wind
Hail you of the lovely voice, tamer of demons
Hail you who ordain the Monthly Ritual of the Gardens
Hail you who fasten the Serpent's belt of stars
Hail O Girl of the just and modest sword
Hail O Girl prophetic and daedalic
Excerpt from The Axion Esti, by Odysseus Elytis, translated by Edmund Keeley and George Savidis, © 1974.
Reprinted by permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press.
Excerpt selected by Carola Hermelin, assistant head librarian, Nobel Library of the Swedish Academy.
The Nobel Prize in Literature 1974
Ten Poems by Harry Martinson
Translated by Stephen Klass, selected by Ulf Larsson, The Nobel Museum. Published with the permission of Eva Martinson.
1.Have you seen a tramp collier ...
Have you seen a tramp collier come out of a hurricane—
with broken booms, gunwales shot to pieces,
crumpled, gasping, come to grief—
and her captain gone all hoarse?
Snorting, she puts in at the sunlit wharf,
exhausted, licking her wounds
while the steam thins in her boilers.
2. From Listener
I was small in the listening days.
/- - -/
At late harvests toothless mouths told
of leprous marsh-spot in the seed and
the bitter bloom of ergot on the rye.
I grew cold at my childhood hearth
With fright in their eyes
the soldiers of salvation beheld
from the helmeted observatory tower: the heavenly harps;
the swaying, titanic nebulae
and their chaotic strings of gaseous gold.
Far off in the boundless crystal of places beyond time
where thought in fright
can plunge everlastingly through millennia
stirred the gaslike golden bowers of the harps
effervescing in Sagittarius.
4. Visit to the observatory
We viewed a nebula inside a tube.
To us a golden herd of mist it seemed.
In larger tubes it might have gleamed
as suns in thousands in their boundless space.
Our dizziness of mind imagined
that it rose, high up from war on earth,
from time and space—our life's naivety—
to new dimensions in their majesty.
There no law rules of this life's type.
There laws rule for the world where worlds abound.
There the suns roll out till they are ripe
and deep in the hearth of every sun resound.
Suns in plenitude are present there.
And there, to cosmic law, each sun pulsates
in larger suns' unfathomable blaze.
And there all is brightness and the daylight of all days.
From Li Kan speaks beneath the tree
Waves from all upheavals turn swiftly old
and paths from all upheavals soon become highroads.
What is left is a longing for something not
the wheel of appetites or revenges.
Man is best when he wishes good he cannot do
and stops breeding evil he finds easier to do.
He will still have a direction. It will have no end in view.
It is free from unsparing endeavor.
6. Li Ti's Advice
If you own two coppers, said Li-Ti on a journey,
buy one loaf of bread and one blossom.
The bread is there to fill you
The blossom you buy is to tell you
that life is worth the living.
With their round dance the electrons spin
chrysalises of that which abides,
the inmost cocoons
which do not open of their own accord
but are of that which abides.
There it is not a matter of hatching out.
There it is a matter of tending and protecting
the metamorphoses of the inmost
the innermost playing of women in dance.
The inner light
In the inmost of the smallest of all spaces
runs a mute and constant play of color, inaccessible to eyes.
It is the light shut in that once in the moment of creation
was born inward and abode there, going on,
once it had broken up into the smallest of spectra
in keeping with prismatic law
at frequencies that by the sighted would be called colors
if they encountered eyes able to see.
It moved in periods
unimaginably small for time and space
but still with time and space enough for the least of the small.
In fact it found it had ample room and time.
It moved in cycles of nanoseconds and microspaces
from white light and the colors of the spectrum and back to white light.
A kind of breathing for light.
The photons breathed and pulsated with one another,
alternating signs and levels.
So the light kept going in spectral balance
from dense light to split
and back to dense light and split,
in spectral cycles infinitely repeated.
It was like a play of fans,
in keeping with the same law that holds for rainbows,
but with spread and folded fans
alternating with one another
in keeping with the law of light inscribed in them.
It was the light when it dances enclosed
when it is not traveling abroad and seen.
It belongs to the nature of light
that it can be shut in
and still not die out in its movement
that it preserves itself thus in the darkness
as thought, intent and aptitude,
that it remembers its changes
and performs its dance, its interplay.
With this art the light keeps together
the innumerable swarms of matter
and sings with light's spectral wings
the endless song in honor of the fullness of the world.
The great trouble
Nature's laws are already on the way
to stand us all against the wall.
That wall is law's own nature.
It is missing an evangel.
That great trouble all of us must share.
Then it will be possible to bear.
The great trouble is to take great trouble.
That is what all of us must learn.
Amid all shoulds and should have beens
there is one must for all.
All must learn to take great trouble with the world.
Now that man has gotten power enough
to bring about the trouble of the world
the time is now
to heal the trouble of the world in time
before all nature has become
everybody's troubled child.
This is called taking trouble in time.
which sees in time to what it sees.
Along the paths of echo
Along the paths of echo backwards.
There the words lie in the chest of their old meanings.
But, sad, so foreign. What is it they are saying, those lips.
They speak of different connections and conditions.
As you listen to them speaking
they form a thing that is also changed by them
spell in a language even farther removed
in still another of the chests
inside the mount of the seven chests
thousands and thousands of years before Babylon.
The Nobel Prize in Literature 1971
Acid and sword blade: the fragrance
of plum in the pathways:
tooth's sweetmeat of kisses,
power and spilth on the fingers,
the yielding erotic of pulps,
hayricks and threshing floors, clandestine
recesses that tempt through the vastness of houses;
bolsters asleep in the past, the bitter green valley,
seen from above, from the glasses' concealment;
and drenching and flaring by turns, adolescence
like a lamp overturned in the rain.
2. I Want to Go South Again: 1941
Ailing in Vera Cruz, I remember
southern weather, weather
of the fleet fish in the heavens of water,
silvered, in my own country.
Loncoche, Lonquimay, Carahue, large on the summits,
circled by roots and serenities,
chaired upon platforms of rawhide and timber.
South is a stallion, submerging,
in the gradual trees and the dew, garlanded:
green muzzle poised, dropping water,
rump in the great archipelagoes, shadowed
and shimmering, ceremonial coal in his bowels.
Shade: will you never—finger and limb: will you never—
rivalries, portals and footfalls: are you never
to startle the jungles, the pathways and corn tassels,
mist, and cerulean cold that appoints you
the range of your wayfaring, endlessly vanishing?
Sky: conjure the day when I move in an orbit of stars,
trampling the lights and the powders, consuming my blood
till I nest in the eyrie of rain.
Permit that I pass
from the Toltén's aroma of timber, from the tooth of the sawyer,
drenched to the footsoles, to enter the little cantinas.
Conduct me to light in the hazelnut's voltage,
measure my length in the offal of cattle
to die and be born again, biting the germens.
Bring out of Ocean
a day of the South, grapple a day from your waves,
day of the watery tree: and summon the polar blue wind
to melt in the cold of my colors!
3. The Poet
That time when I moved among happenings
in the midst of my mournful devotions; that time
when I cherished a leaflet of quartz,
at gaze in a lifetime's vocation.
I ranged in the markets of avarice
where goodness is bought for a price, breathed
the insensate miasmas of envy, the inhuman
contention of masks and existences.
I endured in the bog-dweller's element; the lily
that breaks on the water in a sudden
disturbance of bubbles and blossoms, devoured me.
Whatever the foot sought, the spirit deflected,
or sheered toward the fang of the pit.
So my poems took being, in travail
retrieved from the thorn, like a penance,
wrenched by a seizure of hands, out of solitude;
or they parted for burial
their secretest flower in immodesty's garden.
Estranged to myself, like shadow on water,
that moves through a corridor's fathoms,
I sped through the exile of each man's existence,
this way and that, and so, to habitual loathing;
for I saw that their being was this: to stifle
one half of existence's fullness like fish
in an alien limit of ocean. And there,
in immensity's mire, I encountered their death;
Death grazing the barriers,
Death opening roadways and doorways.
4. Stationary Point
I would know nothing, dream nothing:
who will teach my non-being
how to be, without striving to be?
How can the water endure it?
What sky have the stones dreamed?
Immobile, until those migrations
delay at their apogee
and fly on their arrows
toward the cold archipelago.
Unmoved in its secretive life,
like an underground city,
so the days may glide down
like ungraspable dew:
nothing fails, or shall perish,
until we be born again,
until all that lay plundered
be restored with the tread
of the springtime we buried—
the unceasingly stilled, as it lifts
itself out of non-being, even now,
to be flowering bough.
"Stationary Point" from Voyages and Homecomings, 1959
Published in Selected Poems of Pablo Neruda
Edited and translated by Ben Belitt
Copyright © Fundación Pablo Neruda, 2009
Poems selected by Lars Rydquist, head librarian, Nobel Library of the Swedish Academy