In the emptiness, il n’y a que ton regard – versiones de un soneto de Neruda

Sent an English translation of Pablo Neruda’s soneto de amor XC (1960), I felt it might be otherwise rendered in English. Thus the version right below, qui a donné lieu à son tour à une version en français, plus loin en bas.

El poeta mexicano Alejandra Canela me ayudó a pensar en el texto de Neruda. Pasamos la mayor parte del tiempo en estas dos frases sensibles: “de cuanto viví sólo a ti te dejaba” y “ólo tu claridad para no seguir siendo”. Vea el texto original en español aún más abajo.

Neruda sonnet XC; English Version, prepared by William Eaton

Woman (Maria) outlined in red and white, by William Eaton, May 2020I imagined dying, the cold coming close.
And you all I’d let into my life.
Your mouth my earth both day and night.
Your skin the province of my kisses.

At that moment no more writing was to be done.
Friendship, treasures relentlessly stockpiled,
The transparent house that we designed –
Except your eyes all had ceased to exist.

As long as life is pursuing us, love
Is a high wave atop the other waves,
But when death at the door is knocking

In the emptiness there is only your gaze,
Only your clarity and non-existing.
Your love alone, against the shadows.


Neruda sonnet XC ; version française, préparée par William Eaton

J’ai imaginé la mort,
Ai senti le froid s’approchait.
Tu étais tout ce que j’avais
Dans ma vie laissé entrer.
Ta bouche, ma terre elle était,
Jour et nuit subsistait ta peau,
La république de mes baisers.

Et il n’y avait rien de plus
À écrire. Et tous les trésors
Impitoyablement accumulés,
L’amitié, notre château
Transparent – excepté tes yeux
Tous avaient cessé d’exister.

Alors que la vie nous poursuit,
L’amour n’est qu’une grande vague
Juste au sommet des autres vagues ;
Mais quand à la porte la mort frappe

Dans le vide, il n’y a que
Ton regard, il n’y a que
Ta clarté et inexistence.
Ton amour seul, à côté des ombres.


Texto original, Pablo Neruda, soneto de amor XC

Pensé morir, sentí de cerca el frío,
y de cuanto viví sólo a ti te dejaba:
tu boca eran mi día y mi noche terrestres
y tu piel la república fundada por mis besos.

En ese instante se terminaron los libros,
la amistad, los tesoros sin tregua acumulados,
la casa transparente que tú y yo construimos:
todo dejó de ser, menos tus ojos.

Porque el amor, mientras la vida nos acosa,
es simplemente una ola alta sobre las olas,
pero ay cuando la muerte viene a tocar a la puerta

hay sólo tu mirada para tanto vacío,
sólo tu claridad para no seguir siendo,
sólo tu amor para cerrar la sombra.
— Translations (or adaptations) and painting by William Eaton (with thanks to Maria sur son Île de l’Homme !)
∩ All of Neruda’s Cien sonetos de amor are currently available online.

This is certainly a season for poems about death. In The Oxford Book of Twentieth Century English Verse I came across another excellent one, copied below. It was written by James Elroy Flecker (photo at right), an English novelist, playwright and poet, who died, in 1915, at age 30 of tuberculosis.

In Hospital

James_Elroy_Flecker_at_CambridgeWould I might lie like this, without the pain,

For seven years — as one with snowy hair,

Who in the high tower dreams his dying reign —

Lie here and watch the walls — how grey and bare,

The metal bed-post, the uncoloured screen,

The mat, the jug, the cupboard, and the chair;

And served by an old woman, calm and clean,

Her misted face familiar, yet unknown,

Who comes in silence, and departs unseen,

And with no other visit, lie alone,

Nor stir, except I had my food to find

In that dull bowl Diogenes might own.

And down my window I would draw the blind,

And never look without, but, waiting, hear

A noise of rain, a whistling of the wind.

And only know that flame-foot Spring is near

By trilling birds, or by the patch of sun

Crouching behind my curtain. So, in fear,

Noon-dreams should enter, softly, one by one,

And throng about the floor, and float and play

And flicker on the screen, while minutes run —

The last majestic minutes of the day —

And with the mystic shadows, Shadow grows.

Then the grey square of wall should fade away,

And glow again, and open, and disclose

The shimmering lake in which the planets swim

And all that lake a dewdrop on a rose.



For those, strong of heart and mind, who are interested in what life in hospital has been like for the dying, there is this gut-wrenching account by a New York nurse, Gerry Eustace. As published in the New York Daily News on May 30, 2020 (Front line coronavirus nurse: ‘Until you see the wards and the way people are dying, you can’t comprehend COVID-19′).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.