While Neruda's love poetry is unequaled, I've chosen Cat's Dream, as a poem that shows all of his gifts for image and illuminated language and is less commonly seen. It's always hard to believe reading Neruda that you're reading a translation; his words seem to be able to transcend those limitations.
As always, feel free to comment on either poem here, as comments are disabled off the main page, and also as always, suggestions for next time are welcome. I have only one rule(or only one I've made up so far, anyway,) and that's no repeats of the same poet within a year.(This keeps me from posting nothing but Wallace Stevens or Octavio Paz or whatever.) Previous Off the Shelf selections can be found here or by clicking the tag in the sidebar labeled Off the Shelf Archive.
So without any more preamble, here's a last look at Auden's As I Walked Out One Evening:
As I Walked Out One Evening
As I walked out one evening,
Walking down Bristol Street,
The crowds upon the pavement
Were fields of harvest wheat.
And down by the brimming river
I heard a lover sing
Under an arch of the railway:
“ Love has no ending.”
“I’ll love you, dear, I’ll love you,
Till China and Africa meet,
And the river jumps over the mountain
And the salmon sing in the street,
“I’ll love till the ocean
is folded and hung up to dry
And the seven stars go squawking
Like geese about the sky.
The years shall run like rabbits,
For in my arms I hold
The Flower of the Ages,
And the first love of the world.”
But all the clocks in the city
Began to whir and chime:
‘O let not Time deceive you,
You cannot conquer Time.
“In the burrows of the Nightmare
where Justice naked is,
Time watches from the shadow
And coughs when you would kiss.
“In headaches and in worry
Vaguely life leaks away,
And Time will have his fancy
Tomorrow or today.
“Into many a green valley
Drifts the appalling snow;
Time breaks the threaded dances
And the diver’s brilliant bow.
“O plunge your hands in water,
Plunge them in up to the wrist;
Stare, stare at the basin
And wonder what you’ve missed.
The glacier knocks in the cupboard,
The desert sighs in the bed,
And the crack in the teacup opens
A line to the land of the dead.
“Where the beggars raffle the banknotes
And the Giant is enchanting to Jack,
And the Lily-white Boy is a Roarer,
And Jill goes down on her back.
“O look, look in the mirror,
O look in your distress;
Life remains a blessing
Although you cannot bless.
“O stand, stand at the window
As the tears scald and start;
You shall love your crooked neighbor
With all your crooked heart.”
It was late, late in the evening,
The lovers they were gone.
The clocks had ceased their chiming,
And the river deep ran on.
W. H. Auden 1940
Photo: courtesy google image search