Regular followers of our blogs will know we emphasize the cultural discovery that accompanies the Spanish language as one of the most rewarding aspects of learning it.

Pablo Neruda, presumably at the end of a very long line.

I have been living in South America for six years and one of the things I constantly treasure is the rich treasure-chest of literature on my doorstep. When the traffic is bad, simple paperwork takes months to complete or my bag is stolen, I find the fact that I can pick up a Spanish classic for a few pesos, to be a great comfort to me.

I have been a fan of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda’s work for fifteen years but recently I have come to appreciate it even more now that I understand it in the language in which it was written. I visited Neruda’s former home in Isla Negra, Chile a few years ago and this journey was as near to magical as I have ever experienced.

I would like to share one of my favourite poems of his with you. Let’s answer some questions together afterwards.

Poema: El amor del soldado

de Pablo Neruda

En plena guerra te llevó la vida
a ser el amor del soldado.

Con tu pobre vestido de seda,
tus uñas de piedra falsa,
te tocó caminar por el fuego.

Ven acá, vagabunda,
ven a beber sobre mi pecho
rojo rocío.

No querías saber dónde andabas,
eras la compañera de baile,
no tenías partido ni patria.

Y ahora a mi lado caminando
ves que conmigo va la vida
y que detrás está la muerte.

Ya no puedes volver a bailar
con tu traje de seda en la sala.

Te vas a romper los zapatos,
pero vas a crecer en la marcha.

Tienes que andar sobre las espinas
dejando gotitas de sangre.

Bésame de nuevo, querida.

Limpia ese fusil, camarada.

Questions

What words does the soldier use to describe the girl in the poem?

What impression do you get of her character from the poem?

What do you think are his feelings towards the girl? Are his feelings ambivalent?

How is war depicted in the poem?

What do you think happened after this snapshot? Do you imagine their love affair ended well or badly?

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