Pablo Neruda's "The Enigmas" is one of my favorite poems of all time. Though I enjoy doing literary analysis on many works of fiction, I am not skilled enough in poetry. I have searched and searched for any criticism of this poem and never seem to find anything of value. I would love anyone’s input, even if it is your own opinion of the piece or a link where I can access a graduate paper or some academic study.
If you are not familiar with the work and want to check it out go here: http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/enigmas/
I highly recommend any of Neruda’s work and the flow and rhythm of Robert Bly’s translation is amazing.
I have actually read it line per line and honestly tried to pull it apart however I can say it is quite complicated to criticize such a beautiful poem that has substance, clarity and gives the sea creatures a point of view as well as man.
Thanks AEvans. I got less than that so maybe that is a start. Neruda's poetry, especially the politically driven works, tend to reach beyond my understand on occassion. Where I get confused is when I try to implement the title. "An enigma is a type of riddle generally expressed in metaphorical or allegorical language that requires ingenuity and careful thinking for its solution" (Wikipedia definition). I believe this is intentional, which in turn, mean that I missed the question or the riddle. I love the language of the tranlation and can read it over and over, but I really don't know what it is about.
I don't think I am. Everytime we are with family or friends and were discussing something and I offer my opinion everyone just turns and stares at me. So I just go do something else.
"I want to tell you the ocean knows this, that life in its
is endless as the sand, impossible to count, pure,
and among the blood-colored grapes time has made the
hard and shiny, made the jellyfish full of light
and untied its knot, letting its musical threads fall
from a horn of plenty made of infinite mother-of-pearl."
These lines are beautiful.
IMHO (and ostensibly), for is there but one true interpretation of any poem (?), I believe Neruda is talking about the infinity and mystery inherent in nature and the natural world. It has very Pantheistic/Mystical undertones, which means for one thing, I like it a lot. (Have you read Steinbeck's The Log From The Sea of Cortez? lol Kind of a prose version of this poem...I recommend it if you haven't.)
This reads as if a child or a student or even a lover is asking the poet for keys to the mystery, as if he/she assumes that Neruda has the ability to see these things, as other mere mortals do not have the ability. However, he demures: "I am nothing but the empty net which has gone on ahead of human eyes." He can only grasp and pull in images or visions, so to speak, as a net does.
Largely, the poem speaks of beautiful enigmas, "jeweled boxes" of life, but the poet is also speaking of his own enigma--how he can grasp and describe these things and make others feel (the job of the artist), although he does not have the capability to fully interpret them, either. He sleeps, he dreams, but he "walks around as you do," and awakes after casting this net, having caught only "a fish trapped inside the wind." Which, although it may mean many things, is not of the realm of the ocean (a symbol of infinity and all-knowing, "the ocean knows this, that life in its jewel boxes is endless as the sand, impossible to count"), but instead, is located inside the wind.
I think the fish here suggests that although he caught something, it is not natural/living...it is as if, in the air, lol, it's a 'fish out of water.' I think this may allude to the distillation process that any work of art comes down to--beauty is glimpsed, described, at best, but never fully captured, and never really living. That's for God/the ocean, and that's why he tells the questioner to study the ocean, because "it knows this."
The whole poem is really a lovely enigma, like a Gordian knot all tied up in the image of a fisherman casting about for treasure...or even the sustenance of living beauty we all need.
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