LITERATURE: Neruda’s Ode to Laziness – A simple interpretation

Hitting home:

Yesterday I felt as if my ode
was never going to sprout.
At least it should
have been showing
a green leaf. (p. 117)

So simple, Neruda's concept of art as a seed of idea, stubborn to the sun as if seeking its own time.

I scratched the soil: "Come up,
sister ode,"
I said,
"I promised to produce you,
don't be afraid of me,
I'll not step on your
four leaves, your
four hands, ode,
we'll have tea together.
Come up
and I'll crown you first among my odes,
we'll go to the seashore
on our bicycles."
It was useless.

Imagination cannot always be forced to conform to a concept. Despite our best efforts, our promises of bicycling to the shore, there is no answer to the question of what happened next?, or then what? that stands reliable when it comes from the practical part of the mind.  "It was useless," Neruda says. Yes, words just as words are meaningless.

high amid the pines,
I saw lovely
naked laziness,
she led me off bedazzled and bemused,
she showed me on the sand
small broken bits
of marine matter,
driftwood, seaweed, stones,
seabirds' feathers.
I hunted but did not find
yellow agates.
The sea surged higher,
crumbling towers,
the shoreline of my homeland,
sending forth
successive catastrophes of foam.

When freed from the struggles of trying, the poet is open to the random beauty that surrounds him with no need to seek other than to see. These common objects inspire connections and even while "hunting but not finding yellow agates" the path he is now walking leads to more concrete visions of homeland and change as the sea attacks.

A solitary corolla
cast a ray
against the sand.
I saw silvery petrels cruising
and, like black crosses
clinging to the rocks.

This could be–or I would love to take it to be–a narrative forming, the threads of plot points as sharp a black sea birds lining the trail, visible either against a horizon or wall of rock, the setting or grounding of story.

I freed a bee from
its death throes in a spiderweb,
I put a pebble
in my pocket,
it was smooth, as smooth
as a bird's breast,
meanwhile along the coast,
all afternoon,
sun and fog waged war.

By taking in what is real and charging it with imagination, the writer can change reality, "I freed a bee from its death throes in a spiderweb," to make it something else. Even by taking the pebble he has changed the reality of his surroundings. And, that one tiny bit of earth is in contrast to the natural war of the elements going on around him.

At times
the fog glowed
with a topaz light,
other times
a moist sun cast
rays dripping yellow drops.

The visuals here are fantastic; the clash of sun and fog leaves each taking on the traits of the other; the fog glowing golden, the sun wet and dripping. Beautiful imagery.

That night,
thinking of the duties of my
elusive ode,
I took off my shoes
beside the fire,
sand spilled from them
and soon I was falling
fast asleep.

The day's inspiration, once the writer had given in to absorbing the world rather than toiling to make it suit, flows out like sand from his shoes. Without the stress of trying, and with the contentment of feeling, the artist can sleep and dream.

This entry was posted in LITERATURE and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.