The Sea and the Bells


The sound of ships' bells, sea waves, and migratory birds fuel Neruda's longing to retreat from life's noisy busyness. Stripped to essentials, these poems are some of the last Neruda ever wrote, as he pulled "one dream out of another." Includes the final lovesong to his wife, written in the past tense: "It was beautiful to live / When you lived!" Bilingual with introduction.

"Deeply personal, expansive, and universal... majestic and understated...

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The sound of ships' bells, sea waves, and migratory birds fuel Neruda's longing to retreat from life's noisy busyness. Stripped to essentials, these poems are some of the last Neruda ever wrote, as he pulled "one dream out of another." Includes the final lovesong to his wife, written in the past tense: "It was beautiful to live / When you lived!" Bilingual with introduction.

"Deeply personal, expansive, and universal... majestic and understated beauty."—Publishers Weekly

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Editorial Reviews

Walton Beacham
I'd judge Nolan's book to be one of the best that Wesleyan has published recently.... and i appreciate the opportunity of saying that there might be a collection which suggest a new direction in American poetry.
The Richmond Mercury
Gregory Kolovakos
Nolan's introduction situates this volume within the Noblel Laureates's oeuvre with sensitivity. If translation is among other things-- the art of making choices, Nolan's choices are consistently caring and thoughtful. Neruda strangley has not fared well in American translation... and though we quibble with Nolan's choices here and there, he brings the clarity of a poet to these translations.
Small Press, Dec. 1988
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this bilingual collection, the late Nobel laureate establishes immediate intimacy with poems that are at once deeply personal, expansive and universal. Neruda does not embellish but keeps the purity of his emotions intact, lending the verses majestic and understated beauty. The spareness of the language allows greater access to the feelingNeruda hides nothing. Love, death, solitude and phenomena of nature are addressed candidly and with appropriate combinations of sadness and celebration. Neruda's respect for his identity as a Chilean poet surfaces frequently; lines between politics and war and personal relationships often blur. Using the bell as a symbol of the contradiction of life ``pure sound with emptiness at its center'', Neruda assures with grace and wisdom that paradox is unavoidable and a necessary part of growth and fulfillment: ``this is my loneliness: / . . . that I am a part / of winter, /of the same flat expanse that repeats /from bell to bell, in wave after wave, /and from a silence like a woman's hair, / a silence of seaweed, a sunken song.'' October
Library Journal
With the exception of the darker surrealism of the 1930s, Nobel Prize-winning poet Neruda's work was consistently life-affirming, even to his last days. Translated by Belitt, no stranger to Neruda, the ``late and posthumous poems'' display an exhilarating variety. These poems attest to Neruda's warmth, profundity, and humility, as they take us back to an infancy dominated by marine and mineral symbols and ultimately to our common death: ``Is there anything in the world sadder/ than a motionless train in the rain?'' The simplicity is so deceptive that any extra word from the translator easily ruins the effect. Neruda's last book, The Sea and the Bells portions of which appear in Late and Posthumous Poems is appropriately melancholy but never lugubrious. The poems are, in fact, haunting and often darkly luminous: ``The earth with its leafy name/ in its theater of black walls.'' Those who can read the original will want to compare translations by Belitt and O'Daly of ``Pedro es el cuando'' to see how each translator both succeeds and errs. Both books are highly recommended. Ivan Arguelles, Univ. of California, Berkeley, Lib.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781556591624
  • Publisher: Copper Canyon Press
  • Publication date: 1/22/2002
  • Series: A Kagean Book Series, #0
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 124
  • Sales rank: 929,928
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 7.50 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Pablo Neruda

Pablo Neruda (1904-1973) held diplomatic posts in Asian and European countries. After joining the Communist Party, Neruda was elected to the Chilean Senate but was forced to live in exile in Mexico for several years. Eventually he established a permanent home on Isla Negra. In 1970 he was appointed as Chile's ambassador to France; in 1971 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. William O'Daly is one of the most celebrated translators of the poetry of Pablo Neruda. He lives in California.


Pablo Neruda (1904-1973), whose real name is Neftalí Ricardo Reyes Basoalto, was born on 12 July, 1904, in the town of Parral in Chile. His father was a railway employee and his mother, who died shortly after his birth, a teacher. Some years later his father, who had then moved to the town of Temuco, remarried Doña Trinidad Candia Malverde. The poet spent his childhood and youth in Temuco, where he also got to know Gabriela Mistral, head of the girls' secondary school, who took a liking to him. At the early age of thirteen he began to contribute some articles to the daily "La Mañana," among them, Entusiasmo y Perseverancia -- his first publication -- and his first poem. In 1920, he became a contributor to the literary journal "Selva Austral" under the pen name of Pablo Neruda, which he adopted in memory of the Czechoslovak poet Jan Neruda (1834-1891). Some of the poems Neruda wrote at that time are to be found in his first published book: Crepusculario (1923). The following year saw the publication of Veinte poemas de amor y una canción desesperada, one of his best-known and most translated works. Alongside his literary activities, Neruda studied French and pedagogy at the University of Chile in Santiago.

Between 1927 and 1935, the government put him in charge of a number of honorary consulships, which took him to Burma, Ceylon, Java, Singapore, Buenos Aires, Barcelona, and Madrid. His poetic production during that difficult period included, among other works, the collection of esoteric surrealistic poems, Residencia en la tierra (1933), which marked his literary breakthrough.

The Spanish Civil War and the murder of García Lorca, whom Neruda knew, affected him strongly and made him join the Republican movement, first in Spain, and later in France, where he started working on his collection of poems España en el corazón (1937). The same year he returned to his native country, to which he had been recalled, and his poetry during the following period was characterized by an orientation towards political and social matters. España en el corazón had a great impact by virtue of its being printed in the middle of the front during the civil war.

In 1939, Neruda was appointed consul for the Spanish emigration, residing in Paris, and, shortly afterwards, consul general in Mexico, where he rewrote his "Canto general de Chile," transforming it into an epic poem about the whole South American continent, its nature, its people and its historical destiny. This work, entitled Canto general, was published in Mexico 1950, and also underground in Chile. It consists of approximately 250 poems brought together into fifteen literary cycles and constitutes the central part of Neruda's production. Shortly after its publication, Canto general was translated into some ten languages. Nearly all these poems were created in a difficult situation, when Neruda was living abroad.

In 1943, Neruda returned to Chile, and in 1945 he was elected senator of the Republic, also joining the Communist Party of Chile. Due to his protests against President González Videla's repressive policy against striking miners in 1947, he had to live underground in his own country for two years until he managed to leave in 1949. After living in different European countries he returned home in 1952. A great deal of what he published during that period bears the stamp of his political activities; one example is Las uvas y el viento (1954), which can be regarded as the diary of Neruda's exile. In Odas elementales (1954-1959) his message is expanded into a more extensive description of the world, where the objects of the hymns -- things, events and relations -- are duly presented in alphabetic form.

Neruda's production is exceptionally extensive. For example, his Obras completas, constantly republished, comprised 459 pages in 1951; in 1962 the number of pages was 1,925, and in 1968 it amounted to 3,237, in two volumes. Among his works of the last few years can be mentioned Cien sonetos de amor (1959), which includes poems dedicated to his wife, Matilde Urrutia, Memorial de Isla Negra, a poetic work of an autobiographic character in five volumes, published on the occasion of his sixtieth birthday, Arte de pajáros (1966), La Barcarola (1967), the play Fulgor y muerte de Joaquín Murieta (1967), Las manos del día (1968), Fin del mundo (1969), Las piedras del cielo (1970), and La espada encendida.

Pablo Neruda died in 1973.

© The Nobel Foundation 1971

Good To Know

Always a political activist, Neruda was an anarchist for a time, but joined the Communist Party of Chile in 1945. He actually ran for president of Chile but eventually left the race to support Salvador Allende.

He had three wives throughout his lifetime: Mar a Antonieta Hagenaar, Delia de Carril, and Matilde Urrutia. He married Mar in 1930, but they divorced in 1936. He lived with Carril from the 1930s until they divorced in 1955 (they married in 1943). In 1966, he married Urrutia.

Neruda owned three homes in Chile that are open today as museums: "La Chascona" in Santiago, "La Sebastiana" in Valpara, and "Casa de Isla Negra" in Isla Negra, where he and his third wife, Matilde Urrutia, are buried.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Neftalí Ricardo Reyes Basoalto (real name)
    1. Date of Birth:
      July 12, 1904
    2. Place of Birth:
      Parral, Chile
    1. Date of Death:
      September 23, 1973
    2. Place of Death:
      Santiago, Chile

Table of Contents

First Movement 3
To Search 5
Returning 7
I am grateful, violins ... 11
It appears that a different ship ... 13
When I decided ... 15
I have four dogs to declare ... 17
Some Argentinians sailed with us ... 19
My name was Reyes ... 21
Salud, we called out every day ... 23
Today, how many hours ... 25
I met the Mexican ... 27
To find out, I called together my tribe ... 29
Every Day, Matilde 31
I will tell you ... 33
From my journeys I return ... 35
One returns to the self ... 37
Long ago ... 39
Pedro is the When ... 43
A small animal ... 47
There isn't much to tell ... 49
It rains ... 51
In fullest June ... 53
This broken bell ... 55
I want to know ... 57
(H.V.) 59
Never an illness ... 61
Yes, comrade ... 63
After sunrise ... 67
Port, this port ... 69
Everybody was asking me ... 71
Slow 73
It Happens 75
Branch 77
The Ambassador 79
Here 81
If each day falls ... 83
Everybody 85
Laziness 89
Names 93
We Are Waiting 95
Stars 97
City 99
It knocks at a door ... 103
Forgive me if my eyes ... 105
The whole human earth ... 107
The thrush warbled ... 109
Is the sea there? ... 111
Finale 113
About the Author 115
About the Translator 116
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