Night on the Island

Pablo Neruda
Translated from the Spanish by Brian Cole

The whole night long I have slept with younext to the sea, on the island.You were wild and gentle between pleasure and dreams,between fire and water.Perhaps very lateour dreams were unitedin the heights or in the depths,on high like branches moved by the same wind,down below like red roots touching each other.Perhaps your dreambroke away from mineand searched for meacross the darkness of the seaas beforewhen you did not yet exist,when without noticing youI sailed right past you,and your eyes searched forthose things which now—bread, wine, love and anger—I give you by the handfulbecause you are the gobletthat was waiting for the gifts of my life.I have slept with youthe whole night long,while the dark earth turnswith the living and the dead,and when I awoke suddenlyin the middle of the darknessmy arm was round your waist.Neither night nor our dreamscould separate us.I have slept with youand when I awoke your mouthcoming out of your dreamgave me the taste of the earth,of sea-water, of seaweed,from the depths of your life,and I received your kissmoistened by the dawnas if it came to mefrom the sea which encircles us.

La noche en la isla

Toda la noche he dormido contigojunto al mar, en la isla.Salvaje y dulce eras entre el placer y el sueño,entre el fuego y el agua.Tal vez muy tardenuestros sueños se unieronen lo alto o en el fondo,arriba como ramas que un mismo viento mueve,abajo como rojas raíces que se tocan.Tai vez tu sueñose separó del míoy por el mar oscurome buscabacomo antescuando aún no existías,cuando sin divisartenavegué por tu lado,y tus ojos buscabanlo que ahora—pan, vino, amor y cólera—te doy a manos llenasporque tú eres la copaque esperaba los dones de mi vida.He dormido contigotoda la noche mientrasla oscura tierra giracon vivos y con muertos,y al despertar de prontoen medio de la sombrami brazo rodeaba tu cintura.Ni la noche, ni el sueñopudieron separarnos.He dormido contigoy al despertar tu bocasalida de tu sueñome dio el sabor de tierra,de agua marina, de algas,del fondo de tu vida,y recibí tu besomojado por la auroracomo si me llegaradel mar que nos rodea.

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Pablo Neruda (1904–73) was born in Parral, Chile. He published his first book of poems in Santiago in 1921. From 1927 to 1945 he served as Chilean consul in Rangoon, Java and Barcelona. Much influenced by events in the Spanish Civil War, he joined the Communist Party after World War Two. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971, while serving as Chilean ambassador to Paris. He died shortly after the coup in Chile which ousted Salvador Allende in 1973.

Brian Cole studied French and German at the Queen’s College, Oxford in the 1950s. He has worked as an executive for multinational companies. He translated Spanish and Italian poetry, lives in Wiltshire and runs the Brindin Press, whose website is devoted to poetry in translation:

This dual language edition is reissued as a Carcanet Classic

Pablo Neruda wrote the poems in Los versos del capitán as a celebration of his love for his third wife, Matilde Urrutia — a love affair that is itself celebrated in the acclaimed film Il Postino. Originally published anonymously in 1952 to spare his second wife’s feelings, this bilingual edition is the book’s first publication in Britain. Brian Cole’s translations display all the qualities of vivid imagery, sensuousness, simplicity and passion for which Neruda’s poetry is famous.

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