Pablo Neruda – Sonnet LXVI Translation

Pablo Neruda’s Sonnet LXVI Translation

I have some nearly forgotten Spanish floating in my brain that I wouldn’t mind renewing a bit. Neruda came up in a conversation the other day–specifically his “La Poesía,” which you can read in Spanish or English. I wanted to take a look back at reading his poetry in the original language. What follows is my (likely quite poor) translation of his Sonnet LVVI, “I do not love you except because I love you.”

The original Spanish came from la Universidad de Chile’s Neruda website, and it may be found here.

I do not love you except because I love you
and from loving you to not loving you I go
and from waiting for you when I cannot wait for you
my heart shifts from the freeze to the fire.
I love you alone because it is you that I love,
I hate you without end, and hating you I beg of you,
and the measure of my traveler’s love
is not to see you and to love you like someone blind.
Maybe the light of January will consume,
with its cruel ray, my entire heart,
robbing me of the key to calm.
In this story only I kill myself
and I will die of love because I love you,
because I love you, love, to blood and fire.

I mostly took a literal tack in translating this. Although I did take some liberties such as maintaining the alliteration in “freeze” and “fire” in the first stanza. I encourage you to read the original, as the sound, rhythm, rhyme scheme of course do not translate well.

There seem to be two issues with any translation online of this, like this one. One is that they seem to translate te ruego as “bend to you,” and I’m mighty interested if anyone knows why this is. I couldn’t find “bend” anywhere; to my knowledge, rogar means to beg or to pray. Again, if anyone knows why this line is popularly translated as “bend,” I’d love to know. This word choice really impacts the poem, to say the least!

The second issue with translations I’ve read is the liberties taken with line breaks and punctuation. WHY?! In the above, the line breaks and punctuation remain the same as the original.


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