Jim Harrison: What cannot be said will get wept
Shakespeare: Men must endure their going hence

Pablo Neruda: When I die I want your hands on my eyes

When I die I want your hands on my eyes:
I want the light and the wheat of your beloved hands
to pass their freshness over me one more timeAlone_on_beach_by_snaphappy_at_flickr
to feel the smoothness that changed my destiny.

I want you to live while I wait for you, asleep,
I want for your ears to go on hearing the wind,
for you to smell the sea that we loved together
and for you to go on walking the sand where we walked.

I want for what I love to go on living
and as for you I loved you and sang you above everything,
for that, go on flowering, flowery one,

so that you reach all that my love orders for you,
so that my shadow passes through your hair,
so that they know by this the reason for my song.

        --Pablo Neruda, Veinte poemas de amor y una canción desesperada. Cien Sonetos de Amor. Plaza y Janés. Ave Fénix 205-2. Sexta edición, junio 1998.


Cuando yo muera quiero tus manos en mis ojos:
quiero la luz y el trigo de tus manos amadas
pasar una vez más sobre mí su frescura:
sentir la suavidad que cambió mi destino.

Quiero que vivas mientras yo, dormido, te espero,
quiero que tus oídos sigan oyendo el viento,
que huelas el aroma del mar que amamos juntos
y que sigas pisando la arena que pisamos.

Quiero que lo que amo siga vivo
y a ti te amé y canté sobre todas las cosas,
por eso sigue tú floreciendo, florida,

para que alcances todo lo que mi amor te ordena,
para que se pasee mi sombra por tu pelo,
para que así conozcan la razón de mi canto.


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Beautiful! I almost cryed when i read it...I love your poems Pablo...brava! :]

This poem is astoundingly beautiful. Morten Lauridsen set the text, its called Soneto de la noche. The poem is full of such depth and passion.

In the sheet music for Lauridsen's setting of this poem, a note appended to the first three words, "Cuando yo muero," says that "Neruda specifically and intentionally uses "muero" instead of "muera" in this poem. Can anyone tell a linguistically challenged reader/singer what difference this makes? And what Neruda might have intended by insisting on "muero" rather than "muera"?

"Cuando yo muera" has the verb in the subjunctive tense-- or here you might call it a speculative tense: "someday if I am dying...." But instead Neruda uses "muero" "I die" as in, his death will definitely happen, and when it does....

It's a bit obscure to us English-speakers. Our subjunctive has mostly died out. It's like the difference between "if he were" and "if he was."

As a spanish graduate and a singer, I have to disagree with KM Sanderson. Cuando me muero can only mean "when I die (on a regular basis) and not that his death will def happen. Subjunctive means that regardless of whether or not he intends to die, he has not done so , therefore it HAS to remain subjunctive. I think Laurdison changed it simply because poetically "me muero sounds better with the Cuando.. both letters o flowing more freely

The words above do say "muera.". Thwt would be correct grammatically. The word cuado/when takes th subjunctive When the action is in the future. Cuando is only used with present indicative for a habitual action, for ex., "when it rains" assuming you are referring to something habitual. If younused the subjunctive, it would mean the next time it rains, whenever thwt might be. There will be a death, but the time of it is indefinite. Now, which one did Neruda use? I don't know. I'd need to see it in his real, editd book as opposed to on the internet. In ny case, magnificent poem.

I'm a spanish professional singer, the correct words are: "Cuando yo muera...".
In the first edition of the book, in 1959, Neruda says "Cuando yo muera...".
The explanation of "Profesora lagsrtija" is the right one.
Excuse me for my terrible English language use.

P.D.: I paste here the link (in spanish) of a discussion with the right answer.


our son Gregory died Christmas morning suddenly with us present as his passing, as parents we were privileged to have such a talented, deep soul for his mere 33 years. This song he had sung with the west village chorale years ago, he posted it on his website after the horrific senseless killing of the innocent Conn children. I know he talks to me in this poem, to provide our family as we grieve to provide us with knowing he sleeps and awaits us in paradise. We included it in his memorial tribute.

I am so sorry about your son. He sounds wonderful. How sad to lose him on Christmas day. At least you were there.

I've performed most of Lauridsen's works, including "Soneto de la Noche" from "Nocturnes." While the chord structures, melodies, and harmonies are beautiful, the text is a bit clunky. Unstressed syllables become stressed and vice versa. This has the effect of making the phrases choppy. If you aren't familiar with Spanish diction, this may go unnoticed. While Poulenc specifically created asymmetrical phrasing in his "Gloria," the phrasing in the Soneto is unfortunate.

How interesting! I've never heard the Soneto. I will go and listen to it now.

Did Neruda write the poem to be sung?


I'm not sure if that question was directed at me. Unfortunately, I don't know if Neruda specifically wrote the poetry knowing they would be put into song. It's certainly possible, and there are many precedents for it in music.

For example, the late Robert Shaw was good friends with Paul Hindemeth, and Hindemeth composed his Requiem specifically for Shaw to direct it.

Any poetry written with good meter and lovely text is a good candidate for musical transformation.

The "clunky" text to which I refer is stressed and unstressed syllables. One example in "Soneto" is the word cambio'. The is the past tense of the very "to change" which is 'changed' contextually. The stress is on the final syllable, cam'BYO. The placement of the word in the musical phrasing places the stress on the first syllable CAM-byo, which changes the meaning from 'changed' (as in transformed or transfigured) to 'change' (as in pocket change).

This is not a harsh criticism of the work, rather, it is an example where musical phrasing is not so successful.

Speaking of clunky text, I meant "verb," not "very."

A beautiful way to ease the pain of your loved ones by knowing your love will always be with them and to keep on living the 'love'.

I wrote a song to honor Pablo and this poem. My all time favorite. http://www.consolatio.com/2007/02/neruda_when_i_d.html

Moderator sorry...the song I wrote is here titled "When I Die

Such a beautiful poem. My searches, at this time that I grieve for a loved one, have brought me this masterpiece. Thank you!

Visited Neruda's eclectic house in Santiago with my wife last year during a memorable holiday in Chile. She passed away recently and we shared this beautiful poem at her funeral as part of our tribute to her. A very moving piece.

I wonder about the use of the word "trigo," wheat, in the second line. Does anyone know if that carries some idiomatic meaning in this context? How would that sound, exactly, in Spanish? Does it carry a connotation of softness, perhaps, like flour, or of nutrition/life-giving? Of the fullness or the ripeness of the earth? It just feels like this might have a subtle meaning in Spanish that transcends the idea of "wheat."

I don't know the answer that, although I did look it up. Wheat is a symbol of fertility, and also of Easter, and resurrection. But it's hard to know what Neruda meant. Maybe someone else has more information?

This is the most incredible love poem ever written in any language. To wish such things, to say such things to one's beloved goes to the depth of the soul and beyond. Lauridsen's setting is indeed lovely. If you want to hear another gorgeous setting of this Neruda poem, you must hear Wim Zwaag's, from his "Five Neruda Poems for orchestra and mezzo-soprano." It was written for his wife Anja Wilbrink, the solo artist on the recording: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qa3xxIOBoN8

I have long wondered if 'Wheat' was meant to be 'Heat'? Has the original meaning been shifted by someone sharing on t'interweb?

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)