In this episode, Alan reads and discusses the poem "The Morning is Full" by Pablo Neruda.

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Poetry to the Brim - Episode 13: “The Morning is Full” by Pablo Neruda
In this episode, Alan reads and discusses the poem “The Morning is Full” by Pablo Neruda. --- Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/poetrytothebrim/support

Transcript

Hello, you're listening to Poetry to the Brim.

Today I'll be reading the poem "The Morning is Full" by Pablo Neruda. This is the fourth poem in Neruda's second collection Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair, first published in 1924. I'll be reading the W. S. Merwin translation from the Spanish [1].

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"The Morning is Full" by Pablo Neruda

The morning is full of storm
in the heart of summer.

The clouds travel like white handkerchiefs of good-bye,
the wind, traveling, waving them in its hands.

The numberless heart of the wind
beating above our loving silence.

Orchestral and divine, resounding among the trees
like a language full of wars and songs.

Wind that bears off the dead leaves with a quick raid
and deflects the pulsing arrows of the birds.

Wind that topples her in a wave without spray
and substance without weight, and leaning fires.

Her mass of kisses breaks and sinks,
assailed in the door of the summer's wind.

–-

So even though the title is "The Morning is Full," right from the first line we get a sense that there is something missing for the speaker: there's a sense of emptiness, a feeling of grief and longing. What morning is full of is not something abundant, but rather a storm that seems to suggest destruction and loss. This inversion is one of the many instances of opposite words and paradox in the poem. I could really sense the truth of Stanley Kunitz's statement that "Words are so erotic. They never tire of their coupling." For example, in the poem, the wind resounds like a language "full of [both] wars and songs." The wind's heart "beat[s] above our loving silence." Also, there's no such thing as a "wave without spray," but Neruda makes it possible. And the one I like most is: wind topples her like a "substance without weight." There's a heaviness and a lightness at the same time, but how can that be?

On my reading, the morning is a metaphor for the nature of Being and it is "full of storm / in the heart of summer." There is no attribution of positive or negative to that storm however, despite the typical connotation of destruction and loss. The storm and its wind are expressions of the morning, expressions of Being, which emerge from its "orchestral and divine" sense of love. The wind is not malicious: it does not "bear off the dead leaves" or "deflect the pulsing arrows of the birds" with a cold shoulder. The wind of the storm in the morning is just part of the morning and thus part of the nature of Being. The loss of what's material is inevitable, and if this is realized, the sense of emptiness that derives from grief loses much of its suffocating quality and instead transfigures into a wider understanding. The speaker—and thus Neruda—clearly knows this and is intimate with it: thus the lightness, despite the heaviness of grief. Thus the "substance without weight." Neruda uses so many paradoxes and opposite words (consciously or not) because the love he's trying to express is large enough to hold them: it's a cosmic love that contains and goes beyond relative terms.

The last thing I'd like to note is how the pronoun "her"—which seems to refer to the speaker's beloved—only appears in the final two couplets of the poem. I love how the words used as subjects in the poem descend from a wider lens into those final couplets: moving from the "morning" to the "storm," to the storm's "clouds" and "wind," and then finally to "her," perhaps the speaker's beloved. The beloved is clearly not immune from the storm of love either: the wind "topples her in a wave without spray / and substance without weight, and leaning fires." In the final couplet, Neruda makes his most generous gesture: the speaker is left out. "Her mass of kisses breaks and sinks, / assailed in the door of the summer's wind." Assailed is a tremendous word to use. And we are left with the two things that seem to assail and defeat the speaker: the "lover's mass of kisses" and the even-more-powerful summer wind.

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"The Morning is Full" by Pablo Neruda

The morning is full of storm
in the heart of summer.

The clouds travel like white handkerchiefs of good-bye,
the wind, traveling, waving them in its hands.

The numberless heart of the wind
beating above our loving silence.

Orchestral and divine, resounding among the trees
like a language full of wars and songs.

Wind that bears off the dead leaves with a quick raid
and deflects the pulsing arrows of the birds.

Wind that topples her in a wave without spray
and substance without weight, and leaning fires.

Her mass of kisses breaks and sinks,
assailed in the door of the summer's wind.

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Thanks for listening to Poetry to the Brim. If you enjoyed the show, please share it with a friend or two who might also enjoy it. If you read the poem differently, would like to share your thoughts with me, or just have general suggestions about the show, you can email the show at poetrytothebrim@gmail.com.

Also, you can find a full transcript of the episode on the website at podcast.poetrytothebrim.com. There, you can also subscribe to stay up to date by email for when I release a new episode, as well as find ways to support the show.

Alright. Thanks again! Until next time.

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Citations

  1. Neruda, Pablo, et al. “The Morning Is Full.” Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair, Penguin Books, New York, 2006, p. 11.