“I Like It When You’re Silent” by Pablo Neruda

Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, winner of the 1971 Nobel Prize for Literature, is probably one of the most well-known poets in the world. This is one of his most popular poems.

I like it when you’re silent, for you seem as if you’re gone,
and you hear me from afar, and my voice doesn’t touch you.
It seems as if your eyes had flown away from you—
it seems as if a kiss were sealing shut your mouth.

Since each and every thing is brimming with my soul,
you rise from everything, with my soul replete.
Dreamtime butterfly, you resemble my soul
And you resemble every word that hints at gloom.

I like it when you’re silent and you seem as if you’re distant.
And you whimper soft, a butterfly lulled to sleep.
And you hear me from afar, and my voice doesn’t reach you:
let me hush myself at last with this silence of yours.

Let me speak to you as well with your silence,
As clear as the lamplight, as simple as a ring.
You are like the night, still and constellated.
Your silence is starlike, so distant and so simple.

I like it when you’re silent, for you seem as if you’re gone,
Heartrending and distant, as if you were dead.
Then just one word, one smile of yours will do.
And I’m happy, so happy that it is not true.

—Translated by David Bowles
March 9, 2014


Original Spanish

Me gustas cuando callas porque estas como ausente,
y me oyes desde lejos, y mi voz no te toca.
Parece que los ojos se te hubieran volado
y parece que un beso te cerrara la boca.

Como todas las cosas estan llenas de mi alma
emerges de las cosas, llena del alma mia.
Mariposa de sueno, te pareces a mi alma,
y te pareces a la palabra melancolia.

Me gustas cuando callas y estas como distante.
Y estas como quejandote, mariposa en arrullo.
Y me oyes desde lejos, y mi voz no te alcanza:
dejame que me calle con el silencio tuyo.

Dejame que te hable tambien con tu silencio
claro como una lampara, simple como un anillo.
Eres como la noche, callada y constelada.
Tu silencio es de estrella, tan lejano y sencillo.

Me gustas cuando callas porque estas como ausente.
Distante y dolorosa como si hubieras muerto.
Una palabra entonces, una sonrisa bastan.
Y estoy alegre, alegre de que no sea cierto.

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