Neruda wants his lover to understand that he truly loves her, and if she ever stops loving him, so will he. If she ever forgets him, he already would’ve moved on. While I was researching, I found out that Neruda was married to Delia Del Carril, an Argentinean writer. This poem was written during his exile with his wife. But this poem was written to his lover. His fear was that his lover would leave or cheat on him, like he is on his wife. Naruda knew that one day his affair must come to an end and the poems he wrote following this also express his love for his mistress. He felt guilty for having an affair and cheating on his wife, so he was afraid that his mistress would realize that he is not worth the trouble and forget him. Neruda feels threatened by his relationships and expresses them using the threatening tone and the nature imagery.
The poem “If You Forget Me” by Pablo Neruda is a love poem that is also a warning that his love lasts only until he is loved by his lover. I could feel his longing and exasperation for his love. The poem starts off with, “I want you to know one thing” (line 1,2). How romantic and dominant does that sound? Here he is emphasizing that whatever he is about to say is very important. He started the poem off with a tone directed to his lover. He uses imagery to show that he loves her so deeply that everything he encounters makes him think about his lover. He used beautiful words such as “Crystal moon,” “red branch,” and “fire” (stanza 2) to show that everything he see takes him back to her. I thought it was so romantic until he starts off with a subtle tone change that turns the love tone to a warning tone in the third stanza.
This poem eases gently from explaining his love to fear of losing his love. He offers his lover two options, either stay faithful and wait for him or risk this beautiful love of theirs. His selfless and pure love for her will be long gone if she ever forgets him. He tells her this because he is afraid of losing the connection that they have. After all, it is hard to find a true love indeed. Many find the text a little manipulative because readers tend to get confused analyzing if he meant for this poem to be about his love or his country. Also, he doesn’t want his wife to know that he is having an affair. Neruda has used metaphors that made it seem like he is talking about his country. But imagery such as “the wrinkled body of the log” (line 10) and “as if everything that exists, aomas, light, metals, were little boats that sail, toward isles of yours that wait for me” (line 12-16) support that he is referring to his love, he uses nature imagery to compare her beauty to the nature. I feel the text would be free of double meanings if he did not use .
Either way, he is afraid of the loss. In the poem he mentions that he will be off to seek another land if his lover decides to leave him. This part of the poem is really bewitching, he compares her to some of the purest forms existing like aroma, lights and metals. I could feel his pain of separation through the poem. But many would look at this from another perspective and think that he is a very dominant and violent lover. His words do exaggerate his exasperation but also illustrate his immense love for her. In the first stanza, “If you forget me, I want you to know one thing.” he uses a specific tone to send a message, emphasizing that it is very important so the reader better pay attention and take this seriously. In the second stanza, he uses such beautiful word to describe his love which makes it seem like he is obsessed with her.
The next three stanzas are a warning that he will stop loving her if she stops loving him. I want to point out the fact that when he loves her so much, how can he forget her in an instant? How can he move on if everything around him makes him think of the memories of her? Was he lying in the second stanza? “If you suddenly forget me do not look for me, for I shall already have forgotten you” (lines 23-26). I would like to put it in my own words: I can tell if you still are committed to me or nor. So, if you ever think otherwise, this is the farthest we can go. In my opinion, this is such an ultimatum. Stanza five supports the third and fourth stanza by using a warning tone. In fifth stanza Neruda uses words like “roots” and “land” (lines 38-39) which often throw people off thinking about his country, but he used these metaphors talking about the memories and deep feelings he shared with her.
“You decide to leave me at the shore of the heart where I have roots, remember that on that day, at that hour, I shall lift my arms and my roots will set off to seek another land” (lines 31-39). Here he means that if she doesn’t stay committed to him, it is not hard for him to forget her, after all, it was just a fling. While he is very dominant, he is emotionally demanding her to not leave him. He warns her that if she forgets him, he would eventually move on too because he uses words to describe that it will be her loss if she leaves him, he loves her so much. Staying away hurts him so much as it is, he does not want to go through a breakup too, and he is insecure about leaving her behind.