“Clenched Soul” by Pablo Neruda- An Analysis

March 3, 2024 | by poemread.com

Clenched Soul by Pablo Neruda featured

“Clenched Soul” by Pablo Neruda is a heartfelt exploration of feeling sad and longing for someone. The poem talks about memories and emotions that weigh heavily on the speaker’s heart. Through vivid imagery and deep thoughts, Neruda invites readers to ponder on the depths of human emotion. The poem navigates themes of memory, absence, longing, and the complexities of human connection.

Clenched Soul 
by Pablo Neruda

"We have lost even this twilight.
No one saw us this evening hand in hand
while the blue night dropped on the world.

I have seen from my window
the fiesta of sunset in the distant mountain tops.

Sometimes a piece of sun
burned like a coin in my hand.

I remembered you with my soul clenched
in that sadness of mine that you know.

Where were you then?
Who else was there?
Saying what?
Why will the whole of love come on me suddenly
when I am sad and feel you are far away?

The book fell that always closed at twilight
and my blue sweater rolled like a hurt dog at my feet.

Always, always you recede through the evenings
toward the twilight erasing statues."


Subject of the poem, “Clenched Soul” by Pablo Neruda

The subject of “Clenched Soul Poem” revolves around the profound emotions of longing, sadness, and inner conflict experienced by the speaker. It brings out a setting where the speaker expresses deep feelings of loneliness and sorrow due to perhaps being far away from his love. The inner turmoil and emotional struggle, beautifully expressed by Neruda’s clever writing takes readers to a different world.

In “Clenched Soul Poem,” the persona, or narrator, is someone who reflects on his own emotions and experiences. The speaker grapples with feelings of sadness and longing, reminiscing about past moments shared with his beloved. The narrative is primarily first-person, as the speaker shares their inner thoughts and reflections with the reader.

Line by line analysis of “Clenched Soul” by Pablo Neruda

“We have lost even this twilight.”

In this line, the speaker sets out a tone of loss and transition, using the metaphor of twilight to convey deeper emotions. Twilight, the period between day and night, often symbolizes transition, ambiguity, and the fleeting nature of time. By stating “we have lost even this twilight,” the speaker suggests that something significant has been lost or taken away.

The word “lost” could refer to a variety of things – the end of a relationship, or the fading of cherished memories. The use of “even” suggests that the loss is profound and extends to many other things that may have been lost.

Additionally, the collective pronoun “we” implies that the loss is shared, suggesting that it extends beyond the speaker alone. This could imply a sense of collective loss or a shared experience of grief or longing. Overall, this initial line establishes a sense of melancholy as the speaker grapples with feelings of loss and transition.

“No one saw us this evening hand in hand”

In this line, the speaker reminisces about a moment shared with another person, highlighting the intimacy of the encounter. The phrase “hand in hand” evokes a sense of closeness and connection between the speaker and the other person, emphasizing the physical and emotional bond they shared. Holding hands is often seen as a gesture of affection and solidarity, symbolizing unity and support.

Furthermore, the line could evoke a sense of nostalgia for a time when they were together, physically close, and publicly affectionate. The speaker may be reminiscing about a time when they felt emotionally connected and supported by the presence of the other person. By suggesting that “no one saw” them together “this evening” suggest a regularity of their shared emotions, which is no longer celebrated.

The use of the word “evening” further emphasizes the intimacy of the moment, suggesting a time of day associated with relaxation and reflection. Evening is often considered a time for quiet contemplation and intimacy, making it a fitting backdrop for the speaker’s reflection on their shared moment.

“while the blue night dropped on the world.”

This line employs vivid imagery to the previously mentioned evenings, where the speaker spent holding hands with his beloved. Here “blue night” evokes a picture of darkness tinged with the color blue, as if the night is descending upon the world gradually. Furthermore, the color blue often carries connotations of melancholy, adding depth to the mood evoked by the line.

I have seen from my window/ the fiesta of sunset in the distant mountain tops.

The act of looking out the window brings the readers to the reality where the speaker is reflecting on the scenery of a sunset. Additionally, the imagery of the sunset, with its vibrant colors, could serve as a metaphor for the speaker’s feelings towards their distant loved one.

Just as the sunset is a beautiful yet transient phenomenon, the speaker’s emotions may be intense and profound, yet could not last. The distant mountain tops could represent the distance between the speaker and their loved one, emphasizing the sense of longing and yearning that permeates the poem. Furthermore, the word “fiesta” suggests a sense of celebration and joy, mirroring the speaker’s feelings. Thus, Neruda beautifully brings out the complexity of human emotions, to celebrate something despite their physical presence. This juxtaposition of beauty and distance adds depth to the poem, highlighting the bittersweet nature of the speaker’s emotions.

"Clenched Soul Poem" by Pablo Neruda portrays deep longing and melancholy as the speaker reflects on love, loss, and memory using vivid imagery.

Sometimes a piece of sun/ burned like a coin in my hand.

The simile of a piece of sun to a coin held in the speaker’s hand is metaphorical and rich with meaning. Firstly, holding a piece of sun suggests a moment of intense brightness and warmth. Here, “a piece of sun” the speaker refers to some of the past memories that he holds dearly. As vibrant as the old memories, as represented by the sunset, these specific memory pieces seem to be very intense and radiant to the speaker.

The comparison to a coin adds further layers of meaning to the metaphor. Coins are often associated with value, wealth, and exchange. By comparing the piece of sun to a coin, the speaker suggests that these emotions hold immense value and importance to him. Additionally, the use of the verb “burned” implies intensity and passion, suggesting that the speaker’s emotions are powerful and all-consuming. Furthermore, the evoking the sensation of heat and brightness associated with the sun, being held close physically invite readers to feel for the speaker.

I remembered you with my soul clenched/ in that sadness of mine that you know.

Here, the speaker recalls memories of his loved one, with a “clenched” soul. The strong choice of this metaphor implies a tightening or constricting of the soul, as if the speaker’s emotions are so intense that they are physically felt within the depths of their being. By breaking this into a separate stanza, Neruda heightens the emotional impact of the lines, creating a pause that allows the reader to dwell on the intensity of the speaker’s emotions.

Moreover, the phrase “in that sadness of mine that you know” emphasizes a shared understanding between the speaker and his loved one. It suggests that the sadness the speaker feels is familiar to their loved one, indicating a deep emotional connection and mutual empathy.

Where were you then? Who else was there? Saying what?

These rhetorical questions serve to underscore the speaker’s emotional turmoil and an attempt to make sense of his feelings. This can indeed be seen as the speaker’s attempt to recall and understand past memories more specifically. Here, the speaker tries to revisit the memories and understand the circumstances surrounding moments spent with his loved one. By asking where the loved one was, who else was present, and what was being said, the speaker is trying to reconstruct the details of past experiences and understand the significance of their absence.

By delving into these specific details, the speaker seeks a deeper understanding of his own feelings and the dynamics of their relationship. Furthermore, while this act is genuine and natural given the circumstances, it infers emotional vulnerability of the speaker. Through these questions, Neruda deepens the emotional resonance of the poem, inviting readers to empathize with the speaker’s inner turmoil and longing.

Why will the whole of love come on me suddenly/ when I am sad and feel you are far away?

The rhetoric question brings about a self-questioning on his own intense emotions, particularly feelings of love, during moments of sadness and distance from their loved one. The phrase “the whole of love” suggests a profound and encompassing experience of love, implying that the speaker feels overwhelmed by the intensity of their emotions. This suggests that despite their sadness and the physical distance from their loved one, the speaker’s feelings of love remain potent and all-encompassing.

The juxtaposition of love with sadness and distance underscores the complexity of human emotions. Also, it highlights the paradoxical nature of love, which can bring both joy and sorrow, connection and longing, even in the absence of physical proximity.

The book fell that always closed at twilight

As the speaker is immersed in the past memories, the book falling suggests a sudden and unexpected interruption. This line can be interrupted in many ways. The imagery depicts a book held in hands, slipping away as the speaker is in deep thoughts, departed from external surroundings. Furthermore, the closing of the book “always” “at twilight” could refer to the speaker, taking a time off of his routines, to ponder on the past, during this specific time of the day.

and my blue sweater rolled like a hurt dog at my feet.

The simile of the blue sweater to a hurt dog is metaphorical and rich with meaning. Dogs are often associated with loyalty, companionship, and affection. This metaphor personifies the sweater, as being hurt and rolling away, imbuing it with emotional qualities and inviting empathy from the reader.

The imagery of the sweater “rolling” at the speaker’s feet adds to the sense of vulnerability and lack of control, as if the sweater slipped away just like the book did. The use of the color blue further enhances the emotions of sadness, melancholy, and introspection.

“Always, always you recede through the evenings toward the twilight erasing statues.

In the concluding lines, the speaker emphasizes how every day, the memories emerge and gradually fade away in the face of reality. The repetition of “always, always” emphasizes the regular and routine nature of this yearning towards his loved one. Receding through the evening and fading towards twilight reinforces the theme of transition and change present throughout the poem. Twilight is often associated with ambiguity and transition, marking the boundary between day and night. By describing the loved one as moving toward the twilight, the speaker suggests finality or inevitability in their departure.

The image of “erasing statues” adds a layer of metaphorical depth to the line. Statues are often associated with permanence and solidity. Therefore, the act of erasing them suggests a deliberate and irreversible act of removal or destruction. In the context of the poem, these statues could represent emotional barriers or obstacles that prevent the speaker from fully connecting with his beloved. Thus, this final line serves as a strong statement of how, despite the solid barriers to maintain this distant relationship, the speaker continues to cherish the memories and keep them alive.

Follow this link to watch this captivating poem read by Tom Hiddleston. Poetry: “Clenched Soul” by Pablo Neruda (read by Tom Hiddleston) (12/07) (youtube.com)

Themes dissected in the poem, “Clenched Soul” by Pablo Neruda

Longing and Desire: The poem delves into the speaker’s intense longing and desire for emotional connection with his loved one. Throughout the poem, the speaker grapples with feelings of yearning and longing, expressing a deep desire to be close to his beloved.

Memory and Nostalgia: Memories play a significant role in the poem, as the speaker reminisces about past moments shared with his loved one. The speaker’s emotions fluctuate throughout the poem, reflecting the complexities of human emotion and the challenges of longing.

Absence and Loss: The theme of absence and loss pervades the poem, as the speaker grapples with the physical and emotional distance between his beloved. The absence of the loved one is keenly felt throughout the poem, contributing to the melancholy.

Transience and Impermanence: The poem also explores the transient nature of human experience and emotion, highlighting the fleetingness of moments of joy and connection.

Tone and mood of the poem “Clenched Soul” by Pablo Neruda

The tone of the poem is predominantly melancholic. Overall, the mood of the poem evokes a sense of bittersweetness, as the speaker grapples with the complexities of love, loss, and longing. However, despite the underlying sadness and longing, there is also a sense of beauty in the speaker’s observations of nature and memories.

Form and structure of the poem, “Clenched Soul” by Pablo Neruda

“Clenched Soul Poem” by Pablo Neruda is structured into seven stanzas, each varying in length. The stanzas are irregular, with varying numbers of lines, contributing to the poem’s free verse form.

The poem features sparse punctuation, with only occasional commas and periods. This lack of punctuation contributes to the poem’s flowing and uninterrupted rhythm, allowing the lines to blend seamlessly into one another. It also creates a sense of fluidity, mirroring the speaker’s emotional state.

Rhyme scheme and rhythm

There is no consistent rhyme scheme in the poem, as it is written in free verse. The absence of rhyme contributes to the poem’s natural and unforced flow, allowing the focus to remain on the imagery and emotional resonance of the language. The poet’s choice to forgo rhyme emphasizes the rawness and authenticity of the speaker’s emotions, adding to the poem’s overall impact.

Literary devices and figures of speech used in “Clenched Soul” by Pablo Neruda

Metaphor: Phrases such as “the blue night”, “coin” “twilight” are examples of metaphors used to reflect the emotional state of the speaker.

Imagery: The poem is rich in visual imagery, such as “the blue night,” “the fiesta of sunset,” and “blue sweater rolled like a hurt dog.”

Simile: The poem has multiple similes such as “a piece of sun burned like a coin in my hand”. This simile compares a piece of sunlight to a burning coin, evoking the intensity of the speaker’s emotions.

Personification: The line “my blue sweater rolled like a hurt dog” personifies the sweater, attributing human-like qualities of pain and suffering to it.

Juxtaposition: The juxtaposition of “twilight” with “erasing statues” creates a contrast between the peacefulness of dusk and the act of destruction or removal.

Repetition: The repetition of “always, always” emphasizes the perpetual nature of the speaker’s emotions and experiences.

Enjambment: The use of enjambment throughout the poem creates a flowing and uninterrupted rhythm, allowing the lines to blend seamlessly into one another.

Symbolism: The falling book and the receding of the loved one symbolize the passage of time and the transient nature of human experience.

Alliteration: Sometimes a piece of sun” – The repetition of the “s” sound creates a rhythmic quality to the line, enhancing its emotional impact.

Rhetorical question: “Why will the whole of love come on me suddenly / when I am sad and feel you are far away?” – This rhetorical question emphasizes the speaker’s sense of confusion and uncertainty about the nature of love and longing.

"Clenched Soul Poem" by Pablo Neruda portrays deep longing and melancholy as the speaker reflects on love, loss, and memory using vivid imagery.

More about the author, Pablo Neruda

Pablo Neruda, a renowned Chilean poet and diplomat, is celebrated for his evocative and passionate poetry. Born Neftalí Ricardo Reyes Basoalto in 1904 in Parral, Chile, Neruda adopted his pen name as a tribute to Czech poet Jan Neruda.

His works often explore themes of love, nature, politics, and the human condition with rich imagery and profound emotion. Neruda’s literary career was prolific, producing numerous collections of poetry, including “Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair” and “Canto General.” His writing style is characterized by vivid imagery, sensory detail, and lyrical language, which captivates readers and stirs their emotions.

Throughout his life, Neruda remained politically engaged, serving as a diplomat and a senator for the Chilean Communist Party. He won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1971, honoring his “poetry that with the action of an elemental force brings alive a continent’s destiny and dreams.” Neruda’s work continues to inspire readers worldwide, transcending cultural boundaries and leaving a lasting impact on literature and art.


In “Clenched Soul Poem” by Pablo Neruda, the speaker expresses feelings of longing and sadness through vivid imagery and emotional reflections. The poet’s intention may be to evoke empathy and understanding from the reader, as they explore themes of love, loss, and memory. The poem seems to be targeted at anyone who has experienced the pain of longing or separation from a loved one. It is from the poet’s perspective, offering a glimpse into his inner world and emotional struggles. Reading the poem can evoke a sense of empathy, as one reflects on their own experiences of love and loss.

Read more Pablo Neruda’s poetry at “Absence” by Pablo Neruda: A Complete Analysis – PoemRead


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