Pablo Neruda's "Love Sonnet XVII" is a modified Italian sonnet focusing on themes of intimacy, love, and self-expression. The poem was first published in Neruda's 100 Love Sonnets, or Cien Sonetos de Amor, in 1959. Like the other poems in that collection, it is dedicated to the poet's wife at the time, Mattilde Urrutia. The poem, and the collection as a whole, were originally written in Spanish. A number of English translations have been published by translators including Stephen Tapscott. The version discussed in this guide was translated into English by Mark Eisner, a biographer as well as a translator of Neruda.
Written in free verse, "Sonnet XVII" generally dispenses with the rhyme and meter constraints of the most traditional sonnets. However, its fourteen-line arrangement of two quatrains followed by a sestet is in keeping with the Italian sonnet form. Moreover, like other sonnets, it contains a volta or sudden change, in this case following the second stanza. Prior to this volta, the speaker focuses on finding a figurative representation for his feelings about a lover. After the volta, the speaker chooses instead to use blunt, literal language in order to convey his strong feelings.
"Love Sonnet XVII" is one of Neruda's most widely read and anthologized poems, as well as one of the most translated Spanish-language poems of the twentieth century.