Love Sonnet XVII (I don’t love you as if you were a rose of salt, topaz,)

Love Sonnet XVII (I don’t love you as if you were a rose of salt, topaz,) Symbols, Allegory and Motifs

Carnations (Symbol)

When listing things that his love does not resemble, perhaps the most memorable image the speaker mentions is an "arrow of carnations that propagate fire." Here, Neruda creates a powerful symbol of romantic love. Carnations, a flower, carry connotations of the rituals of romance and even marriage, as well as of femininity and fertility. However, by comparing the colorful flowers to fire (using a kind of metaphor-within-a-simile), Neruda also recalls fire's connotations of danger and passion. By piling these associations on top of one another, Neruda goes beyond evoking romance, instead evoking an especially dramatic and even showy version of it. By insisting that his love is nothing like the arrow of carnations, the speaker denies its resemblance to these outward-facing rituals of romance, arguing that his love is intimate and personal.

The plant (Symbol)

In contrast to the carnations, which symbolize a performative expression of love, the plant described in the poem's second stanza symbolizes a private version of love. This plant is described as keeping its flowers hidden, so that they exist but remain enclosed inside of the plant rather than visible to the outside world. The speaker suggests that this does not make the plant less beautiful or valuable, but instead relocates and concentrates the beauty, reserving it for the plant. Therefore, the speaker suggests through this symbol, his love is primarily inward-facing, geared towards introspection and intimacy rather than outward expressiveness—but this makes it no less meaningful.