"Tonight I Can Write (The Saddest Lines)" is a 1924 poem by the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, in which a distraught speaker describes his feelings after the end of a relationship and attempts to express those feelings on the page. Through the speaker's sadness, Neruda explores the links between internal feeling and external linguistic expression, as well as the relationship between the natural world and the emotional world.
The poem is written in free verse, with short stanzas comprising one or two lines each, most of them end-stopped. It uses a blend of hyperbolic and understated language to contrast the speaker's strong feelings with his uncertainty and exhaustion.
The work was first published in Neruda's first collection, Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair. In that collection, the poem was titled "Poem 20"; the title "Tonight I Can Write (The Saddest Lines)" is in fact taken from its first line. The poem, along with the others in that collection, helped establish Neruda as a household name and laid the groundwork for his prolific literary—and political—career.
Originally written in Spanish, this poem—like many of Neruda's works—has been translated into a wide variety of languages. The most commonly read English translation of this poem, and the one specifically analyzed in this guide, was published by American writer W.S. Merwin in his 1969 translation of Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair.