Tonight I Can Write (The Saddest Lines)

Tonight I Can Write (The Saddest Lines) Essay Questions

  1. 1

    How does this poem address the relationship between the natural world and human feelings?

    In his heartbreak, this poem's speaker uses the natural landscape as a tool with which to understand and measure his emotional reality. He recalls having spent a windy, starlit night, much like the one he now narrates from, beside his former lover. Thus, the landscape serves as a constant of sorts, allowing him to determine that his feelings have changed from happiness to sadness while the world remains the same. In this sense, he reveals nature to be apathetic and uninterested in human emotions. At the same time, though, he is aware of the way that his feelings influence his perception of nature, making the open night seem by turns exciting and depressing. His moods impact how he feels about nature, but nature itself remains the same regardless of his moods.

  2. 2

    The poem's speaker claims to be able to write "the saddest lines." Do you think this claim is true?

    The speaker's claim appears to be untrue: his halfhearted examples of "the saddest lines" are understated, revealing that he either cannot or is unwilling to express his heartbreak in writing. While he intuitively feels that his intense sadness should lead to easy, emotive self-expression, this proves untrue. Indeed, Neruda suggests that the speaker's emotions are so raw and tiring that they render writing harder rather than easier. Thus, ironically, the speaker's mild lines are in a sense extremely sad, since they are evidence that he is unable to find relief in writing when he most wants and expects it.