Though a comparatively short poem, Pablo Neruda’s “When I Die I Want Your Hands On My Eyes” portrays the familiar emotions of love, loss, and longing. As the narrator tells his lover that he wants them to move on with their life after his passing, he effectively makes the reader ponder the true meaning of a legacy and the true importance of being remembered.
Pablo Neruda was a senator for the Chilean Communist Party, and his poetic works and politics influenced one another throughout his career. With this in mind, this poem could be an allegory for his hope for a more peaceful Chile, even after the current government moves on.
Neruda was ousted after a coup by Augusto Pinochet overthrew the Salvador Allende government that he was working under. The Pinochet government privatized many of the sectors that Neruda had worked to make public under the communist government in Chile, so in this way his ideas did not outlast his death as the narrator of the poem had hoped.
The narrator of “When I Die I Want Your Hands On My Eyes” is left unnamed, along with his generalized idea of a lover. While this may be simply for the sake of space, as the poem is rather short, it also adds a new level of meaning to the idea of a legacy. The author does not have a name for himself, therefore the only thing he can be remembered by is the experiences he has had with his lover. Though he believes they will one day meet again, the only way he will continue to exist in the physical world is through his lover’s memories.
Neruda succeeds in spreading the idea of the continuation of the soul in his poem. The lover describes how he will always be mingling in a corner somewhere, even when his lover is not actively thinking about him. Just as in his life as a Chilean Communist Party Senator that was ousted from office, the spirit of Neruda’s legacy continued even after his death. While not always active, this spirit wishes for others to have the capacity to move on, even if it is heartbreaking to do so.