Neruda speaks to the doctors:

Pablo Neruda: Poetic Autobiography



Dear professors, doctors, young people, future doctors. I have accepted with some hesitation to come and talk with you. It is not a hesitation of moral, religious or political character, but it is because living in a corner of Chile for many years, living and working there, I find it difficult to move suddenly and think of an environment like the one I have here, where You may expect more from me than I can give you. Because this word conference and lecturer always brings understanding, it brings the understanding, I say, of a wisdom or an important knowledge, that is, a deposit of experience that in this case I could hardly give you.
Only the feeling that we identify with each other, the feeling that like so many times in my life, ours and in the lives of others, we need the science and courage of the doctor, the feeling that you can listen to poetry . This feeling made me end my hesitation and come and talk to you.
This interdependence between human beings, this absolute need to know and understand each other, to know what we work in, what we do, that is the basis of my occupations and one of the duties of my life. Especially thinking that just as our country has immense needs and desperate gaps in progress and in so many other things, we Chileans - and I have felt and had this notion all my life -, this joy or satisfaction that we are building Each with our action, whatever it may be, the conformation and destiny of our country.
I do not believe that this active feeling of working on something that we are modifying and building, have it in many nations, especially in the nations of the old capitalist world, because the overdeveloped nations already have almost everything done, routed, finite and there is no longer There that intention to work in the unknown zones or in the formation of a nation.

Foundational Poetry

Doctor and poet are part of this construction of the nation, and of course, if science is very important, primordial and seems to be the highest point of the advance of international and national life, poetry has a historical depth, remote, and has survived From the earliest manifestations that were perhaps the first manifestations of art in man, along with superstition and religion in its beginnings, in the darkest and most remote ages of mankind.
It has subsisted later, helping the peoples and heroes of the songs of gesta or epic poems, which are confused with the very origin of certain great nations, which seem to have shaped and destined them, and thus we know ancient Greece by a poet Blind, and there also walks in the world of culture that indicates to us a little with this star of having been created also us Chileans, not a block of land or stone but a diamond block of extraordinary poetry, I mean Poem La Araucana by Don Alonso de Ercilla, who first saw in the world, in the sixteenth century, the image of a territory unknown for centuries, full of heroes of fascinating and strange names, full of harsh feats. We were, therefore, born of a great epic poem. Poetry was due from the beginning to the creation of our remote nationality, in a world in which this poem, La Araucana, also faced the duties of humanism, the duties of renaissance, the duties of an ideology of conscience. Ercilla as protagonist and as hero of his wonderful episodic book to the enemies of his race, the enemies of the conquerors. He, unlike the predatory warlords that imperial Spain sent to America to conquer it, destroying it or not, assumed the most advanced part of the consciousness of the time, giving to the Araucanians, in mythological but also very realistic form, a greatness Unique that left them forever in the history of the great deeds of Humanity.
Thus, poetry and consciousness, poetry and science, have intertwined to form human depth and to determine the continuity of culture and intellectual life.

Risky fascination

For my part, in an extraordinarily modest way, I understood from a very young age that my poetry, my work should always have a point of view if not systematically pedagogical and utilitarian, but a point of orientation directly out of our land and our roots.
Do not think that for a poet of my time it was an easy prospect to fulfill. In order to understand this problem, which is not only personal but also of culture at any moment, it is the universal fascination that presses writers, art creators, the prestige of fashion and the style in vogue in Great metropolis. This made him feel a lot
This made me feel much more when I began to publish my first books and to write in a more personal way, back in the years 1921, 22, 23 and 24, when I lived in the pensions of Avenida Independencia with many medical students That remind me now of you, in your white suits. In those days, poetry took on an extraordinarily cosmopolitan character, and as now also throughout America, the models came from France, and there were writers not only from our country, but from the countries of all Latin America that left definitively to Europe and stopped writing in our language to write almost always in French. So the drama for me, of those years, was to reject but absorb that influence that denationalized me, which somehow threatened to destroy the most intimate feelings that shaped my poetry.
Not all of this was entirely conscious, not everything was an entirely clear and formulated process in advance, as an equation, but was a swing of feelings, influences and rejections.

The Andean novel

This tendency to make a literature that had something to do deeply with our life, was reflected later with not equal greatness in what we would call the Andean novel, the novel of the countries of the Pacific, that from the great Mexican novel, with Mariano Azuela, The novel by Rómulo Gallegos, by Ciro Alegría, by Jorge Icaza in Ecuador and by some Chileans, absorbed the problems of the indigenous masses and penetrated strongly in the hidden layers of the population of our America, revealing again an immense continent of Suffering, superstitions, great pains and great human needs.
But if we examine a current of this kind that I admire, we dialectically have to understand how dangerous a unilateral position is of many of these great writers of the Andean novel who were left behind in the path of the most universal expression, Many of them, in a provincialism of expression that did not give us greater victories than those achieved until that moment, and we see, on the other hand, how novels more alive, more imaginative and less obsessed with these problems have been born in these last years .. Novels that have displaced almost all the attention that lent itself to these classics of indigenismo, novels represented by Carlos Fuentes, of Mexico; By Cortázar, from Argentina; And by others and others and others.
My poetry had then, in those years, these two tremendous disjunctives, this spiritual polyvalence, these poles of attraction. Through the long journey of my poetry I have somehow believed to fulfill original duties to the earth, to our roots, and also to open, in some way more universally, the poetic language of our time, at least at a time when others Poets, other writers come and will come, because the fertility of poetry, its inexhaustibility are so proven, that despite signs that seemed sterile like those that happened to the classic times of poetry of the Spanish Golden Age, suddenly a new Generation, that of Federico García Lorca, Alberti, Alexaindre and others gave a new direction and new contents to the Spanish poetry, that once again changed, once again suffered with exile and with the bloody civil war of Spain.
Of these, of these Spaniards of my generation, I also learned, in the direction of the knowledge of the classics that by those years were so poorly taught in our high schools that they became the symbol of literary boredom.
In Spain, as a new dimension of my spirit, in my Spanish years I was able to acquire the true, intrinsic and intimate knowledge of the great Spanish poetry of centuries past and I was able to truly appreciate the immense contribution of that poetry such as that of Quevedo, , Or that of Lope, which seems very remote from our sensibility, is, nevertheless, an immense quarry of knowledge and of intellectual surpassing.
Your concerns
This was an introduction to get to read some of my verses in which we will gradually see my concerns, in the sense that I am indicating them.
The American concern, for example, is found in this description of the birds, the rivers ... just what I was going to read the page missing. But let's look at this description of the birds of ancient America ...
General Song 4 - The Birds Come, 1980
"Everything was flying in our land. / As the drops of blood and feathers / the cardinals bleed / the dawn of Anahuac. / The toucan was an adorable / box of varnished fruits, / the hummingbird kept the sparks / originals of the lightning / and their Tiny bonfires / were burning in the still air.
"The illustrious parrots filled the depths of the foliage, like green gold ingots, fresh from the damp / submerged swamp, and from their circular eyes, and looked at a yellow ring, as old as minerals.
"All the sky eagles / nourished their bloody strain / in uninhabited blue, / and over carnivorous feathers / flew over the world / condor, killer king, / sky lone friar, / black snow talisman / Falconry
"The baker's engineering / made of fragrant clay / small sound theaters / where he appeared singing.
"The atajacaminos / was giving its moist cry / to the edge of the cenotes. / The araucana torcaza made / rough bush nests / where it left the real gift / of its eggs empavonados.
"Southern loica, fragrant / sweet carpenter of autumn ...".
From "The Birds Come", "The Lamp on the Ground", General Song.
I am done. Well, many of these named birds and some of these words are unknown to some of you, right? Cenote is where the deep water is in the Mayab, in ancient Mayan cities. If some birds, such as the torcazas, are unknown to the young, it is because we have destroyed them day by day, do you know a torcaza? It seems they have not left us any.
"Araucania, bouquet of torrential oaks, / oh homeland ruthless, beloved, dark, / solitary in your rainy kingdom: / eras only mineral gorges, / cold hands, fists / accustomed to cutting boulders: / eras, homeland, peace of The hardness / and your men were rumor, / rough appearance, wild wind.
"They did not have my Araucanian parents / luminous feathers, / they did not marry in bridal flowers, / they did not spice gold for the priest: / were stone and tree, roots / of shaken shafts, / leaves with a spear, / / Father, you barely lifted / the ear at a gallop, just at the top / of the mountains crossed the ray / of Araucania. / The parents of stone became shady, / knotted to the forest, darkness / Became ice light, / roughness of earth and thorns, / and so they waited in the depths / of indomitable solitude: / one was a red tree looking, / another a fragment of metal he heard, / another a blast of Wind and drill, / another had the color of the trail. / Homeland, ship of snow, / hardened foliage: / there you were born, when the man of yours / asked the land his banner / and when earth and air and stone and rain, / Leaf, root, perfume, howl, / covered as a mantle to the son, / loved it or defended it. / Thus was born the unanimous homeland: / the unit before the combat ... ".
From "Unite the earth and the man", "Los Libertadores", General song.
The fight described by Ercilla in La Araucana I told again, I counted as:
"So the earth brought out the man.
"He grew like a fortress." He was born of the battered blood. He buried his hair / like a small red puma / and the eyes of hard stone / gleamed from matter / like implacable gleams from the hunt. "
From "Men Arise", "Los Libertadores", General song.
"In the secret strain of the rauli, Caupolicán, torso and storm grew, and when he turned towards the invading weapons, his people drove, he walked the tree, he walked the hard tree of the homeland. / The invaders saw the foliage / Half of the green mist, / the thick branches and the garment / of innumerable leaves and threats, / the earthly trunk become village, / the roots leave the territory. / They knew that now had come / the clock of life and death ... ".
From "Toqui Caupolicán", "Los Libertadores", General song.
"But Caupolican came to torment.
"Stuck in the spear of the torment, / he entered the slow death of the trees.
"Arauco retracted his green attack, / felt the shiver in the shadows, / stuck his head in the earth, / he crouched in his pains. / El Toqui slept in death. / An iron noise came from the camp, a crown / Of foreign laughter, / and into the mourning woods / only the night beat.
"It was not the pain, the bite / of the open volcano in the viscera, / it was only a dream of the forest, / the tree that was bleeding.
"In the bowels of my country / entered the killer point / wounding sacred lands. / Burning blood fell / quietly in silence, down, / waiting for spring
"This blood fell deeper.
"Down to the roots.
"To the dead fell.
"To those who were to be born."
"El impalado", "Los Libertadores", General song.
"The blood touches a corridor of quartz. / The stone grows where the drop falls. / Thus Lautaro is born of the earth."
From "Lautaro (1550)", "Los Libertadores", General song.
Lautaro was a thin arrow. / Elastic and blue was our father. / It was his first age only silence. / His adolescence was dominion. His youth was a directed wind. It was prepared like a long spear. He used his feet in the waterfalls. He raised his head in the thorns. / He ran the guanaco tests. / He lived in the snow burrows. / He stalked the food of the eagles. He scratched the secrets of the cliff. He entertained the petals of the fire. / It was suckled from cold spring. / It was burned in the infernal gorges. / It was a hunter among cruel birds. His hands were stained with victories. / He read the attacks of the night. / He sustained the landslides of sulfur.
"Speed ​​was done, sudden light.
"He took the slowness of autumn. / He worked in the invisible lairs. / He slept on the sheets of the ventisquero./ He equated the behavior of the arrows / He drank the wild blood on the roads / He snatched the treasure of the waves. He threatened as a grim god./ He ate in every kitchen of his town./ He learned the alphabet of lightning./ He sniffed the scattered ashes./ He wrapped his heart in black skins.
"He deciphered the spiral of the smoke. / It was built of taciturn fibers. / It was accepted as the soul of the olive.
"Only then was he worthy of his people.
Of "Education of the cacique", "Los Libertadores", General song.
That is the story of Lautaro. That is the intense preoccupation of my poetry to search for the origins, the contents of our own land. In this long journey of my poetry I found among many other things and many other adventures from which I left or did not go out, I found the way or I did not find it. But the most difficult task in this long adventure was to return to a simplicity of communication. For a long time, and years, by obligations of my own life, my poetry darkened remarkably. Garcilaso de la Vega, the great Spanish Renaissance poet:
"I did not come for my feet / so many damages / forces of my destiny have caused me"
And my poetry of the time of Residence on Earth, dark book, painful, cruel, in Fin, formally hermetic is the product of a long incommunication with my own language, with my own people and with the outside world, in fact. Very young, shortly after I was twenty years old, I went to live as a consul, third class of course, back in those unknown territories of Asia, unknown to me.
I lived first in Burma, an extraordinary, mysterious nation. Also in India, in Ceylon, they are points of my incommunication with the languages ​​and also of my own ignorance of the motives, motivations, of the depth of the culture of those countries. I became a man condemned to a kind of loneliness, of incommunication that were transparent in my poetry of those years, a painful poetry. But within those same years other transformations took place in me because the Asian world lived in the colonial period. It was in some way or another that I felt the tremendous demand for independence that arose or that I wanted to emerge in the immense territories colonized by the English, the French and the Dutch. And, of course, although I could not directly take part in it, communicating with young people, especially with the students of that time in India, I came to understand that there would ever be an immense revolution, a movement of independence In the countries where I had to live.

Neruda and Gandhi

In that knowledge of people, men and movements of that time, it was my turn to meet Mahatma Gandhi and his disciple, who was later the leader of India J. Nehru, and I had to see them speak and act, fighting to raise the immemorial indifference of those Peoples, to raise them to a condition of independence fighters and against colonialism that had truly cruel aspects, are already forgotten, but I had to know about Hindu women and men who had been mutilated from the big toe, with which Move the spinning wheel to spin. It was a frequent punishment because the Manchester spinning mills wanted to clutch the Indian market and the loom industry in India was immemorial.
Hence Gandhi was always with the same kind of cloth, those were the national fabrics, threaded in the traditional looms of India, which for centuries was fabric supplier in the Asian world. The prohibition of using looms came to such a degree by the exploiting English company of India that it was punished by the amputation of the toe that served to move the loom. This was one of the factors of condemnation, of death, which were frequent in both the French and Dutch possessions as well as in the English far east

It has been years since your assassination Paul, but a revolutionary island has achieved your dreams, as we will ever achieve the hope of the righteous. The Cantalao Foundation
Pablo, all that was announced and denounced in the General Song, the island of Cuba, to which you admired so much, managed to create it and demonstrate that your call expressed in the speech to the doctors and in the general song was real.
In our nerveless blood has remained the mandate. Fight to make return our liberties and rights to all the original peoples to each woman and man of these lands, their nature and the life that must be developed here.
Neruda has begun the unstoppable movement for the joy of patriotic Latin-Americans.

Mercury 23 July 2006