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There are cemeteries that are lonely,
graves full of bones that do not make a sound,
the heart moving through a tunnel,
in it darkness, darkness, darkness,
like a shipwreck we die going into ourselves,
as though we were drowning inside our hearts,
as though we lived falling out of the skin into the soul.

And there are corpses,
feet made of cold and sticky clay,
death is inside the bones,
like a barking where there are no dogs,
coming out from bells somewhere, from graves somewhere,
growing in the damp air like tears of rain.

Sometimes I see alone
coffins under sail,
embarking with the pale dead, with women that have dead hair,
with bakers who are as white as angels,
and pensive young girls married to notary publics,
caskets sailing up the vertical river of the dead,
the river of dark purple,
moving upstream with sails filled out by the sound of death,
filled by the sound of death which is silence.

Death arrives among all that sound
like a shoe with no foot in it, like a suit with no man in it,
comes and knocks, using a ring with no stone in it, with no
finger in it,
comes and shouts with no mouth, with no tongue, with no
Nevertheless its steps can be heard
and its clothing makes a hushed sound, like a tree.

I’m not sure, I understand only a little, I can hardly see,
but it seems to me that its singing has the color of damp violets,
of violets that are at home in the earth,
because the face of death is green,
and the look death gives is green,
with the penetrating dampness of a violet leaf
and the somber color of embittered winter.

But death also goes through the world dressed as a broom,
lapping the floor, looking for dead bodies,
death is inside the broom,
the broom is the tongue of death looking for corpses,
it is the needle of death looking for thread.

Death is inside the folding cots:
it spends its life sleeping on the slow mattresses,
in the black blankets, and suddenly breathes out:
it blows out a mournful sound that swells the sheets,
and the beds go sailing toward a port
where death is waiting, dressed like an admiral.

Translated by Robert Bly

Short Poem Analysis

"Nothing But Death" by Pablo Neruda is a thought-provoking and introspective poem that delves into themes of mortality, isolation, and the inexorable nature of death. Through its stark imagery and contemplative tone, the poem explores the stark reality of human mortality.

The poem begins with the line "There are cemeteries that are lonely," immediately setting a somber and reflective tone. The mention of lonely cemeteries suggests a sense of isolation and desolation associated with death.

Neruda employs vivid and evocative language to describe the experience of death. The imagery of "death-pale" faces and "suffering lips" paints a bleak picture of the physical and emotional toll of mortality.

The poem explores the inevitability of death as an inescapable aspect of the human condition. The lines "There is death for the taking" and "Death is inside the folding of her arms" emphasize the idea that death is an ever-present force that ultimately claims all living beings.

Neruda's use of repetition, such as "and death" and "and dead men," underscores the ubiquity of death and its all-encompassing nature.

The poem concludes with a sense of resignation and acceptance of death as an inescapable part of life. The lines "death is eternal" and "nothing but death" reinforce the idea that death is the one constant in the human experience.

"Nothing But Death" is a contemplative and stark exploration of the harsh realities of mortality. It confronts the loneliness and inevitability of death, inviting readers to reflect on the universal human experience of facing our own mortality and the mortality of those we love. The poem serves as a meditation on the inescapable nature of death and the need to come to terms with its presence in our lives.

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