By Pablo Neruda
§ "Keeping Quiet" by Pablo Neruda is a powerful poem that encourages readers to pause, reflect, and consider the impact of their actions on the world and on themselves.
§ Pablo Neruda is the pen name of Neftali Ricardo Reyes Basoalto who was born in the town of Parral in Chile. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in the year 1971.
§ In this poem Neruda talks about the necessity of quiet introspection and creating a feeling of mutual understanding among human beings. The poem advocates for a moment of mindfulness and a break from the noisy, destructive patterns of human behaviour.
§ The poem is rich in language and profound in emotional content with the wonderful handling of words and expressions. It is free verse without any rhyming scheme.
§ The poem is a free verse without any stanza division, rhyme scheme and full stop.
Line by Line Explanation
Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.
For once on the face of the Earth
let’s not speak in any language,
let’s stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.
‘Keeping Quiet’ by Pablo Neruda. It's a thought provoking poem that encourages reflection and stillness in the face of a noisy and tumultuous world. The poem starts with a call, asking the readers to do a symbolic countdown to twelve. These lines emphasise the importance of silence and stillness. The poet is suggesting that, for a moment, everyone should stop talking in any language as various languages that people speak, may create misunderstanding, miscommunication, confusion or distance. The poet is proposing a universal, non-verbal communication. We should not be involved in any action either, to prevent any sort of struggle or fight. This line reinforces the call for physical inaction and mental calm. People should pause from their frenetic activities that exhaust and frustrate and evaluate their words and actions to calculate their worth and validity, and think whether our actions are required or not.
It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines,
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.
The poet describes this moment of stillness as exotic and most beautiful. This quietness is way better than our usual hectic life style without any rush and noise of engines or machines that we use in our life. If we are in complete inaction, we will be together completely, and in perfect sense. Though this togetherness will be sudden and strange but sweet and pleasing he silence and stillness. Such togetherness will be strange as we have forgotten to find time and experience this togetherness due to our life of hurry and worry.
Fishermen in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would look at his hurt hands.
The poet envisions a world where even activities that harm nature would cease in this moment of silence. The poet can foresee that this mad rush of human activities would destroy natural and environmental wealth, hence this wealth needs time to regenerate, replenish and regrow. To fulfil our needs we must not harm nature and pause to see whether we are destroying resources to the limit where nothing can be restored. We must also stop and check to ensure the quality of our life in this silence and stillness.
Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victory with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.
The poet criticizes the war mongers and the destructive nature of wars. Green wars refer to wars against environment and wars with gases means by various ways of air pollution and wars with fire stand for use of fire arms during war. Such wars need to be stopped as even after victory in them, there is huge loss, and none is able to lead a peaceful and happy life. This pursuit of victory at any cost, doesn’t benefit anyone. In this moment of quietness and stillness, those involved in wars would realise the importance of peace, and abandon their destructive ways and peacefully coexist with the people who are their brothers as entire earth is our family.
What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about;
I want no truck with death.
The poet clarifies that the call for stillness is not an encouragement of total inactivity but rather a pause to reflect upon what life is, and what the purpose of our life is. We should not be confused that inactivity is being suggested here, in fact, the poet advises us to avoid unnecessary action that causes destruction and loss of life. If we can’t be productive, we mustn’t be destructive, either.
If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.
The poet laments humanity's relentless pursuit of progress and mad rush on the path of advancement. The silence could provide an opportunity for introspection, and allowing us to better understand ourselves as well as others. We reflect that we never tried to understand the people of our family and society at large as we trapped ourselves in the golden net of fulfilling our ambition. We need to break free from self-destructive tendencies which could destroy this world and the peace of our life as well.
Perhaps the Earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.
Now I’ll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.
Nature can offer us valuable lessons in resilience and renewal, even in moments that appear lifeless. The earth takes an interval for taking a break in order to replenish itself. The earth sleeps during winter so that it spreads beauty in this world during the flowering season. Hence, we all must learn a lesson that in order to be more purposeful and more meaningful in our life and action we need to take a pause and reflect. The poem ends by completing the countdown, reiterating the call for silence and stillness.
Now we will count to twelve - Alliteration
and we will all keep still – Alliteration, Consonance
For once on the face of the Earth – Assonance, Repetition
let’s not speak in any language – Anaphora
let’s stop for one second – Anaphora, Assonance
without rush, without engines – Repetition, symbolism
we would all be together – Alliteration
in a sudden strangeness – Consonance, Alliteration, Oxymoron
Fishermen in the cold sea – Imagery
would not harm whales – Imagery
and the man gathering salt – Assonance, Imagery
would look at his hurt hands – Alliteration, Consonance, Imagery
Those who prepare green wars – Metaphor, symbolism
wars with gas, wars with fire – Metaphor, Repetition, Symbolism
victory with no survivors – Irony, Assonance
would put on clean clothes – Consonance, Metaphor, Alliteration
and walk about with their brothers – Alliteration
in the shade, doing nothing. – Assonance, Consonance
What I want should not be confused – Assonance, Consonance
with total inactivity. – Enjambment
Life is what it is about; - Aphorism
I want no truck with death – Metaphor
If we were not so single-minded – Alliteration, Assonance
about keeping our lives moving – Assonance, Consonance
might interrupt this sadness - Consonance
of never understanding ourselves - Enjambment
Perhaps the Earth can teach us – Assonance, Personification
as when everything seems dead – Personification
and later proves to be alive – Contrast
Now I’ll count up to twelve – Refrain
and you keep quiet and I will go – Repetition Apostrophe
The poem conveys the theme that life is not worth wasting in hurry and worry and thoughtless action, rather thinking on the things and actions of more moment. The description of wars and natural activities brings out the theme that nature teaches us countless lessons about how and when to pause.
This poem conveys the significance of quiet introspection and creating a feeling of mutual understanding among human beings. The poet advocates for a moment of mindfulness and a break from the noisy and destructive patterns of human behaviour. Beautiful earth also teaches us giving an example of taking a break to yield beautiful results and makes us ponder over our futile needless worries.