Summary of Keeping Quiet by Pablo Neruda

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Last updated on August 24th, 2020 at 08:56 pm

Keeping quiet is a poem written by Pablo Neruda in Spanish, which has been translated in English. In this poem, the Nobel Prize winner poet aims to appeal to the readers to take a little time out of their busy schedules and life for a little introspection and retrospection. The title, “Keeping Quiet”, is symbolic to stop all the activities, keeping quiet in the mind, not doing anything, but to question and understand the purpose of the world that humans have created around themselves. Do go through the Summary of Keeping Quiet.

Neruda became known as a poet when he was 10 years old. He wrote in a variety of styles, including surrealist poems, historical epics, overtly political manifestos, a prose autobiography, and passionate love poems such as the ones in his collection Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair (1924). He often wrote in green ink, which was his personal symbol for desire and hope. The Colombian novelist Gabriel García Márquez once called Neruda “the greatest poet of the 20th century in any language.”Harold Bloom included Neruda as one of the 26 writers central to the “Western Tradition” in his book The Western Canon.

Summary of Keeping Quiet by Pablo Neruda

Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.

The poet asks everyone to count to twelve, and calm themselves down, and be still after the counting.

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.

In these lines, the poet intends to dissolve the boundaries of cultures by prohibiting them from speaking any language. He asks them to be still for a while, and not make any movements at all. He wants people to let their thoughts flow free without any rush or hurry.

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It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines,
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.

The poet says that it would be a different feeling, or a different experience to see the world come to a halt, where everything stops, and everyone comes together in strangeness, a sudden moment of inactivity, which the world has not often seen.

Fishermen in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would look at his hurt hands.

By these lines, he means to bring brotherhood not only amongst humans, but also a unity amongst the nature and human beings, where the hunter becomes kind to the prey. People stop hurting others in this while, and try to understand them, and reflect on their actions. The oppressors would forget to hurt the oppressed, and the oppressed would forget their pains, and these two classes of people would come together in brotherhood.

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.

By green wars, here the poet means exploitation of nature for the selfish reasons of human beings, and by “wars with gas, wars with fire”, he means to speak about the wars that humans had fought against each other in the past and present. He puts forward the irony of the wars, where everyone experiences a loss, and the victory becomes a result for the sake of ending the wars. Neruda asks them to put on clean clothes, and walk with their enemies like they are their brothers “in the shade”, which means peace and love towards nature, doing no violence.

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What I want should not be
confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about;
I want no truck with death.

The poet here tries to clear his intentions about “being still”, which does not mean total inactivity, according to him. Total inactivity would mean not doing anything at all, but the poet wants the readers to be still, but think. The poet says that his message is about life, and he does not want people to think about death.

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 here says that the basic purpose of all human beings is to stay alive, and hence they work towards it. This single-minded perspective about survival has led to a mad rush to finish all the targets in life. If people slow down, and ponder about themselves, a huge silence would might come between the sadness of never being able to recognise or appreciate ourselves. He says that death is a threat to us as we fear that we might not be able to accomplish our tasks of survival.

Perhaps the Earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.

These lines provoke humans to learn from nature, as what is seen dead rejuvenates and lives again. The winter covers the tress with cold and it appears as if there is no life left in the environment. But as the cycle of climate turns, the environment comes alive. The Earth goes through cycles of life and death, and still continues its journey. It moves on, and becomes alive once again.

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Now I’ll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.

Here, the poet tries to maintain the third person viewpoint towards the entire poem and thoughts, and he tries to quietly leave the scene, as he has initiated the thought process and passed the message.

Maintaining a third person viewpoint to the entire dilemma, the poet leaves us on a train of thought. Now that he has passed on the message, his work is done and he quietly leaves the scene. Hope you enjoyed reading the summary of Keeping Quiet by Pablo Neruda.

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