'rise on the shores of the lonely sea.'

pablo neruda.jpg


by Pablo Neruda




If only you would touch my heart,
if only you were to put your mouth to my heart,
your delicate mouth, your teeth,
if you were to put your tongue like a red arrow
there where my dusty heart is beating,
if you were to blow on my heart near the sea, weeping,
it would make a dark noise, like the drowsy sound of
train wheels,
like the indecision of waters,
like autumn in full leaf,
like blood,
with a noise of damp flames burning the sky,
with a sound like dreams or branches or the rain,
or foghorns in some dismal port,
if you were to blow on my heart near the sea,
like a white ghost,
in the spume of the wave,
in the middle of the wind,
like a ghost unleashed, at the seashore, weeping.

Like a long absence, like a sudden bell,
the sea doles out the sound of the heart,
raining, darkening at sundown, on a lonely coast:
no question that night falls
and its mournful blue of the flags of shipwrecks
peoples itself with planets of throaty silver.

And the heart sounds like a sour conch
calls, oh sea, oh lament, oh molten panic,
scattered in the unlucky and dishevelled waves:
The sea reports sonorously
on its languid shadows, its green poppies.

If you existed, suddenly, on a mournful coast,
surrounded by the dead day,
facing into a new night,
filled with waves,
and if you were to blow on my cold and frightened heart,
if you were to blow on the lonely blood of my heart,
if you were to blow on its motion of doves in flame,
its black syllables of blood would ring out,
its incessant red waters would come to flood,
and it would ring out, ring out with shadows,
ring out like death,
cry out like a tube filled with wind or weeping,
like a shaken bottle spurting fear.

So that's how it is, and the lightning would glint in your
and the rain would come in through your open eyes
to ready the weeping you shut up dumbly
and the black wings of the sea would wheel round you,
with its great talons and its rush and its cawing.

Do you want to be the solitary ghost blowing, 
by the sea its sad instrument?
If only you would call,
a long sound, a bewitching whistle,
a sequence of wounded waves,
maybe some one would come,
(someone would come,)
from the peaks of the islands, from the red depths of the
someone would come, someone would come.
Someone would come, blow fiercely,
so that it sounds like a siren of some battered ship,
like lamentation,
like neighing in the midst of the foam and blood,
like ferocious water gnashing and sounding.

In the marine season
its conch of shadow spirals like a shout,
the seabirds ignore it and fly off,
its roll call of sounds, its mournful rings
rise on the shores of the lonely sea.

by Pablo Neruda

translated by Robert Hass

'The Essential Neruda - Selected Poems'. (Bloodaxe Books UK, April 2010.)


Poem as Friend to Mark

Barcaroleby Pablo Neruda

In this episode, Mark talks about the poem that has been a friend to him – ‘Barcarole' by Pablo Neruda - translated by Robert Hass.

We’re delighted to feature ‘Barcarole’ in this episode and would like to thank Agencia Literaria Carmen Balcells, City Lights Books and Frederick Courtright for granting us permission to share the poem in this way. Discover more about their work here:


You can find ‘Barcarole’ in ‘The Essential Neruda - Selected Poems'. Edited by Mark Eisner, published by Bloodaxe Books in the UK and City Lights Books in the US:



Mark is in conversation with The Poetry Exchange team members, Michael Shaeffer and Alison McManus.

Michael Shaeffer reads the gift reading of ‘Barcarole'.


We talk to people about the poem that has been a friend to them.

In exchange we create a gift for them, a bespoke reading of their chosen poem inspired by the conversation. Our award-winning podcast shares these unique and powerful stories of connection with people across the world. 


We set up an intimate environment for these conversations at festivals, in arts, cultural and public spaces across the country. We also hold exchanges ‘long distance’. Our visitors come from all walks of life and we also feature well-known personalities such as Andrew Scott, Maxine Peake, Roy McFarlane and Paterson Joseph.