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Keeping Quiet – Pablo Neruda

  • There are too many interpretations for this poem so you are advised to learn it very carefully.
  • Originally written in Spanish, this poem has been translated to dozens of languages so it has lost its true meaning and during interpretation, lost its essence.
  • The interpretation you are going to read here is just one of those many.
  • If you are a CBSE/IGCSE student, this will best suit you. All the Best!

The poet, Pablo Neruda, advises us to be silent for some time during our busy, frustrated, insecure and selfish life. He promises us lasting peace of mind and endless happiness that we have never experienced in our lives. Shut up! This is what he asks us to do.

Here are the Steps!
  1. Count as long as twelve. Twelve is a long count so it keeps your heart slow!
  2. Stop communication with others by words or by signals of hands. No hands, no languages.
  3. If you live by harming others (fisherman), stop harming.
    1. Fishermen, catch fish, not whales. Stop being greedy.
  4. If you live by harming yourself (salt gatherer), stop gathering.
    1. By looking at your hurt hands, you can accept yourself.
    2. Acceptance is the beginning of achieving happiness.
  5. Stop wars against the living organisms using any weapon. Wars don’t settle any crisis.
    1. Wars against the nature
    2. Wars with gas
    3. Wars with fire
  6. Put on the clean clothes of peace and harmony.
    1. No blood-stained war uniforms.
    2. Walk with your brothers (enemies)
    3. Do nothing for a while.
  7. No more agreement/truck with death
  8. Start talking to one’s mind, search in the depth of the mind the causes of sadness, realize that the solution for your sadness is not committing suicide, there is a better way: accept that your ego/being selfish is the cause of your sadness.
  9. Kill the ego, die with your ego and wait for a new birth.
  10. Definitely you will live a new life without selfishness. Come back fresh to a world devoid of wars of any kind, selfishness of any sort and sadness of any depth.
  11. Now you are prepared so start KEEPING QUIET.
Fruits of keeping quiet:
  1. We will feel exotic
  2. We will feel a sudden strange peace of mind
  3. We will understand ourselves
  4. We will not commit suicide
  5. We will be devoid of ego.
Let’s Learn the first Stanza

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.

  1. What is the significance of ‘counting to twelve?’
    Twelve is an extended counting. While counting for a longer time one feels more relaxed than counting for a short time such as one or three. As the counting is followed by a relaxed time of silent meditation, one needs to keep his mind at ease by counting steadily for a longer time.
  2. Why does the poet ask his hearers to stop using any language?
    Languages help us to communicate with other people. As the poet wants this time of silence for talking to oneself, not for talking to other people, he doesn’t want us to use any language.
  3. Why does the poet ask his hearers to make no movements of the arms?
    Like any language, movements of arms can also communicate with other people. The poet wants his hearers to stop all sorts of communication with others to achieve a silent meditation and therefore he asks his hearers to stop any movements of the arms.
Next – We are off to the second Stanza




What do you think?

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