You Will Fight by Pablo Neruda

You Will Fight by Pablo Neruda

Q. Explain the poem You Will Fight by Pablo Neruda.

“Canto General” is a sweeping epic poem by Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. Published in 1950, it is considered one of Neruda’s most significant works and a masterpiece of Latin American literature.

Canto General is divided into 15 sections (canto) across two volumes and contains over 300 poems.

  1. La lámpara en la tierra (The Lamp on Earth)
    Contains “Amor América (1400)” (Love America).
  2. Las alturas de Macchu Picchu (The Heights of Macchu Picchu)
  3. Los conquistadores (The Conquistadors)
  4. Los libertadores (The Liberators)
  5. La arena traicionada (The Sand Betrayed)
    Contains “The Hangman” (El verdugo).
  6. América, no invoco tu nombre en vano (America, I Do Not Invoke Your Name in Vain)
  7. El estrecho dudoso (The Uncertain Strait)
  8. Canto general de Chile (General Song of Chile)
  9. La tierra se llama Juan (The Earth is Called Juan)
  10. Que despierte el leñador (Let the Woodcutter Awaken)
  11. Las flores de Punitaqui (The Flowers of Punitaqui)
  12. Los ríos del canto (The Rivers of Song)
  13. Coral de año nuevo para la patria en tinieblas (New Year’s Song of the Nation in Darkness)
    Contains “You Will Fight” (Lucharás) as the 16th poem.
  14. El gran océano (The Great Ocean)
  15. Yo soy (I Am)
You Will Fight

This new year, compatriot, is yours.
It was born more from you than from time, choose
the best of your life and surrender it to combat.
This year that has fallen like a corpse in its tomb
cannot rest with love and with fear.
This dead year is a year of pains that accuse.
And when its bitter roots, at the hour
of the party, in the night, break off and fall
and another ignored crystal rises to the emptiness
of a year that your life will gradually fill,
give it the dignity required by my country,
yours, this narrowness of volcanoes and wines.
I am no longer a citizen of my country: they write to me
that the indecorous clown who governs has erased
with thousands of other names, mine
from the lists that were the law of the Republic.
My name is erased so that I do not exist,
so that the grim vulture of the dungeon can vote
and so can the bestial officials who deliver
blows and torment in the government’s cellars,
so that the stewards, foremen, partners
of the merchant who surrendered the Homeland can vote securely.
I am wandering, I live the anguish of being far
from the prisoner and the flower, from man and the land,
but you will fight to change life.
You will fight to erase the stain
of manure from the map, you will undoubtedly fight
so that the shame of this time ends
and the prisons of the people open and the wings
of betrayed victory rise.

Explanation of You Will Fight by Pablo Neruda

This new year, compatriot, is yours.

Neruda addresses his fellow citizens, emphasizing collective ownership and responsibility in shaping a future free from colonial influence. This line asserts empowerment and reclaims agency for the postcolonial subject.

The phrase “is yours” highlights the idea of ownership and control, suggesting that the future is in the people’s hands. This call to action emphasizes the importance of taking responsibility for shaping the future.

It was born more from you than from time;
Choose the best of your life and surrender it to combat.

The poet implies that personal and collective actions, rather than just the passing of time, define the importance of the new year. It indicates that personal sacrifices are essential for making significant changes.

He calls for a deep commitment to fighting injustices, a theme central to postcolonial discourse, which often focuses on decolonization and reclaiming history.

By stating that the year was “born more from you than from time,” Neruda highlights people’s active role in creating their destinies.

This year that has fallen like a corpse in its tomb
Cannot rest with love and with fear.

It shows the unresolved trauma and ongoing influence of colonial rule. The phrase “year that has fallen like a corpse in its tomb” represents a time of great difficulty and suffering, possibly due to the ongoing impacts of colonization.

The inability of this “corpse” to rest signifies that the consequences of colonialism are still very much alive and impactful in the present. The emotions of love and fear further illustrate the complexity of postcolonial societies.

Love represents a deep connection to the colonized homeland, its people, and its cultural heritage. This love is overshadowed by the fear of ongoing oppression, exploitation, and the struggles associated with overcoming colonial history.

The coexistence of these emotions highlights their attempt to reclaim their identity and autonomy while still dealing with the remnants of colonial power structures.

This dead year is a year of pains that accuse.

Neruda personifies the past year as accusatory, emphasizing the persistent pain from colonial oppression and the need to address these injustices.

And when its bitter roots, at the hour of the party,
in the night, break off and fall,

The poet uses the image of bitter roots breaking off during a celebration to symbolize deep-seated issues that can no longer be ignored.

Even during times of apparent joy, these problems persist and eventually come to the surface. The imagery of “bitter roots” conveys a sense of long-standing and deeply entrenched issues.

At the same time, the timing of their breakage during a party suggests that these problems are often hidden until they become unavoidable. It indicates that the scars of colonization are pervasive and enduring.

And another ignored crystal rises to the emptiness of a year
That your life will gradually fill,

Neruda’s lines symbolize the start of a new year as an overlooked opportunity for change. Neruda personifies the past year as accusatory, emphasizing the persistent pain from colonial oppression and the need to address these injustices.

The “emptiness of a year” suggests a blank slate, ready for postcolonial societies to redefine and rebuild their identities free from colonial shadows.

“Your life will gradually fill” highlights the active role individuals and communities must play in shaping their future, emphasizing the slow, deliberate process of decolonization.

It’s a call to reclaim cultural identity and autonomy, turning the empty year into a canvas for a self-determined future.

Give it the dignity required by my country,
Yours,
this narrowness of volcanoes and wines.

Neruda urges the new year to be treated with dignity, reflecting the respect his country deserves. He appeals to shared patriotism, emphasizing the collective responsibility to honor Chile.

The “narrowness of volcanoes and wines” symbolizes Chile’s unique geography and rich cultural heritage, with volcanoes representing natural beauty and power and wines highlighting agricultural traditions.

This plea highlights the importance of respecting and strengthening the nation’s identity, which colonial powers often diminish.

It calls for pride in the country’s intrinsic values, ensuring its culture and natural beauty are cherished and preserved for the future.

I am no longer a citizen of my country:
They write to me that the indecorous clown
Who governs has erased with thousands of other names,
Mine from the lists that were the law of the Republic.

In these lines, Neruda reflects on his forced exile and loss of citizenship. The “indecorous clown” refers to the oppressive ruler who, through tyrannical governance, has stripped the poet and countless others of their legal identities and rights.

“Indecorous” means lacking decency or decorum; “clown” refers to a person who behaves foolishly. Together, “indecorous clown” is a potent insult aimed at the ruling figure, suggesting that the leader is not only foolish and incompetent but also disgraceful and unfit for the position of power.

Erasing names from “the lists that were the law of the Republic” symbolizes the broader suppression of dissent and the undermining of democratic principles by authoritarian regimes.

From a postcolonial perspective, these lines highlight the common practice of marginalizing and silencing voices that oppose the ruling power, a tactic often used by both colonial and postcolonial governments to maintain control.

The poet losing their citizenship symbolizes how many people feel stripped of their rights under oppressive regimes, which erase identities and histories to reduce resistance and maintain control.

My name is erased so that I do not exist,
So that the grim vulture of the dungeon can vote
And so can the bestial officials
Who deliver blows and torment in the government’s cellars,

Neruda’s lines depict the erasure of his identity by an oppressive regime to suppress dissent, a common tactic in postcolonial contexts. “My name is erased so that I do not exist” symbolizes this silencing.

The “grim vulture of the dungeon” represents corrupt officials benefiting from this erasure, embodying death and decay.

“Bestial officials” who “deliver blows and torment” highlight the cruelty and inhumanity of those enforcing the regime’s power.

This reflects the betrayal of postcolonial ideals of justice and democracy, emphasizing the ongoing struggle for freedom against oppressive forces.

So that the stewards, foremen, partners of the merchant
Who surrendered the Homeland can vote securely.

Neruda critiques the corrupt alliances within the government. “Stewards, foremen, partners of the merchant” refers to those in power and their close allies who benefit from the regime.

The “merchant who surrendered the Homeland” symbolizes individuals or entities that betrayed the nation for personal gain, often aligning with colonial or neo-colonial interests.

The phrase “can vote securely” highlights the manipulation of democratic processes to ensure that only those loyal to the regime, those who maintain and benefit from the status quo, have their voices heard.

From a postcolonial perspective, these lines underscore the betrayal of national interests by a ruling elite that collaborates with external powers, often seen in postcolonial states where former colonial structures and influences persist.

It emphasizes the ongoing struggle for democratic participation and sovereignty against entrenched corrupt systems.

I am wandering,
I live the anguish of being far from the prisoner and the flower,
from man and the land,

In these lines, Neruda expresses his pain and displacement due to his exile. “I am wandering” indicates his state of being lost or without a permanent home, a common experience for those forced to flee oppressive regimes.

“I live the anguish of being far from the prisoner and the flower” highlights his deep emotional suffering. The “prisoner” represents those who are still oppressed and suffering under the regime.

The “flower” symbolizes beauty, peace, and the natural world, which also distances him.

“From man and the land” further emphasizes his separation from both his fellow human beings and his homeland. The postcolonial experience uproots individuals from their culture, community, and environment, reflecting this disconnection.

But you will fight to change life.

This line emphasizes the active role that individuals must play in transforming their circumstances. It suggests that collective action and resistance can alter the course of history and improve the quality of life for all.

You will fight to erase the stain of manure from the map,

“Stain of manure” symbolizes the corruption, injustice, and degradation inflicted by the oppressive regime. Fighting to erase this stain represents the effort to cleanse the nation of these injustices and restore its dignity and integrity.

The “map” signifies the nation, indicating a broader vision of national renewal.

You will undoubtedly fight so that the shame of this time ends.

Neruda reassures us that the fight against oppression is both necessary and inevitable. The “shame of this time” refers to the dishonour and suffering the current regime brings.

The people will end this period of disgrace by fighting, aiming to usher in an era of justice, freedom, and pride. In these lines, Neruda shifts from a personal anguish tone to a resolute hope and determination tone.

From a postcolonial perspective, these lines capture the spirit of resistance and resilience that is central to the postcolonial struggle.

They highlight the importance of collective action to overcome the remnants of colonial oppression and the corrupt legacies of postcolonial governments.

And the prisons of the people open

This phrase symbolizes the liberation of the oppressed. “Prisons of the people” represent the literal and figurative confinement of individuals under an oppressive regime.

Opening these prisons signifies the release of political prisoners, the end of repression, and the broader liberation of society from tyranny.

And the wings of betrayed victory rise.

The “wings of betrayed victory” symbolize the past efforts and dreams of achieving freedom and justice. These aspirations were ultimately defeated. Corrupt leaders or colonial powers sabotaged them.

The imagery of wings rising shows a sense of renewal and strength. This means that the victories, once halted or betrayed, will now succeed and thrive. Consequently, these victories will finally find their rightful place and flourish.

It is the hope and determination to overcome the remnants of colonial oppression and the corruption of postcolonial regimes.

The opening of prisons signifies the dismantling of oppressive structures. Simultaneously, the rising wings of betrayed victory symbolize reclaiming stolen dreams and realizing true independence and justice.

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