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Coda -- Octavio Paz

Many thanks to Rajat Sharma, for
introducing me to this poem.
(Poem #442) Coda
 Perhaps to love is to learn
 to walk through this world.
 To learn to be silent
 like the oak and the linden of the fable.
 To learn to see.
 Your glance scattered seeds.
 It planted a tree.
      I talk
 because you shake its leaves.
-- Octavio Paz
(Rajat informs me that this is an extract from a larger poem titled
'Letter of Testimony').

There are some poems which you only have to read once to know
that they'll be a part of you forever; this, for me, is one of them.

It's not as if 'Coda' is a particularly complex poem; it isn't. What it
is, though, is exquisitely 'true' in its simplicity: the basic idea is
something that I've always known implicitly, but which needed
Paz's genius to put into words.


PS. Isn't 'linden' an absolutely beautiful word?


In a slightly more analytical vein:

The first few phrases of the poem are a sort of definition (if such a
thing were possible) of love; like any great poet, Paz presents a
wholly new way of looking at his subject. I especially like the line
"to love... is to learn to be silent" - it conveys a truth lost in many
more verbose descriptions of the emotion.

The silence of the forest ("the oak and the linden of the fable")
leads naturally into the analogy of the second half:"Your glance
scattered seeds / It planted a tree". Again, the metaphor is neither
forced nor is it taken too far; the final line comes as a natural (and
beautiful) conclusion to the whole.

Notice how the rather abstract infinitives with which 'Coda' starts (to
love, to learn, to walk, to see, to be silent) give way to more
concrete actions later on - 'scattered', 'planted', 'talk' and 'shake'.
The result is to move the poem from the general to the specific:
from a discussion of Love as an abstract concept, to words and
sentences addressed directly to the poet's beloved. This is a fairly
common poetic device, but one no less pleasing for that; I like the
delicate and unobtrusive skill with which it's done in today's poem.



Paz won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1990, 'for impassioned
writing with wide horizons, characterized by sensuous intelligence
and humanistic integrity'. His Nobel lecture, titled 'In Search of the
Present', can be found at [broken link]

Sadly, neither Martin nor myself know much about poetry in
languages other than English (Hint! Hint!), so there's a paucity of
translated works on the Minstrels. We've only done one Paz
before, that too a guest submission, 'There is a motionless tree',
archived at poem #412

Other 'Latin' poets to have featured on this list include
Borges: poem #401, and
Lorca: poem #210
Both of these are guest submissions as well.

46 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

marion_demello said...


I like your analysis of "Coda" - I think it is of great benefit to your readers
when you share your more technical insights of the poetry you run.



gianfranco zuccolo said...

is a very delicate poem. I, and I think a lot of others of latinate mother
tongue speakers, would like to read it in its original language. Could I
suggest that translated poems were published with an original language
version, too?


Abraham Thomas said...

> is a very delicate poem. I, and I think a lot of others of latinate mother
> tongue speakers, would like to read it in its original language. Could I
> suggest that translated poems were published with an original language
> version, too?

Thanks, that's an excellent suggestion.

The only problem is, most anthologies of translated poetry don't
have original language versions accompanying the poems... oh
well, I suppose that's what search engines are for :-)


Travis Roozee said...

I would like to thank you all for the time and trouble you have taken to
have this site up and running. I have discovered it as I search for words
that evoke my father, who died on October 17th, much too young. The little
scrap of Coda by Octavio Paz is just wonderful.

Thank you, Ashley Short

Richard Passey said...

cheap rip off of Dorothy Parker
don't like it

Brooke E said...

Please do your homework before you make such a bogus comment like Octavio Paz ripping off Dorothy Parker. Differnt styles, different approaches, different influences, entirely.

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Anonymous said...

Tal vex amar es aprender
a caminar por este mundo.
Aprender a quedarnos quietos
como el tilo y la encina de la fabula.
Aprender a mirar.
Tu miranda es sembradora.
Planto un arbol.
Yo hablo
porque tu meces los follajes.

Anonymous said...

Tal vez

Doris said...

"There are some poems which you only have to read once to know that they'll be a part of you forever; this, for me, is one of them."

I feel the same way. I will always love this poem!!!!


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