A Ballad of Inquiry An Analysis of “Ode To My Socks” A Ballad of Inquiry An Analysis of “Ode To My Socks” In the religion of Taoism, cherishing what you have in the present is an essential idea. Envy of strangers’ possessions and wanting miscellaneous objects or feats clouds one’s mind. Loving what life has to offer, even the insignificant events, allows you to live a joyful and less stressful life. Pablo Neruda was able to capture the essence of Taoism in his poem, “Ode To My Socks”. The way Neruda wrote the poem, invokes emotion towards cherishing life for what it is, instead of being greedy or envious of other peoples’ lives.
Pablo Neruda holds the ability to describe an immense story while only using few words to paint a picture in the reader’s mind. Neruda portrays the speaker of the poem as a poor middle aged man who still carries his imagination. “Maru Mori brought me/ a pair/ of socks/ which she knitted herself/ with her sheepherder’s hands,/ two socks as soft/ as rabbits. / I slipped my feet into them/ as though into/ two cases/ knitted/ with threads of/ twilight/ and goatskin” (Lines 1-14). These two lines call to mind the picture of poverty-stricken folks in a needy farm town.
He also shows the reader that the community is close and family like, which is a foreshadowing of the idea that the people in this area are impoverished, yet willing to help out one another at no cost. Lines 6 through 28 is where Neruda tells the reader how the speaker has a childish mind. The speaker describes the socks in a way that a young child would. The speaker’s audience is any reader that has been stricken by the sickness of greed, only to show these sinful people how life is so much more than money and power. This leads to the purpose of the poem.
Neruda’s writing should allow the audience to feel guilty for wanting so much, and start to appreciate life more. When you cloud your mind of dreams of envy, you are not able to see how beautiful the little things in life are. The next section of the poem is from lines 29 through 40. In this part of the poem, the speaker begins to view himself as unworthy of the socks. “They were/ so handsome/ for the first time/ my feet seemed to me/ unacceptable/ like two decrepit/ fireman, fireman/ unworthy/ of that woven/ fire” (29-38). This is one part of the poem, where the theme branches away from Taoism.
A Taoist will believe, not that they are not fit for a certain entity, but that they must respect the beauty of the item as if it were living. If the speaker’s thought of being undeserving of the socks goes unchecked, he would not be following the aspects of Taoism. He corrects his ideas in the next section which spans from lines 41 all the way to 79, the end of the poem. The speaker starts to cherish the socks and the beauty they hold. Nevertheless/ I resisted/ the sharp temptation/ to save them somewhere/ as schoolboys/ keep/ fireflies” (41-45).
By not putting the socks on a pedestal, he is appreciating the true nature of the socks, and not letting them go to waste. Society today is so obsessive with polishing their beloved items and not using them to their true potential. Beauty wasted holds no beauty at all. Neruda’s writing style does not only clearly express his own ideas, but the structure of the poem emphasizes his thoughts. The word “socks” is repetitively used on one line. This accentuates the idea that the socks are more important than other words in the poem.
This also develops a rhyme scheme of the poem, pausing at certain words when moving from line to line. Although this poem is technically written in free-verse, the reader can definitely see or hear a flow to the poem. His use of free-verse even adds meaning to the poem. Neruda tells you a story through the poem, about a pair of socks that were made for him. Instead of there being a set rhyme scheme, the poem is unbound and can speak the way it wants to speak. The poem changes tone in different parts of the poem to add to the story Neruda is telling the reader.
If there was a set rhyme scheme, there would be no room for the tone to be able to change. As mentioned before, certain words are emphasized and the reader is able to take notice. By stressing certain words or phrases, they are glorified, just like the belief in Taoism in which everything has its own singular beauty hidden inside. Neruda also uses the speaker’s childish mind to be able to vividly describe the socks in such a way the reader can easily paint a picture. Edward Hirsch wrote an article, “How to Read a Poem”, and two of his ideas clearly relate to my experience of reading Pablo Neruda’s poem, “Ode To My Socks”.
The first experience I had when reading the poem was that of a spiritual awakening, which relates to a section of Hirsch’s article, “The Immense Intimacy, the Intimate Immensity”. “It needs a reader to possess it, to be possessed by it. It’s very life depends upon it” (89). When reading Neruda’s poem, this exact feeling fell upon me. I’ve read up on Taoism before, but I feel that this poem captured most of its essence. The poem wanted me to posses this idea, and I reached out and grabbed it. The other part of Hirsch’s article that seized me was from “To the Reader Setting Out”.
Similar to the idea above, this section of the article explained how the poem leaves you with an idea. “He leaves each of us a gift” (86). This poem did in fact leave me with a gift because I took something away from it. That something is a greater respect and understanding for the miniscule experiences in life. You have to appreciate the world around you to see that the Earth is truly the essence of beauty. If society continues to be greedy and envy other peoples’ lives, life will become dark and cloudy. We won’t be able to see past our own wants.
Taoism will truly clear up the fog that we’ve set in our minds. People will begin to appreciate life and be gracious for it. It’s a far stretch but if everybody could have the same appreciation for the big and little things in life, violence would be non-existent. This poem captures this and is trying to preach it to the world, all the reader has to do is listen. Works Cited Hirsch, Edward. “How to Read a Poem. ” The World is a Text Ed. Jonathann Silverman and Dean Rader. 2nd ed. New Jersey: Pearson, 2006. 84-90.