I’ve been a fan of Neruda for a while now. In his Sonnet LXVI: I Do Not Love You Except Because I Love You, he says:

Maybe January light will consume
My heart with its cruel
Ray, stealing my key to true calm.

I do not understand these verses. Especially why does he mention January specifically? And what does he mean by January light?

  • It's worth noting that this poem was originally in Spanish. A blogger has provided an alternative English translation without those odd line breaks. It's even more worth noting that January in Spanish is "enero", which appears at the end of the line to rhyme with "entero" (entire). But a good poet should have more reason for wording choice than just "because it rhymes", so that can't be the full answer. – Rand al'Thor Sep 15 '19 at 14:10
  • @Randal'Thor thanks! But I still don’t get the relevance of January! – Verbose Sep 15 '19 at 14:12

Well Neruda was Chilean and Chile is in the southern hemisphere. Therefore January is the hottest month by far and when the sun shines more cruelly.

I am not Chilean but I am from the same latitude in Argentina. As January is the hottest month it is usually the month with the brightest light also.

  • Is "January light" ("la luz de enero") a common saying in that part of the world for intense sunlight? – Rand al'Thor Oct 4 '19 at 11:35
  • @Randal'Thor That does make a lot of sense in the context of the verse. Thank you! – Verbose Dec 1 '19 at 22:31

As in English, the first month of the Spanish year is named after Janus, the Greek double-faced god, who looks behind at the past year and forward toward the new. Janus was also the god of thresholds, liminal spaces and doors, likely accounting for all the back and forth in the narrator’s words and the reference to the “key.”

Some more information from wikipedia, on Janus, may also clarify some of the questions and comments above:

While the fundamental nature of Janus is debated, in most modern scholars' view the god's functions may be seen as being organized around a single principle: presiding over all beginnings and transitions, whether abstract or concrete, sacred or profane.[15] Interpretations concerning the god's fundamental nature either limit it to this general function or emphasize a concrete or particular aspect of it (identifying him with light[16] the sun,[17] the moon,[18] time,[19] movement,[20] the year,[21] doorways,[22] bridges[23] etc.) or else see in the god a sort of cosmological principle, interpreting him as a uranic deity.[24]

  • What's your specific answer as to the meaning of "January light"? – bobble Apr 3 at 23:22
  • The meaning of “January light” was present in my answer till you decided to “edit” it. Now I have to go back to my earlier answer and get the quotation back, because it seems to have been lost in the “rollback.” Thanks. – ferjsoto42yahoocom Apr 3 at 23:32
  • 1
    ? I didn't mean to remove any information in my edit. I simply deleted several numbers in brackets, which looked to be pointing to citations that were not present in the quote. – bobble Apr 4 at 2:13
  • Then It’s not a problem. I was a bit annoyed because somehow in one of the edits the quotation with the information on Janus as sun or light got dropped. Once that occurred, my answer became useless. – ferjsoto42yahoocom Apr 4 at 2:41
  • That appears to have been an edit by you: see Revision 4; it is a rollback to Revision 1. – bobble Apr 4 at 2:46

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