This poem “If You Forget Me” is filled with passion for a beloved. It is however evident that it is a retributive love, who will base his feelings and actions on the actions and feelings of his lover. He will continue loving her as long as she shows her love for him. But upon a questionable or hesitant act, then, the poet turns his back. Although the poem promises a reciprocal love, it does not promise to wait but would react as he perceives. This is quite a shaky kind of love, although seems to be full of emotions, it also represses, as evident in the lines: “if little by little you stop loving me / I shall stop loving you little by little. / If suddenly / you forget me / do not look for me, / for I shall already have forgotten you… / at that hour, / I shall lift my arms / and my roots will set off / to seek another land.”
What I can personally say is that this is the kind of love and relationship that is contemporary and practiced by many men and women in this period. It is a love that is not willing to sacrifice and wait, instead, it shows the fear of loss and martyrdom. It will compete for passion with passion but will return ice with ice. It is vengeful and while this is a practical kind of love, there hardly are these kinds of relationships that actually love, because there is actually no one to return to if one flees, the other also flees and finds another, thereby, narrowing the chance for them to return freely to each other’s arms.
This poem, “Sonnet 17” and “I Do Not Love You Except Because I Love You” depict the combinations and webs of Neruda’s thoughts, fears, imaginations, and his probing on the mystery about the self and the lover or the beloved. It burrows on the security and insecurity of a lover, his doubts that almost always overcome his true feelings, his true love. In the end, this kind of love seems destructive and self-defeating.