This is the relevant part of the poem I'm gonna ask a question about:

Those who prepare green wars, wars with gas, wars with fire, victory with no survivors, would put on clean clothes and walk about with their brothers in the shade, doing nothing

One of the souces that I looked described the green wars as wars wherein people utilize nature – to hide (conceal) themselves among the foliage of forests or make use of the environment. But what my teacher was telling was that it meant waging war against the nature. So I want to ask who is right?

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    [Please do not use gonna for going to in this forum as it is only colloquial spoken English.]
    – Lambie
    Jun 12, 2020 at 15:37
  • This poem is a translation, please always cite the name of the poet. Neruda is one of the most important poets of the 20th c. and his work is only in translation as he wrote in Spanish. That source you found is just silly, I'm afraid to say...Your teacher is on the right track.
    – Lambie
    Jun 12, 2020 at 15:38

2 Answers 2


Question: How would you interpret the meaning of “green wars” in this poem?

The answer is ..........we do not know.

The poet has this to say about green wars in stanza 4:

Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victories with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes

As “green wars” is not an original phrase or even a new one for that matter as it existed before “green” was readily associated with environmental issues, we would have to make non-factual assumptions to give a defined answer.

However in commentaries on the poem there are comments that it is environmental. But these are commentaries not the authors words.

Their answers are readily available on the Internet.

In the poem 'Keeping Quiet' by Pablo Neruda, Green Wars are conflicts caused by environmental issues.


  • Frankly, I don't see how it can mean anything other than envy. It is an original phrase, from this poet: guerras verdes. He would never use anything other than something original. He is, after all, a Nobel Prize winner....
    – Lambie
    Jun 12, 2020 at 15:48

My class has also analysed this poem for English class. Regarding the use of "green wars" the main ideas we came up with were that it could mean army camouflage, mustard gas, and war with nature. Keep in mind, the poet probably had a few meanings in mind when writing the poem in this way. Readers will also apply different interpretations to this. In literary analysis, at least in my opinion, within reason, there isn't a correct or right way of analysing and interpreting things. There's rarely, if at all, objective interpretation of literature. Just interpretations that make varying degrees of sense. The interpretation as camouflage is interesting, as it brings to mind the idea of humans mimicking nature, trying to blend in with nature, but not quite being one with nature. The interpretation as mustard gas could be twisting nature into a deadly weapon. The interpretation as war with nature is rather self-explanatory, and could be about industrialisation and factories and such harming the environment, waging war with nature, so to speak. These are just some interpretations that seem reasonable to me.

  • Please note (if you are a teacher); Before analyzing poems in translation, perhaps you would do better to analyze poems written in English....I have read Neruda in the original Spanish he wrote in. And would never use a Spanish poem in translation for my English class, unless it was a college course on quality in the translation of poetry.
    – Lambie
    Jun 12, 2020 at 15:41

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