The poem is not by Neruda, as is commonly and frequently claimed on the many sites where the poem appears. This beautiful poem belongs to Martha Medeiros, a brazilian writer, author of several books and columnist for the newspaper “Zero Hora”, in Porto Alegre. It was published under the name “A morte devagar” mentioned in the newspaper in November 2000. There are numerous translations online, many by amateurs, but some very well crafted. Here is an interesting one:
Dies slowly he who transforms himself into the slave of habit,
repeating every day the same itineraries,
who does not change a brand,
does not risk to wear a new colour and doesn’t talk to whom he doesn’t know.
Dies slowly he who avoids a passion,
who prefers black to white
and the dots on the “i” to the whirlpool of emotions,
just those ones that recover the gleam of the eye,
smiles from the yawns,
hearts from the stumbling and the feelings.
Dies slowly he who does not overthrow the table when is he is unhappy at work,
who does not risk the certain for the uncertain
to go toward that dream that has been keeping him awake.
Who does not allow, at least once in his life, to flee from wise advices.
Dies slowly he who does not travel, does not read, does not listen to music, who does not find grace in himself.
Dies slowly he who destroys his self esteem,
who does not accept somebody’s help.
Dies slowly he who passes his days complaining of his bad luck or the incessant rain.
Dies slowly he who abandons a project before starting it,
who does not ask over a subject that he does not know
or who does not answer when being asked about something he knows.
Dies slowly he who does not share his emotions, joys and sadness,
who does not trust, who does not even try.
Dies slowly he who does not re-live his memories
and continues getting emotional as if living them at that moment.
Dies slowly he who does not intent in excelling,
who does not learn from the stones from the road of life,
who does not love and or let’ s somebody love.
Let’s avoid death in soft doses,
remembering always that to be alive demands an effort much bigger
than the simple fact of breathing…
And only through perseverance do we reach for a wonderful happiness. – Martha Medeiros