The Heights of Macchu Picchu

by Neftalí Ricardo Reyes Basoalto

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

"The Heights of Macchu Picchu" is a poem by Pablo Neruda and is about the unnamed narrator visiting Macchu Picchu, Peru. The poem itself is split into twelve separate poems, each of which addresses a different aspect of the speaker's visit.

The first poem is about the speaker roaming through Macchu Picchu and looking for something more than ruins. He wants to find the spirit of the people who lived there but is unable to.

The second poem is a celebration of nature and truth. He finds that nature is eternal while human life is temporary and that you can find truth in nature sooner than in anything else.

The third poem is about the people who live in cities and how they lose their happiness when they get stuck in a routine. It's a further comparison between nature and humanity, with humanity being transient.

The fourth poem is when the speaker actually arrives at the bottom of Macchu Picchu. He thinks about death there.

The fifth poem also deals with the concept of death. He's focused on the past and finds the modern world to be wanting because of the people in it.

The sixth poem is done as the speaker climbs Macchu Picchu and starts to feel better about things. He thinks about how the place was made. He sees the city as a symbol of how the modern world fades away, but nature endures because the people who built the city are gone but the actual structures are still there.

The seventh poem discusses how the builders died and how, despite their deaths, the stones remain and the people who built them live on in the stones. The speaker is trying to find an aspect of himself in his travels but isn't able to.

The eighth poem focuses on the religion of the pre-Columbian people as well as on two rivers, Urabamba and Wilkamayu.

The ninth poem compares Macchu Picchu to different natural things, like plants and storms.

The tenth poem shows the speaker's curiosity about the people who lived in Macchu Picchu. He wonders whether the builders were slaves and how the people who lived in the city went about their lives.

The eleventh poem focuses more on the people who built the city. The speaker says they live on through his words and sees them as equals.

The final poem is a request to the people who came before him—the indigenous Incans—to rise up and live again as he does. He ends the poem says, "Speak through my words and my blood."

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