Maya and Aztec

Ancient Mesoamerican civilizations

Ancient Nahuatl Poetry ||| A FLOWER SONG

Category: Ancient Nahuatl Poetry



1. Can ti ya nemia ticuicanitl ma ya hualmoquetza xochihuehuetl

quetzaltica huiconticac teocuitlaxochinenepaniuhticac y ayamo aye

iliamo aye huiy ohuaya, ohuaya.

1. Where thou walkest, O singer, bring forth thy flowery drum, let it

stand amid beauteous feathers, let it be placed in the midst of

golden flowers;

2. Tiquimonahuiltiz in tepilhuan teteucto in quauhtlo ocelotl ayamo,


2. That thou mayest rejoice the youths and the nobles in their


3. In tlacăce otemoc aya huehuetitlan ya nemi in cuicanitlhuia zan

qui quetzal in tomaya quexexeloa aya icuic ipalnemoa qui ya nanquilia

in coyolyantototl oncuicatinemi xochimanamanaya taxocha ohuaya,


3. Wonderful indeed is it how the living song descended upon the

drum, how it loosened its feathers and spread abroad the songs of the

Giver of Life, and the coyol bird answered, spreading wide its notes,

offering up its flowery songs of flowers.

4. In canon in noconcaqui in tlatol aya tlacazo yehuatl ipalnemoa

quiyananquilia quiyananquilia in coyolyantototl on cuicatinemi

xochimanamanaya, etc.

4. Wherever I hear those words, perhaps the Giver of Life is

answering, as answers the coyol bird, spreading wide its notes,

offering up its flowery song of flowers.

5. In chalchihuitl ohuayee on quetzal pipixauhtimania in amo

tlatolhuia, noyuh ye quittoa yayoquan yehuayan cuetzpal ohuaye

anquinelin ye quimatin ipalnemoa ohuaya.

5. It rains down precious stones and beauteous feathers rather than

words; it seems to be as one reveling in food, as one who truly knows

the Giver of Life.

6. Noyuh quichihua con teuctlon timaloa yecan quetzalmaquiztla

matilolticoya conahuiltia icelteotlhuia achcanon azo a yan ipalnemoa

achcanon azo tle nel in tlalticpac ohuaya.

6. Thus do the nobles glorify themselves with things of beauty, honor

and delight, that they may please the one only god, though one knows

not the dwelling of the Giver of Life, one knows not whether he is on


7. Macuelachic aya maoc ixquich cahuitl niquin notlanehui in

chalchiuhtini in maquiztini in tepilhuan aya; zan nicxochimalina in

tecpillotl huia: zan ca nican nocuic ica ya nocon ilacatzohua a in

huehuetitlan a ohuaya ohuaya.

7. May I yet for a little while have time to revel in those precious

and honorable youths; may I wreathe flowers for their nobility; may I

here yet for a while wind the songs around the drum.

8. Oc noncoati nican Huexotzinco y nitlătohuani ni teca ehuatzin

huiya chalchiuhti zan quetzalitztin y, niquincenquixtia in tepilhuan

aya zan nicxochimalina in tecpillotl huia ohuaya ohuaya.

8. I am a guest here among the rulers of Huexotzinco; I lift up my

voice and sing of precious stones and emeralds; I select from among

the youths those for whom I shall wreathe the flowers of nobility.

9. A in ilhuicac itic ompa yeya huitz in yectliyan xochitl yectliyan

cuicatl y, conpolo antellel conpolo antotlayocol y in tlacazo yehuatl

in Chichimecatl teuctli in teca yehuatzin ica xonahuiacan a ohuaya


9. There comes from within the heavens a good flower, a good song,

which will destroy your grief, destroy your sorrow; therefore, Chief

of the Chichimecs, be glad and rejoice.

10. Moquetzal izqui xochintzetzeloa in icniuhyotl

aztlacaxtlatlapantica ye onmalinticac in quetzalxiloxochitl imapan

onnĕnemi conchichichintinemi in teteuctin in tepilhuan.

10. Here, delightful friendship, turning about with scarlet dyed

wings, rains down its flowers, and the warriors and youths, holding

in their hands the fragrant xilo flowers, walk about inhaling the

sweet odor.

11. Zan teocuitlacoyoltototl o huel yectli namocuic huel yectli in

anq’ehua anquin ye oncan y xochitl y ya hualyuhcan y xochitl imapan

amoncate in amontlatlătoa ye ohuaya ohui ohui ilili y yao ayya hue

ho ama ha ilili ohua y yaohuia.

11. The golden coyol bird sings sweetly to you, sweetly lifts its

voice like a flower, like sweet flowers in your hand, as you converse

and lift your voice in singing, etc.

12. O ach ancati quechol in ipalnemoa o ach ancati tlatocauh yehuan

Dios huiya achto tiamehuan anquitztoque tlahuizcalli amoncuicatinemi

ohui, ohui, ilili, etc.

12. Even like the quechol bird to the Giver of Life, even as the

herald of God, you have waited for the dawn, and gone forth singing

ohui, etc.

13. Maciuhtiao o in quinequi noyollo, zan chimalli xochitl mixochiuh

ipalnemoani, quen conchihuaz noyollo yehua onentacico tonquizaco in

tlalticpac a ohuaya ohuaya.

13. Although I wish that the Giver of Life shall give for flowers the

shield-flower, how shall I grieve that your efforts have been in

vain, that you have gone forth from the world.

14. Zan ca yuhqui noyaz in o ompopoliuh xochitla antlenotleyoye in

quemmanian, antlenitacihcayez in tlalticpac. Manel xochitl manel

cuicatl, quen conchihuaz noyollo yehua onentacico tonquizaco in

tlalticpac ohuaya ohuaya.

14. Even as I shall go forth into the place of decayed flowers, so

sometime will it be with your fame and deeds on earth. Although they

are flowers, although they are songs, how shall I grieve that your

efforts have been in vain, that you have gone forth from the world.

15. Manton ahuiacan antocnihuan aya ma on nequech nahualo nican huiya

a xochintlaticpac ontiyanemi yenican ayac quitlamitehuaz in xochitl

in cuicatl in mani a ichan ipalnemohuani yi ao ailili yi ao aya hue

aye ohuaya.

15. Let us be glad, dear friends, let us rejoice while we walk here

on this flowery earth; may the end never come of our flowers and

songs, but may they continue in the mansion of the Giver of Life.

16. In zancuelachitzincan tlalticpac aya ayaoc noiuhcan

quennonamicani cuixocpacohua icniuhtihuay auh in amo zanio nican

totiximatizo in tlalticpac y yiao ha ilili yiao.

16. Yet a little while and your friends must pass from earth. What

does friendship offer of enjoyment, when soon we shall no longer be

known on earth?

17. Noconca con cuicatl noconca o quin tlapitzaya xochimecatl ayoquan

teuctliya ahuayie, ohuayiao ayio yo ohua.

17. This is the burden of my song, of the garland of flowers played

on the flute, without equal in the place of the nobles.

18. Zan mitzyananquili omitzyananquili xochincalaitec y in

aquiauhatzin in tlacateuhtli ayapancatl yahuayia.

18. Within the house of flowers the Lord of the Waters, of the Gate

of the Waters, answers thee, has answered thee.

19. Can tinemi noteouh ipalnemohuani mitztemohua in quemmanian y

mocanitlaocoyan, nicuicanitlhuia, zan ni mitzahuiltiaya ohuiyan

tililiyanco huia ohuaya ohuaya.

19. Where thou livest, my beloved, the Giver of Life sends down upon

thee sometimes things of sadness; but I, the singer, shall make thee

glad in the place of difficulty, in the place of cumber.

20. In zan ca izqui xochitl in quetzalizqui xochitl pixahui ye nican

xopancalaitec i tlacuilolcalitec, zan nimitzahahuiltiaya ohui.

20. Here are the many flowers, the beauteous flowers, rained down

within the house of spring, within its painted house, and I with them

shall make thee glad.

21. O anqui ye oncan Tlaxcala, ayahue, chalchiuhtetzilacuicatoque in

huehuetitlan ohuaye, xochin poyon ayiahue Xicontencatl teuctli in

Tizatlacatzin in camaxochitzin cuicatica y melelquiza xochiticaya on

chielo itlatol ohuay icelteotl ohuaya.

21. O, you there in Tlaxcala, you have played like sweet bells upon

your drums, even like brilliantly colored flowers. There was

Xicontecatl, lord of Tizatlan, the rosy-mouthed, whose songs gave joy

like flowers, who listened to the words of the one only God.

22. O, anqui nohuia y, ye mochan ipalnemohua xochipetlatl ye noca

xochitica on tzauhticac oncan mitztlatlauhtia in tepilhua ohuaya.

22. Thy house, O Giver of Life is in all places; its mats are of

flowers, finely spun with flowers, where thy children pray to thee.

23. In nepapan xochiquahuitl onicac, aya, huehuetitlan a a yiahue,

can canticaya quetzaltica malintimani, ya, yecxochitl motzetzeloaya

ohuaya ohuaya.

23. A rain of various flowers falls where stands the drum, beauteous

wreaths entwine it, sweet flowers are poured down around it.

24. Can quetzatzal petlacoatl yepac o, ye nemi coyoltototl

cuicatinemiya, can quinanquili teuctli ya,

conahuiltianquauhtloocelotl ohuaya ohuaya.

24. Where the brilliant scolopender basks, the coyol bird scatters

abroad its songs, answering back the nobles, rejoicing in their

prowess and might.

25. Xochitzetzeliuhtoc y, niconnetolilo antocnihuan huehuetitlan ai

on chielo can nontlamati toyollo yehua ohuaya ohuaya.

25. Scattering flowers I rejoice you, dear friends, with my drum,

awaiting what comes to our minds.

26. In zan ca yehuan Dios tlaxic, ya, caquican yehual temoya o

ilhuicatl itic, y, cuicatihuitz, y, quinanquilia o, angelotin

ontlapitztihuitzteaya oyiahue yaia o o ohuaya ohuaya.

26. It reaches even to God, he hears it seeking him within the

heavens, the song comes and the angels answer, playing on their


27. Zan ninentlamatia can niquauhtenco ayahue can. * * *

27. But I am sad within this wood.


In this long fragment—the closing strophes are missing in my

MS.—the bard represents himself as a stranger appearing before the

nobles of Huexotzinco at some festival. The first two verses appear

to be addressed to him by the nobles. They ask him to bring forth his

drum and sing. He begins with a laudation of the power of music,

proceeds to praise the noble company present, and touches those

regretful chords, so common in the Nahuatl poetry, which hint at the

ephemeral nature of all joy and the certainty of death and oblivion.

An appeal is made to the Master of Life who inspires the soul of the

poet, and whose praises should be ever in mind.

The words Dios and angelotin, in verse 26th, indicate that the

poem has received some “recension” by the Spanish copyist; but the

general tone impresses me as quite aboriginal in character.

2. quauhtlocelotl, see note to I, 5.

3. In this verse, as frequently elsewhere, the syllable ya is

introduced merely to complete the metre. Ordinarily it is the sign of

the imperfect tense, and has other meanings (see the Vocabulary), but

in many instances does not admit of translation.

8. noncoati, for ni-on-coatl, I am a guest.

18. The references in this verse are obscure, and I doubt if I have

solved them.

20. “The house of spring;” compare the expression in v. 1, of

Nezahualcoyotl’s song, p. 42.

21. A long oration of Xicontecatl, lord of Tizatlan, may be found in

Clavigero, Hist. Antica di Messico, Tom. III, p. 40. The expression

in camaxochitzin, from camatl, mouth, xochitl, rose, flower,

and the reverential tzin, is noteworthy.

24. petlacoatl, the centipede or scolopender; from petlatl, mat,

and coatl, serpent, as they are said to intertwine with each other,

like the threads of a mat (Sahagun, Lib. XII, cap. 4).

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