Maya and Aztec

Ancient Mesoamerican civilizations


Category: Ancient Nahuatl Poetry



1. Aua nocnihue ninentlamatia zan ninochoquilia in monahuac aya

yehuan Dios, quexquich onmitzicnotlamachtia momacehual cemamanahuac

ontonitlanililo in ic tontlahuica tontecemilhuitiltia in tlalticpac.

1. Alas, my friend, I was afflicted, I cried aloud on thy account to

God. How much compassion hast thou for thy servant in this world sent

here by thee to be thy subject for the space of a day on this earth!

2. Macazo tleon xoconyoyocoya ti noyollo, yehua cuix ic nepohualoyan

in oncan nemohua yehua, in atle tlahuelli in antecocolia huel on

yecnemiz in tlalticpac.

2. However that may be, mayst thou so dispose my heart, that it may

pass through this place of reckoning, without anger, without injury,

and live a good life on earth.

3. In quimati noyollo nichoca yehua huel eza ye nelli in titicnihuan,

huellenelli nemoa in tlalticpac in tonicniuh tlatzihuiz yehuan Dios.

3. My heart knows how truly I weep for my friend, how truly as it

lives on earth it cries aloud for thee, my friend, to God.

4. Xontlachayan huitztlampayan, iquizayan in tonatiuh,

ximoyollehuayan oncan manian teoatl tlachinolli, oncan mocuica in

teucyotl in tlatocayotl yectliya xochitl in amo zannen mocuia, in

quetzallalpilo niaya macquauhtica, chimaltica neicaloloyan in

tlalticpac ic momacehuaya in yectliya xochitl in tiquelehuia in

ticnequia in tinocniuh in quitemacehualtia in quitenemactia in tloque

in nahuaque.

4. Let thy soul awake and turn toward the south, toward the rising of

the sun, rouse thy heart that it turn toward the field of battle,

there let it win power and fame, the noble flowers which it will not

grasp in vain; adorned with a frontlet of quetzal feathers I went

forth armed with sword and shield to the battlefield on earth, that I

might merit these noble flowers with which we may rejoice as we wish

our friends, as the Cause of All may reward and grant to us.

5. Nentiquelehuia in tictemoaya in tinocniuh yectliya xochitl can

ticuiz intlacamo ximicaliya, melchiquiuhticaya, mitonalticaya

ticmacehuaya in yectliyaxochitla, yaochoquiztli ixayoticaya in

quitemacehualtica in tloque in nahuaque.

5. Vainly, O friends, do we desire and seek where we may cull those

noble flowers unless we fight with bared breasts, with the sweat of

the brow, meriting these noble flowers, in bitter and painful war,

for which the Cause of All will give reward.


Most of the poems in this collection are not assigned to any author,

but this, and apparently the one following, are recorded as the

compositions of Tetlapan Quetzanitzin. He is evidently the personage

spoken of by Sahagun as “King of Tlacopan,” as present with Montezuma

on the occasion of his first interview with Cortez. Later in the

struggle Tetlapan appears as the associate of Quauhtemoctzin, the

“King of Mexico.” (See Sahagun, Hist. de la Nueva Espaсa, Lib. XII,

cap. 16 and 40.) M. Rйmi Simeon explains the name to mean “he who

deceives the people by magic;” deriving it from quetza, he places;

te, the people, tlepan, on the fire. A simpler derivation seems

to me possible from tetlapanqui, miner, or quarryman (literally,

stone-breaker), and quetzalli, red; quetzatzin, the lord or

master of the miners.

Both this and the following are war songs, and have marked similarity

in thought and wording. The introduction of the Spanish Dios was

doubtless substituted by the scribe, for the name of some native god

of war, perhaps Huitzilopochtli.

1. Aua; this word I take to be a form of the interjection yahue,

or, as Olmos gives it in his Grammar, aa.

2. nepohualoyan; “the place of counting or reckoning,” from

pohua, to count. The reference is not clear, and the translation

uncertain. In some parts of ancient Mexico they used in their

accounting knotted cords of various colors, like the Peruvian

quipus. These were called nepohualtzitzin.

4. This verse is remarkable for its sonorous phrases and the archaic

forms of the words. Its translation offers considerable difficulty.

xontlachayan, I take to be an imperative form from tlachia, to

look, with the euphonic on.

teoatl tlachinolli, literally “the divine water (i.e. blood), the

burning,” and the expression means war, battle. In one of his sermons

Fray Juan Bautista describes the fall of Jericho in the words,

otlaltitechya in altepetl teuatl tlachinolli ye opoliuh, and

explains it, “the town was destroyed with fire and blood” (Sermones

en Lengua Mexicana, p. 122). The word tlachinolli is from

chinoa, to burn.

quetzalalpilo; a compound of quetzalli, a beautiful feather, and

tlalpiloni, the band which passed around the head to keep the hair

in place.

5. melchiquiuhticaya; “he who presented his breast,” an imperfect,

reflexive form. Molina gives melchiquiuh petlauhqui, with the

translation despechugado. Vocabulario Mexicana, s.v.

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