Maya and Aztec

Ancient Mesoamerican civilizations


Category: Ancient Nahuatl Poetry



1. Xochicalco nihualcalaquia in nicuicani, oncan icac in

chalchiuhuehuetl, oncan chialon ipalnemohuani in teteuctin xochitl

tzetzeliuhtimani, tolquatectitla, xoyacaltitlan, onahuiaxtimani in

xochicopal tlenamactli huel teyolquima, cahuia ca ihuintia in toyollo

ixpan in tloque in nahuaque.

1. I, the singer, entered into the house strewn with flowers, where

stood upright the emerald drum, where awaiting the Giver of Life the

nobles strewed flowers around, the place where the head is bowed for

lustration, the house of corrupt odors, where the burning fragrant

incense spreads and penetrates, intoxicating our souls in the

presence of the Cause of All.

2. Ic motomб tocuic xochiahuia ca ihuinti in toyollo? Aoc ticmati

inic nepapan xochicuicatl ic ticcecemeltia in tloque nahuaque quen

ahtontlaelehuian; tinocniuh ma nohuehuetitlan ximoquetzaya nepapan

xochitl ic ximopanaya chalchiuh ocoxochitl mocpac xicmanaya

xicehuayan yectli yancuicatl ic melelquixtia in tloque in nahuaque.

2. Where shall we obtain the fragrance which intoxicates our souls?

We do not yet know the various flower-songs with which we may rejoice

the Cause of All, however desirous we are; thou my friend, would that

thou bring to my instrument various flowers, that thou shouldst

clothe it in brilliant oco flowers, that thou shouldst offer them,

and lift thy voice in a new and worthy song to rejoice the Cause of


3. Tleymach tiquilnamiquia can mach in nemian moyollo ic timoyol

cecenmanaya ahuicpa tichuica timoyol popoloaya in tlalticpac? Ca mach

titlatiuh xihualmocuepaya xiccaquin yectli yancuicatl ximoyolciahuaya

xochiaticaya onahuiaxtimani oncan nicehuaya in yectli yancuicatl

nicuicani ic nicellelquixtia in tloque in nahuaque.

3. Wherefore should we recall while the soul is in life that our

souls must be scattered hither and thither, and that wherever we go

we are to be destroyed on earth? Rather let us hide it, turn from it,

and listen to some worthy new song; delight thy soul with the

pervading fragrance of flowers, as I the singer lift my voice in a

new song that I may rejoice the Cause of All.

4. Xihuallachian tinocniuh in oncan icayan xochihuehuetl tonameyo

ontotonauhtimani quetzal ecacehuazticaya on xopaleuhtimani in oncan

ic chialo ic malhuilo inipetl in icpal in tloque in nahuaque; xic

cahuaya in mixtecomatla xihualmocuepaya tohuan, xic ehua in

yancuicatl nicuicani ic niquellelquixtia in tloque in tlaneciz inic

moyollo caltitlan.

4. Come hither, thou my friend, to where stands the drum, decked with

flowers, gleaming with brightness, green with the outspread plumes of

the quetzal bird, where are looked for and cared for the seats near

the Cause of All; leave the place of night and clouds, turn hither

with us, lift thy voice in the new song I sing so that I may rejoice

the Cause of All, as the dawn approaches in the house of thy heart.

5. Tleзannen in nicyocoya in nitlaocolcuica inic niquimilnamiqui in

tepilhuan, in tlazomaquiztin, in tlazoteoxiuhme, in quetzaltotome, in

moteyotico, in motleyotico in tlalticpac? in ocnoma caquizti inin

tenyo, inin cahuanca, campa neltiazque? Ca zan titlacatico ca ompa

huel tochan in canin ximoayan inocapa in yolihuayan aic tlamian.

5. Of what use is it that I frame my sad songs, that I recall to mind

the youths, the beloved children, the precious relatives, the dear

friends, famous and celebrated as they were on earth? Who now hears

their fame, their deeds? Where can they find them? All of us are but

mortal, and our home is there in the Hereafter, where there is life

without end.


The poet recalls a recent attendance on the obsequies of an

acquaintance, and seeks to divert his mind from the gloomy

contemplation of death and the ephemeral character of mortal joys by

urging his friend to join in the pleasure of the hour, and by

suggesting the probability of an after life.

1. xochicalco; compounded of xochitl, flower; calli, house; and

the postposition, co. The term was applied to any room decorated

with flowers; here, to the mortuary chamber, which Tezozomoc tells us

was decked with roses and brilliant feathers.

ipalnemohuani, literally “the one by whom life exists.” The

composition is i, possessive pronoun, third person, singular;

pal, postposition, by; nemoani, singular of the present in ni

of the impersonal form of the verb nemi, to live, with the meaning

to do habitually that which the verb expresses. It is an ancient

epithet applied to the highest divinity, and is found in the Codex

Telleriano-Remensis, Kingsborough’s Mexico, Vol. VI, p. 128, note.

tolquatectitlan, from toloa, to lower, to bow; quatequia, to

immerse the head; tlan, place ending. In the ancient funeral

ceremonies the faces of the assistants were laved with holy water. On

this rite see the note of Orozco y Berra to his edition of the

Cronica Mexicana of Tezozomoc, p. 435 (Mexico, 1878).

xoyacaltitlan; from xoyaui, to spoil, to decay, whence

xoyauhqui, rank, unpleasant, like the odor of decaying substances.

xochicopal tlenamactli, “the incense of sweet copal,” which was

burned in the funeral chamber (see Tezozomoc’s description of the

obsequies of Axayaca, Cron. Mex., cap. 55).

2. The translation of this verse offers some special difficulties.

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