Ancient Nahuatl Poetry ||| HERE BEGIN SONGS FOR THE TEPONAZTLICategory: Ancient Nahuatl Poetry
NOTES FOR SONG XVIII.
At this portion of the MS. several poems are preceded by a line of
syllables indicating their accompaniment on the teponaztli (see
Introduction, p. 32).
The present number is one of the most noteworthy songs of the
collection. It belongs to the ancient cyclus of Quetzalcoatl myths,
and gives a brief relation of the destruction of Tollan and the
departure and disappearance of the Light God, Quetzalcoatl Ce Acatl.
As I have elsewhere collated this typical myth at length, and
interpreted it according to the tenets of modern mythologic science,
I shall not dwell upon it here (see D.G. Brinton, American Hero
Myths, Phila., 1882).
The text of the poem is quite archaic, and presents many
difficulties. But my translation, I think, gives the general sense
1. huapalcalli; literally, “the house constructed of beams.” This
name was applied to the chief temple of the Toltecs; the ruins of an
ancient structure at Tollantzinco were pointed out at the time of the
Conquest as those of this building (see Sahagun, Hist. de la Nueva
Espaсa, Lib. X, cap. 29).
coatlaquetzalli; this edifice, said to have been left incomplete by
Quetzalcoatl, when he forsook Tollan, had pillars in the form of a
serpent, the head at the base, the tail at the top of the pillar.
(See Orozco y Berra, Hist. Antigua de Mexico, Tom. III, pp. 30 and
46.) The structure is mentioned as follows in the Anales de
Auh iniquac nemia Quetzalcoatl quitzintica, quipeuahtica iteocal
quimaman coatlaquetzali ihuan amo quitzonquixti, amo quipantlaz.”
“And when Quetzalcoatl was living, he began and commenced the temple
of his which is the Coatlaquetzali (Serpent Plumes), and he did not
finish it, he did not fully erect it.”
Nacxitl Topiltzin, “Our Lord the four-footed.” Nacxitl appears to
have been the name of Quetzalcoatl, in his position as lord of the
merchants. Compare Sahagun, ubi supra, Lib. I, cap. 19.
2. Poyauhtecatl, a volcano near Orizaba, mentioned by Sahagun.
Acallan, a province bordering on the Laguna de los Terminos. The
myth reported that Quetzalcoatl journeyed to the shores of the Gulf
about the isthmus of Tehuantepec and there disappeared.
3. Nonohualco; the reference is to the cerro de Nonoalco, which
plays a part in the Quetzalcoatl myth. The words of the song are
almost those of Tezcatlipoca when he is introduced to Quetzalcoatl.
Asked whence he came, he replied, “Nihuitz in Nonohualcatepetl
itzintla, etc.” (Anales de Cuauhtitlan).
4. The occurrences alluded to are the marvels performed by
Quetzalcoatl on his journey from Tulan. See my American Hero Myths,
5. The departure of Quetzalcoatl was because he was ordered to repair
to Tlapallan, supposed to be beyond Xicalanco.
8. quinti, for iquintia; the reference is to the magic draught
given Quetzalcoatl by Tezcatlipoca.
9. In tetl, in quahuitl; literally, “stone and stick;” a very
common phrase in Nahautl, to signify misfortunes.