Maya and Aztec

Ancient Mesoamerican civilizations

Ancient Nahuatl Poetry ||| SONG XVI

Category: Ancient Nahuatl Poetry



1. On onellelacic quexquich nic ya ittoa antocnihuan ayiaue

noconnenemititica noyollon tlalticpac y noconycuilotica, ay niyuh can

tinemi ahuian yeccan, ay cemellecan in tenahuac y, ah nonnohuicallan

in quenon amican ohuaya.

1. It is a bitter grief to see so many of you, dear friends not

walking with me in spirit on the earth, and written down with me;

that no more do I walk in company to the joyful and pleasant spots;

that nevermore in union with you do I journey to the same place.

2. Zan nellin quimati ye noyollo za nelli nicittoa antocnihuan,

ayiahue aquin quitlatlauhtia icelteotl yiollo itlacoca con aya macan.

Machamo oncan? In tlalticpac machamo oppan piltihua. Ye nelli nemoa

in quenon amican ilhuicatl y itec icanyio oncan in netlamachtilo y


2. Truly I doubt in my heart if I really see you, dear friends; Is

there no one who will pray to the one only God that he take this

error from your hearts? Is no one there? No one can live a second

time on earth. Truly they live there within the heavens, there in a

place of delight only.

3. O yohualli icahuacan teuctlin popoca ahuiltilon Dios

ipalnemohuani: chimalli xochitl in cuecuepontimani in mahuiztli

moteca molinian tlalticpac, ye nican ic xochimicohuayan in ixtlahuac

itec a ohuaya ohuaya.

3. At night rises up the smoke of the warriors, a delight to the Lord

the Giver of Life; the shield-flower spreads abroad its leaves,

marvelous deeds agitate the earth; here is the place of the fatal

flowers of death which cover the fields.

4. Yaonauac ye oncan yaopeuhca in ixtlahuac itec iteuhtlinpopoca ya

milacatzoa y momalacachoa yaoxochimiquiztica antepilhuan in

anteteuctin zan Chichimeca y ohuaya.

4. The battle is there, the beginning of the battle is in the open

fields, the smoke of the warriors winds around and curls upward from

the slaughter of the flowery war, ye friends and warriors of the


5. Maca mahui noyollo ye oncan ixtlahuatl itic, noconele hua in

itzimiquiliztli zan quinequin toyollo yaomiquiztla ohuaya.

5. Let not my soul dread that open field; I earnestly desire the

beginning of the slaughter, may thy soul long for the murderous


6. O anquin ye oncan yaonahuac, noconelehuia in itzi miquiliztli can

quinequin toyollo yaomiquiztla ohuaya ohuaya.

6. O you who are there in the battle, I earnestly desire the

beginning of the slaughter, may thy soul long for the murderous


7. Mixtli ye ehuatimani yehuaya moxoxopan ipalnemohuani ye oncan

celiztimani a in quauhtlin ocelotl, ye oncan cueponio o in tepilhuan

huiya in tlachinol, ohuaya ohuaya.

7. The cloud rises upward, rising into the blue sky of the Giver of

Life; there blossom forth prowess and daring, there, in the battle

field, come the children to maturity.

8. In ma oc tonahuican antocnihuan ayiahuc, ma oc xonahuiacan

antepilhuan in ixtlahuatl itec, y nemoaquihuic zan tictotlanehuia o a

in chimalli xochitl in tlachinoll, ohuaya, ohuaya, ohuaya.

8. Let us rejoice, dear friends, and may ye rejoice, O children,

within the open field, and going forth to it, let us revel amid the

shield-flowers of the battle.


In this stirring war-song, the poet reproaches his friends for their

lukewarmness in the love of battle. He reminds them that life is

transitory, and the dead rise not again, and that the greatest joy of

the brave is on the ringing field of fray where warriors win renown.

It is in the spirit of the Scotch harper:—

“‘Twere worth ten years of peaceful life,

One hour of such a day.”

1. Each verse terminates with an interjectional refrain. The frequent

introduction of the particle on is intended to add strength and

gravity to the oration.

2. oppan piltihua. Compare this expression with that in v. 22, p.


3. xochimicohuayan, should perhaps be translated, “where the

captives to be immolated to the Gods are taken.” The xochimique,

“those destined to a flowery death” were the captives who were

reserved for sacrifice to the gods. See Joan Bautista, Sermonario en

Lengua Mexicana, p. 180.

4. yaoxochimiquiztica, “pertaining to the slaughter of the flowery

war.” This adjective refers to the peculiar institution of the

“flowery war,” guerra florida, which obtained among the ancient

Mexicans. It appears to have been a contest without provocation, and

merely for the display of prowess and to take captives to supply the

demand for human sacrifices in the religious rites. On this see

Tezozomoc, Cronica Mexicana, cap. 96.

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