Only flowers are our adornment, only songs turn our suffering to delight on earth. Ohuaya ohuaya.
Will I lose my friends and companions? Already I have gone, I, Yoyontzin, to the house of song of he who makes the world live! Ohuaya ohuaya … a Flower Song attributed to Nezahualcoyotl.
Nezahualcoyotl, meaning “Coyote in fast” or “Coyote who fasts”) was a philosopher, warrior, architect, poet and ruler (tlatoani) of the city-state of Texcoco, a branch of the triple alliance that was the Aztec Confederacy. Texcoco has the reputation of being the Athens of the triple alliance, and Nezahualcoyotl its philosopher king.
What follows is from “Ancient Nahuatl Poetry” by Daniel G. Brinton, a brief biography and four of his most famous poems all with a pronounced “carpe diem” tone.
The words of the poem do not represent it as a composition Netzahualcoyotl, but one which was sung before him, and addressed to him. It admonishes Netzahualcoyotl,to rejoice in the present moment, as the uncertainties of life and fate must at some time, perhaps very soon, deprive him of their enjoyment.
A feature of Aztec culture that is little known today is the centrality of poetry in their lives, as personal entertainment, and perhaps as spoken word poetry in the ritual and celebration of official functions. This focus and reverence is commented upon by various writers, with the best review perhaps found in Daniel G. Brinton’s, Ancient Nahuatl Poetry (Library of Aboriginal American Literature Number VII).
A poem attributed to Netzahualcoyotl.