Aztec Poetry:  Aiding Montezuma

Aztec Poetry: Aiding Montezuma

The idea that Mexica - Aztec - civilization had elements of cultural sophistication and surprising sensitivity is not widely accepted.

Daniel G. Brinton was a tireless linguist who made it his mission to let the audience judge by attempting translation of Nahuatl records into English. The volume where this poems is found is entitled Ancient Nahuatl Poetry, Containing the Nahuatl Text of 27 ancient Mexican Poems, published in 1890. Here is a reproduction of Poem XXI in that collection.

With the destruction of virtually all the Aztec books at the time of the conquest, the Legends and Fables of this culture survive in the form of Hymns and Poems.
— Orly




Viniendo los de Huexotzinco à pedir socorro à Moteuczoma Tlaxcalla.

Coming to Ask Aid of Montezuma Against Tlaxcalla.


1. Raining down writings for thy mind, O Montezuma, I come hither, I come raining them down, a very jester, a painted butterfly; stringing together pretty objects, I seem to be as one cementing together precious stones, as I chant my song on my emerald flute, as I blow on my golden flute, ya ho, ay la, etc.

2. Yes, I shall cause thy flowers to rejoice the Giver of Life, the God in heaven, as hither I come raining down my songs, ya ho.

3. A sweet voiced flower is my mind, a sweet voiced flower is my drum, and I sing the words of this flowery book.

4. Rejoice and be glad ye who live amid the flowers in the house of my great lord Montezuma, we must finish with this earth, we must finish with the sweet flowers, alas.

5. At the Mount of Battle we bring forth our sweet and glittering flowers before God, plants having the lustre of the tiger, like the cry of the eagle, leaving glorious memory, such are the plants in this house.

6. Alas! in a little while there is an end before God to all living; let me therefore string together beauteous and yellow feathers, and mingling them with the dancing butterflies rain them down before you, scattering the words of my song like water dashed from flowers.

7. I would that I could go there where lies the great blue water surging, and smoking and thundering, till after a time it retires again: I shall sing as the quetzal, the blue quechol, when I go back to Huexotzinco among the waters (or, and Atzalan).

8. I shall follow them, I shall know them, my beloved Huexotzincos; the emerald quechol birds, the green quechol, the golden butterflies, and yellow birds, guard Huexotzinco among the waters (or, and Atzalan).

9. Among the flowery waters, the golden waters, the emerald waters, at the junction of the waters which the blue duck rules moving her spangled tail.

10. I the singer stand on high on the yellow rushes; let me go forth with noble songs and laden with flowers.


In native Nahuatl


1. Tlacuiloltzetzeliuhticac moyoliol tiMoteuczomātzi nichuicatihuitz nictzetzelotihuitz y o huetzcani xochinquetzalpapalotl moquetzalizouhtihuitz noconitotia chalchiuhatlaquiquizcopa niyahueloncuica chalchiuhhuilacapitzli nicteocuitlapitza ya ho ay la ya o haye ohuichile amiyacale.

2. Ohuaya ye onniceelehuia moxochiuh aya ipalnemoani yehuayā Dios aya ilihuāca nahuiche nictzetzeloaya noncuicatilo yaha y.

3. Tozmilini xochitl in noyolyol ay yahue tozmilini xochitl noteponaz ayanco ayancayome oncana y yahue nicxochiamoxtozimmanaya itlatol ayanco ayanca yomeho.

4. Xompaqui xonahuia annochipanicantiyazque ye ichano nohueyetzinteuctli Moteuczomatzi, totlaneuh tlpc totlaneuh uelic xochitl o ayanco.

5. Tlachinoltepec yn ahuicacopa tixochitonameyo timoquetzaco y yehuan Dios a ocelozacatl ypan quauhtli choca ymopopoyauhtoc y yanco y liyan cay yahue ayli y yacalco y ya y ycho zaca y yahue.

6. Ohuaya yehe nipa tlantinemia ixpan Dios a ninozozohuayatlauhquechol, zaquan quetzal in tlayahualol papalotl mopilihuitzetzeloa teixpana xochiatlaquiquizcopa oh tlatoca ye nocuic y yanco ili, etc.

7. Nehcoya ompa ye nihuithuiya xoxouhqui hueyatla ymancan zanniman olini pozoni tetecuica ic nipa tlania, zan iquetzal in tototl xiuhquechol tototl no chiuhtihuitz'y ni yahuinac ya Huexotzinco Atzalan ayome.

8. Zan niquintocaz aya niquimiximatitiuh nohueyotzitzinhuan chalchiuhquechol y canca xiuhquechol in teocuitlapapalotl in cozcatototl ontlapia ye onca Huexotzinco Atzalan ayame;

9. Xochi Atzalaan teocuitlaatl chalchiuhatl y nepaniuhyan itlatoaya in quetzalcanauhtli quetzalnocuitlapilli cuecueyahuaya yliya yliya yaho ayli yaho aye huichile anicale.

10. Huecapan nicac nicuicanitl huiya zaquan petlatolini, ma nica yeninemia nicyeyectian cuicatla in nic xochiotia yayaho yahii.



The occurrence to which this poem alludes took place about the year 1507. The chroniclers state that it was in the early period of the reign of Montezuma II, that the natives of Huexotzinco, at that time allies of the Mexicans, were severely harassed by the Tlascallans, and applied, not in vain, to their powerful suzerain to aid them.

The poet does not appear to make a direct petition, but indirectly praises the grandeur of Montezuma and expresses his own ardent love for his native Huexotzinco. The song would appear to be used as a delicate prelude to the more serious negotiations. It is one of the few historical songs in the collection. From the references in verses 1 and 3 we infer that this singer held in his hand the painted book from which he recited the couplets. This may explain the presentation of the piece.

 huetzcani; one who laughs, a jester, perhaps the designation of one who sang cheerful songs.

chalchiuhatlaquiquizcopa; a. word of difficult analysis. I suspect an omission of an l, and that the compound includes tlaquilqui, one who fastens and puts together, a mason, etc.

The sense is that the warriors of Montezuma when on the field of battle, shine in their deeds like beautiful flowers in a field, and win lasting fame by their exploits.

mopopoyauhtoc. The grammarian Olmos explains the reflexive verb mopopoyauhtiuh to signify "he leaves an honored memory of his exploits." See Siméon, Dictionaire de la Langue Nahuatl, sub voce.

Huexotzinco atzalan; "Huexotzinco amid the waters." This expression appears inappropriate to the town of Huexotzinco, which lies inland. In fact, the description applies to Tenochtitlan rather than the singer's own town. But the text does not admit this translation. Perhaps we should read "Huexotzinco and Atzalan," as there are yet two villages of that name in the state of Puebla (which embraced part of ancient Huexotzinco).

petiatolini, I have derived from petlatl, suspecting an error in transcription. The reference is to the rushes in the mat on which the singer stood.


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