Aztec Poetry: A Spring Song

Mexica (Aztec) Poetry.
— Orly

1. I strike on my drum, I the skillful singer, that I may arouse, that I may fire our friends, who think of nothing, to whose minds plunged in sleep the dawn has not appeared, over whom are yet spread the dark clouds of night; may I not call in vain and poorly, may they hear this song of the rosy dawn, poured abroad widely by the drum, ohe! ohe!


2. The divine flowers of dawn blossom forth, the war flowers of the Cause of All; glittering with dew they scatter abroad their fragrance; bring them hither that they be not hidden nor bloom in vain, that they may rejoice you our friends, and not in vain shall be the flowers, the living, colored, brilliant flowers.


3. They intoxicate the soul, but they are only found, they blossom only on the lofty mountains, on the broad plains where glorious war finds its home. There is where the eagles gather in bands of sixties, there the tigers roar, there the various beloved stones rain down, there the various dear children are cut to pieces; there the youths are split into shards and ground into fragments.


4. Stoutly do those youths rejoice, laboring for the rose of the dawn that they may win it; and in heaven, He, the only one, the noble one, pours down upon the youths strength and courage, that they may pluck the budding flowers of the pathway, that they may be intoxicated with the dew-damp flowers of the spirit.


5. Know, my friend, that these are the only flowers which will give thee pleasure on earth; mayest thou take them and make them; O poor one, search out for thy children these flowers and songs. Look not hither without arrows, let all the youths lift up their voices, like zacuan birds, divine quechols, tzinitzcans, and red quechols, who live joyous lives, and know the fields.


6. O youths, here there are skilled men in the flowers of shields, in the flowers of the pendant eagle plumes, the yellow flowers which they grasp; they pour forth noble songs, noble flowers; they make payment with their blood, with their bare breasts; they seek the bloody field of war. And you, O friends, put on your black paint, for war, for the path of victory; let us lay hands on our shields, and raise aloft our strength and courage.


In native Nahuatl:


1. Nictzotzonan nohuehueuh nicuicatlamatquetl ic niquimonixitia ic niquimitlehua in tocnihuan in atle in yollo quimati in aic tlathui ipan inin yollo yaocochmictoque in inpan motimaloa in mixtecomatlayohualli anen niquito huay motolinia y, maquicaqui qui y xochitlathuicacuicatl occeh tzetzeuhtimania huehuetitlana, ohuaya, ohuai.

2. Tlahuizcalteochitla oncuepontimani in ixochiquiyaopan in tloque in nahuaque, onahuachtotonameyotimani in teyolquima; ma xiqualitacan in atle ipan ontlatao, zannen cuepontimanio ayac mahaca quelehuiao in antocnihuan amo zannen ya xochitl yoliliztlapalneucxochitla e.

3. Quiyolcaihuintiaya in teyolia, zan oncan ye omania, zan oncan ye oncuepontimania quauhtepetitlan in ya hualiuhcancopa y ixtlahuatlitica oncan inemaya oc teoatl tlachinolli a. Oncan in epoyahuayan in teoquauhtli oncan iquiquinacayan, in ocelotl, ipixauhyan in nepapan tlazomaquiztetl, in emomolotzayan in nepapan tlazopilihuitl, oncan teintoque oncan xamantoque in tepilhuan.

4. Tlacuah yehuantin in tepilhuani conelehuiao, in tlahuizcalxochitlan ya nemamallihuao ic tetlanĕnectiao, in ilhuicac onocon iceolitzin yn iotepiltzina quitzetzelotimanio a in tepilhuan in quauhtliya ocelotl, in quimemactiao in xochicueponalotlon in quimihuintia yeyolxochiahuechtlia.

5. In ic timomatia in tinocniuh zan ne yan xochitlon in tiquelehuiaon in tlalticpac, quen toconcuizon quen ticyachihuazon, timotolinia in tiquimiztlacoa a in tepilhuan xochitica cuicatica; ma xihuallachican in atle y ica mitl, ehuaon zan moch yehuantin in tepilhuan zacuanmeteoquecholtitzinitzcatlatlauhquecholtin moyeh yectitinemio in onmatio in ixtlahuatlitican.

6. Chimalxochitl, quauhpilolxochitl ic oquichtlamatimani in y antepilhuan xochicozcaocoxochitl ic mapantimanian, quitimaloao yectliya cuicatl, yectliya xochitl, imezo imelchiquiuh patiuh mochihuaya in quicelia on in teoatl tlachinolli; y iantocnihuan tliliuhquitepeca in tiyaotehua huey otlipana, ma huel xoconmanao y ye mochimalo, huel xonicaon in ti quauhtliya ocelotla.


Source:  Daniel Brinton, Ancient Nahuatl Poetry.

Poem:  Song 12  in the collection.

Notes to this poem:  

3. epoyhuayan, from epoalli, sixty; teoquauhtli ocelott, "divine eagles, tigers." These terms refer to the warriors bearing these titles.

tlazomaquiztetl, "beloved, precious stones," a figure of speech referring to the youths who go to war. The same or similar metaphors are used in previous songs.

5. The fifth and sixth verses present serious difficulties of construction which I do not flatter myself I have overcome.


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