Aztec Poetry:  And then it Ends

Aztec Poetry: And then it Ends

The Mexica (Aztec) books were virtually all burnt at the time of the Conquest. Legends and Fables from the Mexica has survived in two forms: first, as told by the records of the Spanish in the Relaciones, and second as oral memory in the form of poetry, much like Homer’s poetic account of the Trojan Wars.

Daniel Brinton, Ancient Nahuatl Poetry, Poem Song 25 in the collection. The poems are not legends in the normal sense, but they are a flavour of an ethic and a mode of seeing the world. Much of the surviving work fits into either the hymn tradition or the lament tradition, of which And then it Ends fits squarely in the lament side.
— Orly

Tico, toco, tocoto, and then it ends, ticoto, ticoto.



1. The sweet voiced quechol there, ruling the earth, has intoxicated my soul.


2. I am like the quetzal bird, I am created in the house of the one only God; I sing sweet songs among the flowers; I chant songs and rejoice in my heart.


3. The fuming dew-drops from the flowers in the field intoxicate my soul.


4. I grieve to myself that ever this dwelling on earth should end.


5. I foresaw, being a Mexican, that our rule began to be destroyed, I went forth weeping that it was to bow down and be destroyed.


6. Let me not be angry that the grandeur of Mexico is to be destroyed.


7. The smoking stars gather together against it; the one who cares for flowers is about to be destroyed.


8. He who cared for books wept, he wept for the beginning of the destruction.


In native Nahuatl


Tico toco tocoto ic ontlantiuh ticoto ticoto.

1. Toztliyan quechol nipa tlantinemia in tlallaicpac oquihuinti ye noyol ahua y ya i.

2. Ni quetzaltototl niyecoya ye iquiapan ycelteotl yxochiticpac nihueloncuica oo nicuicaihtoa paqui ye noyol ahuay.

3. Xochiatl in pozontimania in tlallaicpac oquihuinti ye noyol ahua.

4. Ninochoquilia niquinotlamati ayac in chan oo tlallicpac ahua.

5. Zan niquittoaya ye ni Mexicatl mani ya huiya nohtlatoca tequantepec ni yahui polihuin chittepehua a ya ye choca in tequantepehua o huaye.

6. Ma ca qualania nohueyotehua Mexicatli polihui chile.

7. Citlalin in popocaya ipan ye moteca y za ye polihui a zan ye xochitecatl ohuaye.

8. Zan ye chocaya amaxtecatl aya caye chocaya tequantepehua.



The lamentations traditions in Nahuatl poetry is a record of the post-conquest period.  Daniel Brinton has the following observations:

Bernardino de Sahagún (1499 – October 23, 1590) was a Franciscan friar, missionary priest and pioneering ethnographer who participated in the Catholic evangelization of colonial New Spain (now Mexico). Born in Sahagún, Spain, in 1499, he journeyed to New Spain in 1529. He learned Nahuatl and spent more than 50 years in the study of Aztec beliefs, culture and history. Though he was primarily devoted to his missionary task, his extraordinary work documenting indigenous worldview and culture has earned him the title as “the first anthropologist.” He also contributed to the description of the Aztec language Nahuatl. He translated the Psalms, the Gospels, and a catechism into Nahuatl.
— Wikipedia

The destruction of the Mexican state was heralded by a series of omens and prodigies which took place at various times during the ten years preceding the arrival of Cortes. They are carefully recorded by [Bernardino de] Sahagun, in the first chapter of the 12th book of his history. They included a comet, or "smoking star," as these were called in Nahuatl, and a bright flame in the East and Southeast, over the mountains, visible from midnight to daylight, for a year. This latter occurred in 1509. The song before us is a boding chant, referring to such prognostics, and drawing from them the inference that the existence of Mexico was doomed. It was probably from just such songs that Sahagun derived his information.

1. toztliyan, I suppose from tozquitl, the singing voice, in the locative; literally, "the quechol in the place of sweet-singing."

2. iquiapan, from i, possessive prefix, quiauatl, door, entrance, house, pan, in.

5. An obscure verse; tequantepec, appears to be a textual error; tequani, a ravenous beast, from qua to eat; tepec, a mountain; but tequantepehua occurring twice later in the poem induces the belief tequani should be taken in its figurative sense of affliction, destruction, and that tepec is an old verbal form.

7. Xochitecatl, "one who cares for flowers," is said by [Benardino de] Sahagun to have been the name applied to a woman doomed to sacrifice to the divinities of the mountains (Hist. Nueva España, Lib. II, cap. 13).

8. amaxtecatl, or amoxtecatl, as the MS. may read, from amoxtli, a book.

The role of books and poetry in Mexica (Aztec) society seems disjunctive in terms of our memory of them, coming from the point of view of the conquerors.  What survived in terms of a more balanced and nuanced description of their society comes from post conquest conscientious objectors who made the effort to record a more complete record, such as that of Bernardino de Sahagun.



Aztec Poetry: Song at the Beginning

Aztec Poetry: Flower in my Heart

Aztec Poetry: Flower in my Heart