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The Dark Days of the Last Month

The Maya were the only civilization that had a true writing system in the Americas, but catastrophically only a handful of their books survived, the rest burned in the name of religious purity.  Like the Aztecs, they too had a tradition of music, song and poetry, most of  which  is found in a collection called “The Songs of Dzitbalche.”

The collection was entitled “The Book of the Dances of the Ancients that it was the custom to perform here in the towns when the whites had not yet arrived.” According to John Curl, the title “Songs of Dzitbalche” was given to the collection by the first translator Alfredo Barrera Vásquez.  Like Aztec Flower Songs, they cross over into spoken word poetry.

What follows is one song/poem from the collection, as translated by John Curl.

 

THE DARK DAYS
OF THE LAST MONTH
OF THE YEAR

The days of crying, the days
of evil. The demon is free,
the infernos open,
there is no goodness, only evil,
laments and cries.
An entire year has passed,
the year numbered here.

Come is a month of
days without name,
painful days, days of evil,
black days.

The beautiful light of the eyes of
Hunabku for his earthly sons
has not yet come,
because during these days
the transgressions of all people on earth
are measured:
men and women, children and adults
poor and rich, wise and ignorant;
Lord Serpent, commissioner,
governor, captain, rain priest,
councilors, constables.
All people’s transgressions are measured in
these days; because the time
will come when
these days will mark the end
of the world.

For this
there will be a count of all
the transgressions of people
here on earth.
Into a great glass
made from the clay of tree termites,
Hunabku puts the tears
from those who cry over the evils
done on earth.
When the great glass is filled to the brim
it will end.

 

The Maya language original:

TZ’UTZ’ A CHI
T U CAAP COOL HOK CHE

Tz’aex a hatz’uutz nokeex;
tz’ooc u kuchul kin h’cimac olil;
xeech u tzou tzotzel a pol;
tz’a u lemceech ciichcelmil a nok
tz’a hatz’utz xanaab;
ch’uuycinzah a nuucuuch tuup
tu tupil a xicin;
tz’a malob oochh’;
tz’a u keexiloob a x ciichpan caal;
tz’a, uu baakaal
hop men hop tu nak a kab.
T kailbeilt caa i laac ciichpameech
hebiix [maix] maace
uay tu t cahil,
H’ Tz’iitbalchee’ cah.

In yacumaech
X Cichpan Colelbiil.
Lai beiltic
in kaat ca i[labe]ech
h’aach zempeech
cii[chpam]ech,
tumen cu yan
ca chiicpaaceech ti x buutz’ ek,
tu men ca u tz’iboolteech
tac lail
u yetel u x lol nicte kaax.

Chen zacan
zacan a nok,
h’x zuhuy,
xen a tz’a u cimac olil a chee
tz’a utz ta puczikal
tumen helae
u zutucil cimac olil
tu lacal uinic
lail cu tz’ailc
u yutzil ti teech.

 

TZ’UTZ’ A CHI
T U CAAP COOL HOK CHE

Tz’aex a hatz’uutz nokeex;
tz’ooc u kuchul kin h’cimac olil;
xeech u tzou tzotzel a pol;
tz’a u lemceech ciichcelmil a nok
tz’a hatz’utz xanaab;
ch’uuycinzah a nuucuuch tuup
tu tupil a xicin;
tz’a malob oochh’;
tz’a u keexiloob a x ciichpan caal;
tz’a, uu baakaal
hop men hop tu nak a kab.
T kailbeilt caa i laac ciichpameech
hebiix [maix] maace
uay tu t cahil,
H’ Tz’iitbalchee’ cah.

In yacumaech
X Cichpan Colelbiil.
Lai beiltic
in kaat ca i[labe]ech
h’aach zempeech
cii[chpam]ech,
tumen cu yan
ca chiicpaaceech ti x buutz’ ek,
tu men ca u tz’iboolteech
tac lail
u yetel u x lol nicte kaax.

Chen zacan
zacan a nok,
h’x zuhuy,
xen a tz’a u cimac olil a chee
tz’a utz ta puczikal
tumen helae
u zutucil cimac olil
tu lacal uinic
lail cu tz’ailc
u yutzil ti teech.

 

Source and translation:  Ancient Mesoamerican Poets, Translated and Compiled by John Curl

Categories: Maya Maya Poetry

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The Orly

As Fray Bernardino de Sahagún observed: the Mexicans “are held to be barbarians and of very little worth; in truth, however, in matters of culture and refinement, they are a step ahead of other nations." We explore the history and legacy of the Nahua and Maya civilizations, both of which challenge our preconceptions.