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House of Song, Florentine Codex Book 3

Aztec Poetry (2): Three Poems

Commentary and Translations by John Curl. Picture (right): tending fires in the House of Song, Florentine Codex, Book 3.

Flower-song glyph, Codex Borbonicus, p. 4
Flower-song glyph, Codex Borbonicus, p. 4

1. STAND UP, BEAT YOUR DRUM

By Nezahualcoyotl


Stand up, beat your drum:

give of yourself, know friendship. -Aya!-

Let your hearts be taken

with many colours -Yehuaya!-

only here perhaps are lent to us

our tobacco pipes, our flowers,

Ohuaya Ohuaya.


Stand up, my friend,

elated take your flowers to the drum:

your bitterness flees.

Adorn yourself with them:

the flowers raise their heads,

cocoa flowers of precious gold -Aya!-

are being scattered,

Ohuaya Ohuaya.


Beautifully sing here

the turquoise bird, the quetzal, the trogon:

the macaw’s song presides, and

all the jingling rattles and drums answer,

Ohuaya Ohuaya.


I drink cocoa:

with it I am glad -Aya!-

my heart takes pleasure, my heart is happy,

Ohuaya Ohuaya.


Romances de los Señores, poem #55.



XI MOQUETZA, XIC TZOTZONA


Xi moquetza, xic tzotzona

in tohuehueuh

in ma icniuhtlamacho

ma zan -Aya!-

cuicuili iyollo
-Yehuaya!-

zaniyo nican

at on titlanehuico

zaniyo tacayeuh

ihuan toxochiuh,


Ohuaya Ohuaya.


Xi moquetza titocniuh

xocon cui moxochiuh huehuetitlan.

Ma melel quiza

inca xi mapana

zan quetzaloco xochitli

omaco mani
-Aya!-

zan teocuitla cacahua xochitli,

Ohuaya Ohuaya.


Huel ya cuica ye nican

xiuhtototl quetzal tzinitzcan

ya quechol achtohua

moch on quinanquilia

ayacachlli huehuetl,


Ohuaya Ohuaya


0 ya niccua cacahuatl

ic nonpaqui
-Aya!-

Noyol ahuiya noyol huellamati,

Ohuaya Ohuaya.


Romances de los Señores, poem #55.

2. FLOWERS ARE OUR ONLY GARMENTS

By Nezahualcoyotl


Flowers are our only garments,

only songs make our pain subside,

diverse flowers on earth,

Ohuaya ohuaya.


Perhaps my friends will be lost,

my companions will vanish

when I lie down in that place, I Yoyontzin -Ohuaye!-

in the place of song and of Life Giver,

Ohuaya ohuaya.


Does no one know where we are going?

Do we go to God’s home or

do we live only here on earth?

Ah ohuaya.


Let your hearts know,

oh princes, oh eagles and jaguars

that we will not be friends forever,

only for a moment here, then we go

to Life Giver’s home,

Ohuaya ohuaya.


Cantares Mexicanos, poem #5 and #40, and Romances de los Señores #52.


Note: This poem is found three times in the original manuscripts, with some variations. Because of that we can conclude it was a popular poem. In one version it has three verses, four in another, and ten in another. It is a call-and-response poem, a common form in Aztec flowersongs. Interspersed between some of the stanzas, are verses in which another singer or chorus answers the poet. The flowersongs were written down as the scribe heard them performed, two generations after Nezahualcoyotl’s death. The response verses were probably not part of the original poem, and are not included in my translation. Yoyotzin was Nezahualcoyotl’s nickname.



ZANIO IN XOCHITL TONEQUIMILOL


Zanio in xochitl tonequimilol,

zanio in cuicatl ic huehuetzin

telel in nepapan xochitla

a in tlalticpac,


Ohuaya Ohuaya.


In mach noca

om polihuiz in cohuayotl,

in mach noca

om polihuiz in icniuhyotl

in ononya yehua ni Yoyontzin -Ohuaye!-

on cuicatilo in ipalnemoani,


Ohuaya Ohuaya


Ayac on matia ompa tonyazque

o ye ichan o zanio ye nican

in tinemico tlalticpac,


A Ohuaya


In ma ya moyol iuh quimati

in antepilhuan

in ancuahtin amocelo

ah mochipan titocnihuan

zan cuel achic nican

timochi tonyazque

o ye ichan,


Ohuaya Ohuaya.


Cantares Mexicanos, poem #5 and #40, and Romances de los Señores #52.

3. THE SONG CHANTED EVERY EIGHT YEARS
AT THE FEAST OF THE WATER TAMALES


Sacred Hymn #14

Anonymous, transcribed by Fray Bernardino de Sahagún


My heart is a flower,

it bursts open,

Lord of Midnight,

Oaya ouayaye.


Already the Goddess has come,

our Earthmother has come,

Oaya ouayaye.


The god of corn, born in Paradise,

where flowers bloom,

on the day One Flower,

Yantala yantata ayyao ayyaue

tilili yyao ayaue oayyaue.


The god of corn,

born in the region of rain and mist,

where the children of men are conceived,

home of the Lords of Jewelled Fish,

Yyao yantala yantata ayyao ayyaue

tilili yyao ayaue oayyaue.


Dawn arrives, radiant sunrise.

Multi-coloured spoonbills

drink nectar from the standing flowers,

Yantala yantata ayyao ayyaue

tilili yyao ayaue oayyaue.


Here on earth,

in the market you appear.

I am the lord,

I, Quetzalcoatl,

Yantala yantata ayyao ayyaue

tilili yyao ayaue oayyaue.


Florentine Codex, Book 2


Note: The Atamalcualiztli ceremony included dances and deity impersonation. Its performance served to rejuvenate corn. It was celebrated every eight years on the day One Flower, when the cycle of the planet Venus crossed the 365-day sun cycle. According to the mythological story, on that day during the Creation epoch or First Sun, Tlazolteotl, the Earth Mother, gave birth to Cinteotl, the corn deity. Cinteotl and Quetzalcoatl are closely identified. Cinteotl was the Morning Star (planet Venus), and Quetzalcoatl became the Morning Star in the current epoch or Fifth Sun.

IZCATQUI IN CUICATL CHICUEXIUHTICA

MEUAYA IN ICUAC ATAMALCUALOIA


Sacred Hymn #14


Xochitl noyollo

cuepontimania

ye Tlacoyoalle,


Oaya ouayaye.


Yecoc ye Tonan,

yecoc ye Teutl Tlazolteutla,


Oaya ouayaye.


Otlacatqui Centeutl Tamiyoanchan

ni Xochitli cacani

Ce-Xochitli,


Yantala yantata ayyao ayyaue

tilili yyao ayaue oayyaue.


Otlacatqui Centeutl

atl yayahuicani

in Tlacapillachiualoya

Chalchimichuacan,


Yyao yantala yantata ayyao ayyaue

tilili yyao ayaue oayyaue.


Oyatlatonazqui tlauizcalleuaya

inan tlachichinya

nepapan quechol Xochitlacacan,


Yantala yantata ayyao ayyaue

tilili yyao ayaue o ayyaue.


Tlalpan timoquetzca

tianquiz nauaquia.

Nitlacatla,

ni Quetzalcoatla,


Yantala yantata ayyao ayyaue

tilili yyao ayaue oayyaue.


Florentine Codex, Book 2

Xochipilli (‘Flower Prince’), God of poetry, music, summer... Codex Vaticanus 3773, p. 10
Xochipilli (‘Flower Prince’), God of poetry, music, summer... Codex Vaticanus 3773, p. 10 (Click on image to enlarge)

Text © 2008 John Curl. All rights reserved.


Picture sources:-

Florentine Codex (original in the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Florence); image scanned from our own copy of the Club Internacional del Libro 3-volume facsimile edition, Madrid, 1994

Codex Borbonicus (original in the Bibliotheque de l’Assembée Nationale, Paris); images scanned from our own copy of the ADEVA facsimile edition, Graz, Austria, 1974

Codex Vaticanus 3773: image scanned from our own copy of the ADEVA facsimile edition, Graz, Austria, 1972

This article was uploaded to the Mexicolore website on Aug 20th 2009

John Curl reads ‘Xi moquetza, xic tzotzona’ in Náhuatl

John Curl reads ‘Zanio in Xochitl’ in Náhuatl

John Curl reads ‘In Cuicatl In Atamalcualoia’ in Náhuatl

See and hear John Curl read three poems of Hungry Coyote Nezahualcoyotl

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Here's what others have said:

Mexicolore replies: You may be thinking of the following inscription, from the Cantos de Huexotzingo, above the entrance to the Sala de Occidente (Western Mexico Hall) at the Museum of Anthropology:-
’¿Solo así he de irme? ¿Como las flores que perecieron? ¿Nada quedará en mi nombre? ¿Nada de mi fama aquí en la tierra? ¡Al menos flores, al menos cantos!’
Hope this helps...
Mexicolore replies: John Curl has kindly informed us that this comes from the last stanza of  Miguel Leon-Portilla’s translation of a poem from Cantares Mexicanos (folio 12 v.) His full translation can be found in his book Los antiguos mexicanos a traves de sus cronicas y cantares (Mexico, D.F.: Fondo de Cultura Economica, 1961), p. 138-139. The last stanza goes -
Pero repartes tus dones,
tus alimentos, lo que da abrigo,
¡oh Dador de la vida!
Nadie dice, estando a tu lado,
que viva en la indigencia.
Hay un brotar de piedras preciosas,
hay un florecer de plumas de quetzal,
¿son acaso tu corazón. Dador de la vida?
Nadie dice, estando a tu lado,
que viva en la indigencia.
Mexicolore replies: This translation is actually stanza 4 of a longer poem, which is from the book “Ancient Nahuatl Poetry”, by Daniel G. Brinton (1890), ch. 9, IV. It is available online at several sites, including  www.fullbooks.com/Ancient-Nahuatl-Poetry1.html or
www.archive.org/stream/ancientnahuatlpo12219gut/12219-8.txt
Brinton took it from ”Tardes Americanas”, by Granados y Galvez, pp. 90-94. (Mexico, 1778). The original is actually not available in Nahuatl, but in Otomi. Nezahualcoyotl and other Aztec poets also wrote in this language besides their native Nahuatl.
”Tardes Americanas” is available online (in Spanish) (chapter: Tarde Tercera) at
www.cervantesvirtual.com/servlet/SirveObras/01593296213474871870035/notas.htm#N_28_
The orginal Otomi is in note 28:
www.cervantesvirtual.com/servlet/SirveObras/01593296213474871870035/notas.htm#N_28_
I hope that helps you somewhat, or at least points you in the right direction for further study. John Curl.