Origin of the Songs


1. I am wondering where I may gather some pretty, sweet flowers. Whom shall I ask? Suppose that I ask the brilliant humming-bird, the emerald trembler; suppose that I ask the yellow butterfly; they will tell me, they know, where bloom the pretty, sweet flowers, whether I may gather them here in the laurel woods where dwell the tzinitzcan birds, or whether I may gather them in the flowery forests where the tlauquechol lives. There they may be plucked sparkling with dew, there they come forth in perfection. Perhaps I shall find them there. If they showed them to me, I’d gather a cloakful, and with these I’d greet the princes, with these I’d entertain the lords.

1. Ninoyolnonotza, campa nicuiz yectli auiacaxacohitl? ac nictlahtlaiz? manoco yehuatl nictlatlani in quetzalhuitzitziltzin, in chalchiuhhuitzitzicazin, manoco ye nictlatlani in caquanpapalotl, ca yehuantin inmachiz, ommati campa cueponi: in yectli ahuiac xochitl, tla nitlahuihuiltequi, in nican acxoyatzinitzcanquauhtla, manoce itlahuihuiltequi in tlauhquecholxochiquauhtla oncan huihuitoliqui, ahuactonameyotoc in oncan mocehcemelquixtia, aco oncan niquimittaz, intla onechittitique nocuexanco nictemaz ic niquitlapaloz in tepilhuan, ic niquimelelquixtiz in teteuctin.

2. Truly as I walk along I hear the rocks (mountains) as it were replying (echoing) to the sweet songs of the flowers; truly the glittering, chattering water answers, the bird-green fountain, there it sings, it dashes forth, it sings again; the mockingbird answers; perhaps the coyol bird answers, and many sweet singing birds scatter their songs around like music. They bless the earth pouring out their sweet voices.

2. Tlacaco nican nemi; ye nicaqui in ixochicuicatzin iuhqui tepetl quinnahnanquilia, tlacahco itlan in meya quetzalatl, xiuhtotoameyalli oncan mocuicamomotla, mocuicanananquilia; in ceentzontlatoltoco quinnananquilia in coyoltototl, ayacachicahuacatimani in nepapan tlacocuicanitotome oncan quiyectenehua in tlaticpaque huel tetozcatemique.

3. I said, I cried aloud, may I not cause you pain ye beloved ones, who are seated to listen; may the brilliant humming-birds come soon. Whom do we seek, O noble poet? I ask, I say: Where are the pretty, fragrant flowers with which I may make glad you my noble compeers? Soon they will sing to me, "Here we will make thee to see, thou singer, truly wherewith thou shalt make glad the nobles, thy companions.”

3. Nic ihtoaya nitlaocoltzatzia; ma namechelleltih ytlacohuane, niman cactimotlalique niman huallato in quetzalhuitzitziltzin aquin tictemohua cuicanitzine? nima niquinnanquilia niquimilhuia? campa catqui in yectli ahuiac xohitl ic niquimelelquixtiz in amohuampohtizinhuan? niman onechicacahuatzque. ca nican tla timitzittititi ticuicani aco nelli ic tiquimelelquixtiz in toquichpohuan in teteuctin

4. They led me within a valley to a fertile spot, a flowery spot (tonacatlalpan, xochitlalpan) , where the dew spread out in glittering splendor, where I saw various lovely fragrant flowers, lovely odorous flowers, clothed with the dew, scattered around in rainbow glory, there they said to me, "Pluck the flowers, whichever thou wishest, mayest thou the singer be glad, and give them to thy friends, to the nobles, that they may rejoice on the earth.”

4. Tepeitic tonacatlalpa, xochitlalpa nechcalaquiqueo onca onahuachtotonameyotimani, oncan niquittac aya in nepapan tlacoahuiac xochitl tlacohuelix xochitl ahahuachquequentoc, ayauhcocoamalotonameyotimani oncan nechilhuia xixo chitetequi, in catlehuatl toconnequiz ma melel quica in ticuicani, tiquinmacatacix in tocnihuan in teteuctin in quelelquixtizque in tlalticpaque.

5. So I gathered in the folds of my garment the various fragrant flowers, delicate scented, delicious, and I said, may some of our people enter here, may very many of us be here; and I thought I should go forth to announce to our friends that here all of us should rejoice in the different lovely, odorous flowers, and that we should cull the various sweet songs with which we might rejoice our friends here on earth, and the nobles in their grandeur and dignity.

5. Auh nicnocuecuexantia in nepapan ahuiac xochitl, in huel teyol quima in huel tetlamachti, nic yhtoaya manoco aca tohuan tihualcalaquini, ma cenca miec in ticmamani auh ca tel ye onimatico nitlanonotztahciz imixpan in tocnihua nican mochipa tiqualtetequizque in tlaconepapan ahuiax xochitl yhuan ticuiquihui in nepapan yectli yan cuicatl ic tiquimellelquixtizque in tocnihuan in tlalticpac tlaca in tepilhuan quauhtliya ocelotl.

6. So I the singer gathered all the flowers to place them upon the nobles, to clothe them and put them in their hands; and soon I lifted my voice in a worthy song glorifying the nobles before the face of the Cause of All (in tloque in nahuaque), where there is no servitude.

6. Ca moch nicuitoya in nicuicani ic niquimicpacxochiti in tepilhuan inic niquimahpan in can inmac niquinten nima niquehuaya yectli ya cuicatl ic netimalolo in tepilhua ixpan in tloque nahuaque, auh in ahtley ymahcehuallo:

7. But where will he whose worth is nothing, who is wretched and who sins on earth get delicious flowers? Where would he find them? Could he whose worth is nothing, who is wretched and who sins on earth, accompany me to flower land, the land of plenty (in xochitlalpan, in tonacatlalpan)? If one purchases it here on earth, it is only through submission to the Cause of All (in tloque in nahuaque); here on earth grief fills my soul as I recall where I the singer saw the flowery spot (xochitlalpan).

7. can quicuiz? can quittax in huelic xochitl auh cuix nohuan aciz aya in xochitlalpan in tonacatlalpan yn ahtley ymaccehuallo in nentlamati, in tlaytlacohua in tlpc (abbr?) ca can quitemahcehualtia in tloque in nahuaque in tlpc ye nican ic chocan noyollo noconilnamiquia in ompa onitlachiato y xochitlalpan a nicuicani.

8. And I said, truly there is no good spot here on earth, truly in some other bourn there is gladness; For what good is this earth? Truly there is another life in the hereafter. There may I go, there the sweet birds sing, there may I learn to know those good flowers, those sweet flowers, those delicious ones, which alone pleasurably, sweetly intoxicate, which alone pleasurably, sweetly intoxicate.

8. Auh nic yhtoaya tlacaco amo qualcan in tlalticpac ye nican, tlacaco oc cecni in huilohuayan, in oncan ca in netlamachtilli, tle canen in tlpc(abbr?) tlacahco oc cecni yolilizximoayan ma ompa niauh ma ompa inhuan noncuicati in nepapan tlacototome ma ompa nicnotlamachti yectli ya xochitl ahuiacaxachitl in teyol quima in can tepacca teqhuiacayhuintia in can tepaccaauiacayhuintia.

(Sources: Combined translations taken from 1985: Bierhorst, Cantares Mexicano, Stanford: Stanford University Press. and 1890: Brinton, Ancient Nahuatl Poetry containing XXVII Ancient Mexican Poems…, Philadelphia, Library of Aboriginal American Literature)