from Songs of Mexico

Various Aztec Authors

V. Another Plain-style Mexica Song

With naught but songs
Can we curb our dark passions—
Our only vestments flowers
There in your abode, my God.

Indeed this feast of mine
Will finally be destroyed,
My friendships lost as well
Once I, Yohyontzin, have departed
For that realm of song,
The demesne of the Giver of Life.

Let the turquoise heron flowers
Appear to twist on the wind
Like bright trogons—
You, King Nezahualcoyotl,
Wrap yourself round
With dead, desiccated blooms.

Likewise, O princes,
O eagle warriors,
O jaguar knights,
May your hearts grasp truth:
Not forever are we friends—
A mere moment here on earth,
Then all depart for His home.

Yet your fame will not fade,
My beloved lord, Tezozomoc
For this is your elegy.
I weep these words,
I grieve like an orphan bereft . . .
You have departed for His home.

Therefore do I groan,
I grieve like an orphan bereft . . .
Nevermore, not ever again
Will I return to behold you
Upon this earth—
You have departed for His home.

VI. Another Song in the Chalcan Style

                         composed by Tētlepanquetzanitzin

Lord of the Waters, god and friend,
I weep with anguish at your side.
How much pity can your vassal
Wring from your heart
Here in the sea-ringed world?
I beg you to descend
And bear the earth upon your back
If only for a day.

If only you had created nothing,
You who are my heart . . .
Is this how one comes to live
In that proud land Beyond:
Feeling fury toward nothing,
Hating no one,
Living on this earth with honor?

I weep, for my heart knows,
Sacred friend,
That very truly,
Without a doubt,
As they live on the earth,
My brothers will grow lax.

Look to the south
And east, the rising place
Of our Lord the Sun!
Let your soul take flight
Where battle spreads—
Deluge and conflagration.
There one seizes power,
Kingship, holy blooms.

Not in vain will you strive
For the quetzal-feather tassels:
With blade and buckler
On the battlefields of earth
You will earn the holy blooms
For which you yearn,
For which you pine—
Flowers bestowed on you,
Prepared for you
By the Lord of the Near and the Nigh.

Vainly do you covet
That which you seek:
How can you seize the holy blooms
Unless you take up arms?
With your chest and your sweat
You will win those sacred flowers—
For your tears of pain and battle cry
The Lord of the Near and the Nigh
Will grant you your desire.

translated from the Nahuatl by David Bowles