Mesoamerican Culture, History, and Religion

Flower Songs of Nezahualcoyotl

A little poetry today for your contemplation and enjoyment.   I dug up John Curl’s translation of several songs commonly attributed to Nezahualcoyotl over on FAMSI.  The translations are quite nice, though I’d ignore his discussion about Nezahualcoyotl and Texcocan religion, as he seems to have bought into the myth that this ruler was a King David-esque poet, monotheist (!!), and crusader against sacrifice.  This spurious idea got its birth right after the Conquest, and has been incredibly difficult to get rid of since.  If you want to read a systematic study of this misrepresentation, its origins, and its repercussions on Mesoamerican studies since, I recommend checking out Jongsoo Lee’s The Allure of Nezahualcoyotl: Pre-Hispanic Religion, Politics, and Nahua Poetics. Dr. Lee thoroughly dismantles this idea and provides a wealth of information about Colonial distortions of Nahua religion and poetry, particularly where it intersects the “Nezahualcoyotl as pseudo-Christian” myth.

Bad history aside though, Curl’s actual translations are enjoyable, and I invite you to check those out.

Click HERE to read John Curl’s translations of Nahua poetry.

Nezahualcoyotl, From The Codex Ixtlilxochitl

Nezahualcoyotl, From The Codex Ixtlilxochitl

10 responses

  1. Xuchilpaba

    Funny you mention this. i made a blog on one forum where users are allowed to have their own blogs and titled it ”
    ZANLO IN XOCHITL TONEQUIMILOL” My first post was of the poem TEPONAZTLI DRUM SONG. One of my friends HATES poetry but liked some bits from that one…

    Some of my fave parts of it were:

    “I will leave a work of painted art. I, a singer whose songs will live on earth: with songs I will be remembered, O warriors, I will go away, I will disappear, I will be strewn on a mat of jewels and yellow feathers. The old women will cry for me. Their wails will drain my bones; as a flowery log I will be scattered there on the shore of the doves. Aya ohuaya.

    Ayao ata ohuaye. Warriors, I suffer. I’m carried along on a canopy of feathers. In Tlapallan, smoke will disperse. I will go there, I will disappear, strewn on a mat of jewels and yellow feathers.

    I always thought as well the name “Hungry Coyote” is like one of the mos awesome Native names ever.

    December 30, 2008 at 1:12 PM

  2. cehualli

    Hehehe funny how things work out sometimes.

    Ah, now that poem would be a wonderful epitaph on a fallen soldier’s tombstone these days.

    It is an amusing name — ever seen it written in glyph form?

    December 30, 2008 at 6:33 PM

  3. Xuchilpaba

    No! Do you have it? I would like to see it! 😀

    December 30, 2008 at 9:18 PM

  4. Xuchilpaba

    Oh and speaking of Tlapallan, do you know sources on this? I saw this paradise mentioned on a Spanish site as the paradise people go to that understand Quetzalcoatl’s wisdom, which who also rules it. I have never found anything in English after that or any source. If it is a paradise why is it skimmed so much in academia?

    December 30, 2008 at 9:32 PM

  5. cehualli

    Hehehe I do have it. Searching is turning up nothing online anymore, the only one was pulled off of Wikipedia for lack of justification for Fair Use. Lee’s book includes a snapshot of it. I need to ask my bf to rephotograph the ixiptla I painted (he’s got lighting equipment now), I’ll try to remember to have him grab a shot of that for you. It’s rather amusing, as it shows him sitting there with a line like a balloon string coming from his head, and a coyote is at the end of it, along with something else I think.

    December 30, 2008 at 9:34 PM

  6. cehualli

    Tlapallan — literally “the Red Land” if I remember right. It comes up in certain versions of the Tollan story, the ones where Quetzalcoatl travels away over the sea instead of committing suicide. Usually the translator doesn’t keep the original Nahuatl there, but I’ve seen a note or two that shows the Nahuatl of the bit that contains it. I think it may have connotations regarding wisdom, given the classic phrase of “in tlillan, in tlapallan” for wisdom. I’ve never read anything that takes it as far as that writer though.

    As for why it gets skimmed, I don’t know. I wonder if that’s about the only reference to it, so we just don’t have any more info.

    December 30, 2008 at 9:37 PM

  7. Xuchilpaba

    That’s strange! I have heard of it together as Tlillan Tlapallan, that’s how I found it.

    I found ,a href=””>this site that lists the reference as “Sodi, 1982:62” and goes on to say:

    Demetrio Sodi postulates that Tlillan Tlapallan, which is a legendary land (the name meaning “the land of black and red, of wisdom”; Sodi, 1982:62), is in actuality none other than the Yucatan. He points to the fact that this part of Maya territory has already been exposed to Nahutal influences due to the Toltecs at Chichen Itza. (Note: Nicholson claims that Chien Itza was founded by Topiltzin) Upon his arrival in this land, Ce Actal Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl is now known as Kukulcan (the direct Maya translation of Quetzalcoatl). He is later credited as establishing the royal dynasties in Guatemala (Quiche Maya territory). But he is not only the progenitor of legitimate royal rule in Guatemala, in Mixteca territory where Quetzalcoatl is known as 9 Wind, he is also said to have done the same.”

    There’s also some sites that claim it’s a middle heaven of the three Aztec heavens.

    yes, i wold like to see the glyphs thank you. 🙂

    December 30, 2008 at 10:12 PM

  8. Shock

    I’ve been looking at the religion of Nezhualcoyotl lately from an archaeological POV. The monotheist idea really needs to go away, as does the anti sacrifice bit. And why does nobody ever look at the bit in the Chimalpopoca about him drowning, being whisked off to a mountain top by crazy priest looking dudes, and given the power to destroy his enemies?

    January 1, 2009 at 10:55 AM

  9. cehualli

    Shock — But… but…he was a monotheist hippy pacifist! That’s impossible that he’d be interested in kicking some ass!

    January 8, 2009 at 10:44 PM

  10. cehualli

    Xuchil — Thanks for the link, I’ll have to take a look. Something just doesn’t seem right about what Sodi’s saying, but I’m at work at the moment and can’t quite put my finger on it…

    Now the Black and Red as part of the heavens is familiar to me, there are a fair number of the 12/13 layers of the heavens that are primarily identified by color. Don’t have a chart handy, but I think both colors may have been in there. I know Blue was.

    I’ll try to remember to photograph that glyph for you soon. 🙂

    January 8, 2009 at 10:48 PM

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