Skip to content
Give readers a window on the world. Click to donate.
from the August 2004 issue

“Will nothing of my earthly fame endure?”

Will nothing of my earthly fame endure?
Not even flowers, not even songs!
What can my heart do?
In vain we have sprung forth,
we have come to be on earth.

Let us enjoy ourselves, my friends,
let us embrace here,
as we walk the flowered earth.
Let no one bring an end
to the flowered earth,
let no one bring an end
to flowers and songs;
they shall endure in the house of the Giver of Life.

Earth is the place of the fleeting moment.
Is it the same in the place
where one lives in some other way?
Can one be happy over there?
Is there friendship over there?
Or is it only here on earth
that we have come to know our faces?

Cantares mexicanos fol. 10r

In Nahuatl, eagles and tigers often refers to warriors; flower in adjectival form usually means beautiful; flowers and song together constitute a difrasismo or kenning meaning poetry; face is often used metaphorically to mean self; Giver of Life (ipalnemoani in Nahuatl) should not be confused with the Western concept of God. Ometeotl (Two-God) has both male and female aspects--Tonantzin, Totatzin, Our Mother, Our Father, each name including the honorific tzin. The God of Duality was non-anthropmorphic, and unlike other Nahua gods did not exhibit human characteristics.

These translations are made from Miguel León-Portilla's Spanish versions of the originals.

Read more from the August 2004 issue
Like what you read? Help WWB bring you the best new writing from around the world.