Literature Ancient Nahuatl Poetry

Ancient Nahuatl Poetry

Ancient Nahuatl Poetry
Catalog # SKU3296
Publisher TGS Publishing
Weight 1.00 lbs
Author Name Daniel G. Brinton
ISBN 10: 1610336569
ISBN 13: 9781610336567


Nahuatl Poetry

Containing the Nahuatl Text
of 27 Ancient Mexican Poems.

Large Print

Daniel G. Brinton

The passionate love with which the Nahuas cultivated song, music and the dance is a subject of frequent comment by the historians of Mexico. These arts are invariably mentioned as prominent features of the aboriginal civilization; no public ceremony was complete without them; they were indispensable in the religious services held in the temples; through their assistance the sacred and historical traditions were preserved; and the entertainments of individuals received their chief lustre and charm from their association with these arts.

--New Edition, large 15 point font



The profession of the poet stood in highest honor. It was the custom before the Conquest for every town, every ruler and every person of importance to maintain a company of singers and dancers, paying them fixed salaries, and the early writer, Duran, tells us that this custom continued in his own time, long after the Conquest. He sensibly adds, that he can see nothing improper in it, although it was condemned by some of the Spaniards. In the training of these artists their patrons took a deep personal interest, and were not at all tolerant of neglected duties. We are told that the chief selected the song which was to be sung, and the tune by which it was to be accompanied; and did any one of the choir sing falsely, a drummer beat out of time, or a dancer strike an incorrect attitude, the unfortunate artist was instantly called forth, placed in bonds and summarily executed the next morning!

With critics of such severity to please, no wonder that it was necessary to begin the training early, and to set apart for it definite places and regular teachers. Therefore it was one of the established duties of the teachers in the calmecac or public school, "to teach the pupils all the verses of the sacred songs which were written in characters in their books." There were also special schools, called cuicoyan, singing places, where both sexes were taught to sing the popular songs and to dance to the sound of the drums. In the public ceremonies it was no uncommon occurrence for the audience to join in the song and dance until sometimes many thousands would thus be seized with the contagion of the rhythmical motion, and pass hours intoxicated (to use a favorite expression of the Nahuatl poets) with the cadence and the movement.

After the Conquest the Church set its face firmly against the continuance of these amusements. Few of the priests had the liberal views of Father Duran, already quoted; most of them were of the opinion of Torquemada, who urges the clergy "to forbid the singing of the ancient songs, because all of them are full of idolatrous memories, or of diabolical and suspicious allusions of the same character." To take the place of the older melodies, the natives were taught the use of the musical instruments introduced by the Spaniards, and very soon acquired no little proficiency, so that they could perform upon them, compose original pieces, and manufacture most of the instruments themselves.

To this day the old love of the song and dance continues in the Indian villages; and though the themes are changed, the forms remain with little alteration. Travelers describe the movements as slow, and consisting more in bending and swaying the body than in motions of the feet; while the songs chanted either refer to some saint or biblical character, or are erotic and pave the way to orgies.

148 pages - 8½ x 11 softcover
ISBN-10: 1610336569
ISBN-13: 9781610336567

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