Who were the poets of Mexico in the days of Aztec splendor? What were the poems of a culture so different from our own?
In this first English-language translation of a significant corpus of Nahuatl poetry into English, an expansion of his classic Trece poetas del mundo azteca, Miguel León-Portilla was assisted in his rethinking, augmenting, and rewriting in English by Grace Lobanov. Biographies of fifteen composers of Nahuatl verse and analyses of their work are followed by their extant poems in Nahuatl and in English.
The poets - fourteen men and one woman - lived in the central highlands of Mexico and spoke Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs, Texcocans, Tlaxcalans, and several other chiefdoms. These authors of "flower and song" (a Nahuatl metaphor for poetry, art, and symbolism) lived during the fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth centuries. Sources for the poems included indigenous "codices," books of songs" now unfortunately lost, and renditions of them preserved by the Nahuatl oral tradition, which survived the Spanish Conquest and were recorded by several young natives in two manuscripts.