Nehuatl nictlazotla in centzontototl icuicauh,
nehuatl nictlazotla in chalchihuitl Itlapaliz
ihuan in ahuiacmeh xochimeh;
zan oc cenca noicniuhtzin in tlacatl,
Nehuatl nictlazotla

Personal translation:

Indeed I love the mockingbird’s endless song,

Indeed I love the precious stone’s beautiful color

And the intoxicating scent of the flower;

But it is the friendship of my fellow Man

Which indeed I love the most.

By Nezahualcoyotl, 1402-1472. Philosopher, warrior, architect, poet, and king of Texcoco.

Spanish translation printed on Mexico’s 100-peso note.

Although the original Nahuatl text describes the mockingbird as a bird with 400 (centzon) voices, I chose to use the word ‘endless’ in my translation. In Aztec/Nahua culture the number 400 was used in the same way that we today might say “a thousand” or “a million” to indicate a large, hypothetical, limitless number. I also rearranged the phrasing of the last two lines for the sake of elegance.

Translation with assistance from D.K. Jordan and the FreeLang Nahuatl to English guide, as well as consultation with Miguel Leon-Portilla’s own translation.

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