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