The Songs of Dzitbalché
Ancient Mayan Poetry
by Ah Bam

Translated by John Curl

In this collection, known as Songs of Dzitbalché, the only known ancient Maya lyric poetry, the poet speaks of personal feelings and ideas, of love, philosophy, ancient rituals and spiritual values. The following is a selection. More Songs of Dzitbalché are included in Ancient American Poets.


These selections of The Songs of Dzitbalché
offer a glimpse into
Inca, Maya & Aztec Poetry
translations and biographies of the poets
by John Curl
published by
Bilingual Press (Arizona State University)

Songs of Dzitbalché read
in Yucatec Maya and in English Translations
on YouTube



I Will Kiss Your Mouth
 To Kiss Your Lips Beside The Fence Rails
Let Us Go To The Receiving Of The Flower
 Flower Song
 The Mourning Song Of The Poor Motherless Orphan
The Song Of The Minstrel

I will kiss your mouth
between the plants of the milpa.
Shimmering beauty,
you have to hurry.

Bin in tz'uutz' a chi
Tut yam x cohl
X ciichpam zac
Y an y an a u ahal

Put on your beautiful clothes;
the day of happiness has arrived;
comb the tangles from your hair;
put on your most attractive clothes
and your splendid leather;
hang great pendants in the lobes of
your ears; put on
a good belt; string garlands
around your shapely throat;
put shining coils
on your plump upper arms.
Glorious you will be seen,
for none is more beautiful here
in this town, the seat of Dzitbalché.
I love you, Beautiful Lady.
I want you to be seen; in
truth you are very alluring,
I compare you to the smoking star
because they desire you up to the moon
and in the flowers of the fields.
Pure and white are your clothes, maiden.
Go give happiness with your laugh,
put goodness in your heart, because today
is the moment of happiness; all people
put their goodness in you.


Tz’a ex a hatz’uutz nokeex;
tz’ooc u kuchul kin h cimac olil;
xeech u tzou tzotzel a pol;
tz’a u lemcech ciichcelmil a nok
tz’a hatz’utz xanaab;
ch’uuicinzah a nuucuuch tuup
tu tupil a xicin;
tz’a malob ooch’;
tz’a u keexiloob a x ciichpan caal;
tz’a, uu baakaal
hop men hop tu nak a kab.
t kailbelt caa i laac ciichpameech
hebiix maix maace
uay tu t cahil,
H’ Tz’iitbalcheé.
Cah in yacumaech
X Cichpan Colelbiil.
Lai beiltic
in kaat ca ilabe’ech
h’aach zempeech
tu men cu yan
ca chiicpaac ech ti x buutz’ ek,
tu men ca u tz’ibooltech
tac lail
u yetel u x lol nicte kaax.
Chen zacan
zacan a nok,
h’ x zuhuy,
xen a tz’a u cimac olil a chee
tz’a utz ta puczikal
tu men helae
u zutucil cimac olil
tu lacal uinic
lail c u tz’ailc
u yutzil ti teech.


Let us sing
flowing with joy
because we are going to
the Receiving of the Flower.
All the maidens
wear a smile on their pure faces;
their hearts
jump in their breasts.
What is the cause?
Because they know
that they will give
their virginity to those they love.
Let the Flower sing!
Accompanying you will be the Nacom
and the Great Lord Ah Kulel
present on the platform.
Ah Kulel sings:
"Let us go, let us go
lay down our wills before the Virgin
the Beautiful Virgin and Lady
the Flower of the Maidens
on the high platform,
the Lady Suhay Kaak,
the Pretty X Kanleox,
the Lovely X Zoot
and the Beautiful Lady Virgin X Tootmuch.
They are those who give goodness
to life here in this Region,
on the Plains and in the district
here in the Mountains."
Let us go, let us go,
let us go, youths;
we will give perfect rejoicing
here in Dzitill Piich,



Cimaac olailil

tan c kayiic
tu men bin cah
C’Kam C’Nicte.
Tu lacailil x chuup x loob bayen
chen chehlah chehlameec u yiich
tut ziit u puucziikalil
tut tz’uu u tzem.
Bail x tumen?
tumen yoheel
t’yolal u tz’iic
u zuhuyil colelil ti u yaacunah
Kayeex Nicteil!
C’yant ceex Naacon       
yetel Noh Yum Ah Kulel       
ah tan caan chee.       
Ah Culel hkay:
“Coneex coneex       
c’tz’a c’olaalill tu taan X Zuhuz      
X Ciichpan Zuhuy      
Colelbil u Lolil Loob ayen      
Tut can caan che      
U Colebil X M Zuhuy Kaak u,
beyxan x cichpan X’Kamleooch,
X ciichpan Xah Zoot,
yetel x’ciichpam colel
x zuhuy X T’oot much.
Laitie tz’iic utzil
cuxtalil uay yok peetne
uay yok chakme
tu zuut lumil
uay uitzil.”
Coox coox
coneex palaleex;
beey c tz’aic cici cimac
olil uay Tz’itil Piich

The most alluring moon
has risen over the forest;
it is going to burn
suspended in the center
of the sky to lighten
all the earth, all the woods,
shining its light on all.
Sweetly comes the air and the perfume.
Happiness permeates all good men.
We have arrived inside the woods
where no one will see what we have
come here to do.
We have brought plumeria flowers,
chucum blossoms, dog jasmines;
we have the copal,
the low cane vine,
the land tortoise shell,
new quartz, chalk and cotton thread;
the new chocolate cup,
the large fine flint,
the new weight,
the new needle work,
gifts of turkeys, new leather,
all new, even our hair bands,
they touch us with nectar
of the roaring conch shell
of the ancients.
Already, already
we are in the heart of the woods,
at the edge of the pool in the stone
to await the rising
of the lovely smoking star
over the forest.
Take off your clothes,
let down your hair,
become as you were
when you arrived here on earth,
virgins, maidens.


X ciih x ciichpan u
tz’ u likil yook kaax;
tu bin u hopbal
tu chumuc can caan
tux cu ch’uuytal u zazicunz
yookol cab tu lacal kaax
chen cici u tal iik u utz’ben booc.
U tz’ u kuchul
chumuc caan
chen zact’in cab u zazilil
yook tu lacal baal.
yan cimac olil ti tu lacal malob uinic.
Tz’ooc cohol tu ichil u naak kaax     
tuux maixi mac men max
hel u y ilconeil leil
baax c’taal c’beet.
T tazah lol nicte,
u lol chucum, u lol u tz’tul,
u lol x milah;
t tazah pom,
h ziit,
beyxan x coc box,
beyxan tumben hiib took yete tumben
kuch tumben luch,    
bolnm yaax took,
bumben peetz’ilil,
bumben xoot,  
beyxan n can x ulum tumben xanab,   
bu lacal tumben lail xam u kaxil c’hool,  
b tial c pooc niicte ha        
beyxan c hoop zahub
bey u x kiliiz.
Tz’oci,  tz’oci 
t yan on tu tz’u kaax,
tu chi noh haltun   
utial c’paat u hokol
x ciichpan buutz’ ek
yookol kaax.
Pitah nookeex
luuz u kaxil a holex
ba teneex
hee cohiceex uay yokol cabile
x zuhuyex x chupalelex hel u.

I was very small when my mother died,
when my father died.
Ay ay, my Lord!
Raised by the hands of friends,
I have no family here on earth.
Ay ay, my Lord!
Two days ago my friends died,
and left me insecure
vulnerable, alone. Ay ay!
That day I was alone
and put myself
in a stranger's hand.
Ay ay, my lord!
Evil, much evil passes here
on earth. Perhaps
I will never stop crying.
Without family,
alone, very lonely I walk,
crying day and night
only cries consume my eyes and soul.
Under evil so hard.
Ay ay, my Lord!
Take pity on me, put an end
to this suffering.
Give me death , my Beautiful Lord,
or give my soul transcendence!
Poor, poor
alone on earth
pleading insecure lonely
imploring door to door
asking every person I see to give me love.
I who have no home, no clothes,
no fire.
Ay my lord! Have pity on my!
Give my soul transcendence
to endure.



Hach chiichanen caa cim in na 
caa cim in yum.
Ay ay in Yumen!
Caa t p’at en tu kab 
t yicnal in laak 
miix maac y an t en uay y okol cab. 
Ay ay in yumilen!
Cu man cap’el kin
cu cimil ten in laak
tin t’uluch c p’ate en
tin t’uluch hum. Ay ay!
Tz’u man lail kin tin hun p’at cen
caa tu han ch’ahen u bizen t nin
u p’el tz’ul tu kab.
Ay ay in yumilen!
H’loobil hach yaab yayab loob
tin manziic uay
yokol cab.  Miix ua bikin     
bin hauc in u okol.
Miix in uonel yan     
hach chen tin hum     
chen bey in man
uay tin lum
h’kin yetel akab
chen okol okol
xuupzic in uich
lail xuupzic ool.
Yam loob hach chich.
Ay in Yum!
Ch’aten otzilil tz’a u tibitil
leil yah muukyaa.
Tz’aten u tz’oc cimilil
ua tz’aten toh olal
in Ciichcelem Yumil!
Otzil otzil
baai tu hun y ook lum
ua yan ca u kaat
tu t’uluch hum
kaat men kaat tu hol nah nahil
tu lacal maac ilic
heleili u tz’iic yacunail.
Inan yotoch inam u nok
inan kaak.
Ay in Yum! Chaten otzilii!
Tz’aten toholal utial caa paatac
in muuk yahtic.


This day there is a feast in the villages.
Dawn streams over the horizon,
south north east west,
light comes to the earth, darkness is gone.
Roaches, crickets, fleas and moths
hurry home.
Magpies, white doves, swallows,
partridges, mockingbirds, thrushes, quail,
red and white birds rush about,
all the forest birds begin their song because
morning dew brings happiness.
The Beautiful Star
shines over the woods,
smoking as it sinks and vanishes;
the moon too dies
over the forest green.
Happiness of fiesta day has arrived
in the villages;
a new sun brings light
to all who live together here.


Kin kuilancail t cah nahlil.
U caah h tip’il t zazilil I kin tut haal caan
t cu bin u bin bey nohol
bai t xaman bey t lakin bey xan t chikin,
tumtal u zazil yokol cabilil
eh hook chen tiul tz’iic.
X kuuluuch yeet maaz yeet chiic yeet x tz’unun
cu yaalcab t cuchil.
X baach, x zac pacal, tzuutzuuz,
bey nom, chaan beech, yeet x kook, x zac chich,
h zaay c’yalcu tuumben
lail kaxil chiich cu hoopz cu kay tumen
h’eeb ziam cen utzilil.
X Ciichpan Ek
hohopnan yook kaax
cu butz’ilan ca lamat lamat
u taal u cimil u
yook yaxil kaax.
Cimmaac olilil kin kuilail uay
tee t cahalil;   
tumen tumben kin c’talal zaztal
t tu lacal uinicil t cah muul ba uay
t cahalil.




The Songs of Dzitblaché include most of the ancient Maya lyric poetry that has survived. In these songs, the poet speaks of personal feelings and ideas, of love, philosophy, ancient rituals and spiritual values.

The original title page reads, "The Book of the Dances of the Ancients that it was the custom to perform here in the towns when the whites had not yet arrived. This book was made by the honorable Mr. Bam, great-grandson of the great Ah Kulel of the town of Dzitbalché in the year 1440." The title, "Songs of Dzitbalché," was given to the collection by the first translator into Spanish, Alfredo Barrera Vásquez, and it is by this name that it is generally known. Written above the title is the word kolomché - a ceremonial dance - and below it is the first poem, "I Will Kiss Your Lips."

The manuscript itself was probably written in the 1700s, though it could be a copy of an earlier manuscript. Some of the material it contains is clearly much older, probably from the 1400s. A number of the poems incorporate fragments of ancient ceremonies; others are descriptions of those ceremonies. It is not always possible to distinguish between the two. The poems about the ceremonies were written by Ah Bam during the colonial period, while the cermonies described are clearly ancient.


The Yucatec Maya Language

The Mayence language family diverged from a common stock over the centuries into the large variety of related languages found throughout the Maya region today, much as the Romance languages diverged from Latin. There are 28 Mayance languages with numerous dialects. Yucatecan Maya however, forms one of the three major subgroupings, the others being Huastecan and Southern Mayan. All the Mayance language speakers together total about 4 million people. Yucatec Maya remains understandable throughout the Yucatán peninsula, despite minor local differences. Over 450,000 people speak Maya in Yucatán today.



Sources and Translations

In translating these texts I primarily refered to Barrera Vásquez's pioneering translation into Spanish (Mérida, 1965). I also referred to Munro S. Edmonson's English translation (Mexico, 1982), which is loosely based on Barrera Vásquez, but less literal.

Useful in understanding these texts is an acquaintence with the various Books of Chilam Balam (Barrera Vásquez, 1948, and many other translations), the Ritual of the Bacabs (Roys, Norman, 1965), the Title of Calkiní (Barrera Vásquez, Campeche, 1957) and Fray Diego de Landa's Relación de las cosas de Yucatán (Gates, New York, 1978).

Other important Maya texts from Yucatán and Guatemala include the Xiu Chronicle, the Chronicle of Chicxulub and the Title of Yaxkukul (Restall, Boston, 1998), the Popol Vuh (Pop Wuj) (Chavez, Mexico, 1979; Tedlock, New York, 1985, and many other translations), the Annals of the Cakchiquels and the Title of the Lords of Totonicapán (Recinos and Goetz, Mexico, 1950, Norman, 1953), and the Rabinal Achí (Monterde, Mexico, 1979).

A good brief anthology of Mayan literature is La literatura de los Mayas (Sodi, México, 1964).

Standard dictionaries and grammars include Diccionario de Motul Maya-Español (Ciudad Real, Mérida, 1929), Diccionario de elementos del Maya Yucateco Colonial (Swadesh, Mexico, 1991), and A Maya Grammar (Tozzer, Cambridge, 1921, New York, 1997)

Barrera Vásquez, Alfredo, El Libro de los Libros de Chilam Balam (con Silvia Rendón), México, 1948; Códice de Calkiní, Campeche, 1957; El libro de los cantares de Dzitbalché, Mérida, 1965.

Chávez, Adrian I., Pop Wuj, Mexico, 1979.

Ciudad Real, A. de, Diccionario de Motul Maya-Español, Mérida, 1929.

Craine, Eugene R. and Reindorp, Reginald C., The Codex Pérez and the Book of Chilam Balam of Maní, Norman, 1979.

Edmonson, M. S., "The Songs of Dzitbalché: A Literary Commentary," Tlalocan, México, 1982, The Ancient Future of the Itzás (The Book of Chilam Balam of Tizimin), Austin, 1982.

Landa, Fray Diego de, Relación de las cosas de Yucatán (1566), Mérida 1938; translation by Wm. Gates, Yucatán Before and After the Conquest, Baltimore 1937, New York, 1978.

Monterde, Francisco, Teatro Indígena Prehispánico (Rabinal Achí), México, 1979.

Recinos, Adrián, Popol Vuh, Mexico 1947, Norman, 1950; Memorial de Sololá, Anales de los Cakchiqueles, Mexico, 1950, Norman 1953; Crónicas Indígenas de Guatemala, Guatemala, 1957.

Roys, Ralph L., Ritual of the Bacabs, Norman,1965, The Book of Chilam Balam of Chumayel, Norman, 1967.

Sánchez de Aguilar, Fray Pedro, Informe contra idolorum cultores del Obispo de Yucatán (1639), Mérida, 1937, México, 1953.

Sodi M., Demetrio, La literatura de los Mayas, México, 1964.

Swadesh, M., Cristina Alverez, M. and Bastarrachea, J. R., Diccionario de elementos del Maya Yucateco Colonial, Mexico, 1991.

Tedlock, Dennis, Popol Vuh, New York, 1985.

Tozzer, A. M., A Maya Grammar, Cambridge, 1921; New York 1977.


Copyright © 2003 by John Curl. All Rights Reserved.

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