Our Master

The Songs of Dzitbalché
Ancient Mayan Poetry
by Ah Bam
Translated by John Curl


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 ceremonies 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.


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


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.


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,


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.


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.




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.

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