David Bowles
6 min readJun 11, 2024

The nineteenth cuicatl in Songs of the Lords of Anahuac, my English translation of the codex Romances de los señores de la Nueva España. It also appears in less corrupted form in the other poetry codex, Songs of Mexico (Cantares mexicanos) as stanzas 17–22 of song 18. This piece is probably the best known from the Tetzcoco manuscript. A note in Spanish affirms that its author was the teenaged Nezahualcoyotl, during his exile.

By Nezahualcoyotl, when he was fleeing¹ from the king of Azcapotzalco²

In vain have I been born.
In vain have I left
Tonacateuctli’s home³
to emerge on this Earth
so that I can suffer.

I should never have emerged.
Better I had never been born,
I declare. What shall I do?
Among the gathered nobles,
let me not give offense.⁴
Be very skillfully discreet.

Indeed, I shall go rising in the world
toward that throne, my birthright.⁵
But I suffer, and my heart will ache,
my friend, for it is hard to walk here
on this slippery Earth.⁶

How does one live
amidst the human throng?
It is said that we live
without a thought for others.
I live in conflict with people,
giving them offense.⁷
I could only live quietly, peacefully
where I humble myself, bowing…



David Bowles

A Mexican American author & translator from South Texas. Teaches literature & Nahuatl at UTRGV. President of the Texas Institute of Letters.