Compiled in 1582, Ballads of the Lords of New Spain is one of the two principal sources of Nahuatl song, as well as a poetical window into the mindset of the Aztec people some sixty years after the conquest of Mexico. Presented as a cancionero, or anthology, in the mode of New Spain, the ballads show a reordering—but not an abandonment—of classic Aztec values. In the careful reading of John Bierhorst, the ballads reveal in no uncertain terms the pre-conquest Aztec belief in the warrior's paradise and in the virtue of sacrifice.
This volume contains an exact transcription of the thirty-six Nahuatl song texts, accompanied by authoritative English translations. Bierhorst includes all the numerals (which give interpretive clues) in the Nahuatl texts and also differentiates the text from scribal glosses. His translations are thoroughly annotated to help readers understand the imagery and allusions in the texts. The volume also includes a helpful introduction and a larger essay, "On the Translation of Aztec Poetry," that discusses many relevant historical and literary issues.
In Bierhorst's expert translation and interpretation, Ballads of the Lords of New Spain emerges as a song of resistance by a conquered people and the recollection of a glorious past.
Announcing a New Digital Initiative
UT Press, in a new collaboration with the University of Texas Libraries, will publish an interactive digital adaptation of the Ballads that will expand the scholarly content beyond what is possible to publish in book form. The web site, to launch in conjunction with the book in July 2009, includes all of the printed book plus scans of the original codex, a normative transcription, and space to interact with the author and other scholars, as well as art, audio, a map, and other related material. The digital Ballads will be open access, bringing one of the university’s rare holdings to scholars around the world.
John Bierhorst is the author of thirty-five books on the Native literature of the Americas, including Cantares Mexicanos: Songs of the Aztecs; A Nahuatl-English Dictionary; History and Mythology of the Aztecs: The Codex Chimalpopoca; Mythology of the Lenape: Guide and Texts; and Latin American Folktales: Stories from Hispanic and Indian Traditions. He lives in West Shokan, New York.
"John Bierhorst is one of the few contemporary scholars with the skill to produce a transcription of the Romances, translate them, and interpret them. . . . His new translation will be of inestimable value to Nahuatl scholars in the United States. . . . He has boldly and skillfully offered us a very useful interpretation of the songs' meaning."
—James M. Taggart, Lewis Audenreid Professor of History and Archaeology, Franklin and Marshall College
"Bierhorst has produced an important new work on the Aztecs that will be discussed widely in scholarly circles. . . . Over the past thirty years, studies of Nahua culture and language have proliferated, and I am glad to say that we have made significant progress in increasing our understanding of this fascinating and important group. Bierhorst's work is part of these exciting developments, and his contribution in the Ballads has to be understood in light of broader trends. In effect, he is pushing the analysis of Aztec ethnohistory and art to ever higher levels of sophistication and comprehensiveness."
—Alan R. Sandstrom, Professor and Chair of Anthropology, Indiana University–Purdue University Fort Wayne