Mayan love poem

Maya love poem

A possible pronunciation

A-baah ti-ne'(e)n (u)y-uts-il in-woj-ool

Che'en chiich-kun aw-ok

Tumen bin tup-aan (u)y-ich

Tumen u-paach in-k'aat-eech

Translated into Classic Maya (prehispanic) by:
Jean-Michel Hoppan (cnrs researcher), teacher in Inalco: "Epigraphie maya"


Your image in (the) mirror

(it's) my best text

Because (it's) her face will go out

Car (it's) the final thing of "I want you"

Book of poetry "La Glace"
Original version
French poem

Mayan glyphs, language & literature

You will appreciate all the novelty of this pretty Mayan love poem (Classic Maya, Classic Ch'olti', Epigraphic Mayan language). This is certainly the first poem in the world, to be translated into the mystery of so pretty glyphs!

The Mayan hieroglyps present one of the most facinating puzzles of the linguistic analysis since Champollion. The Mayans had a highly developed system of writing based on hieroglyphics, which can be found on monuments all over the Mayan empire. It is by far the most sophisticated writing system attested in the pre columbian Americas and although linguists have some ideas of how Mayan hieroglyphs worked, they are still not fully understood.

Their decipherment was delayed for many years by a common assumption among specialists that the symbols were merely pictographs representing concept without any phonetic value. This assumption was made despite early evidence from Spanish missionaries that the system was phonetically based.

The Mayan writing system works in many aspects like egyptian hieroglyphics. If they could stand for their own meaning, they could be used only for the sound value that there meaning carried. It is estimated that there were at least 800 distincts glyphs which employed the rebus principle. Their symbols were not always left separate, but might be merged into a more compressed form. Just a part of the symbol, might be used.

In fact Maya glyphs are an extremely complex syllabary, formed by combinations of ideographs, phonetic signs, and also rebus writing, in which a ideograph is used to represent another word which happens to have the same pronunciation. Imagin by example if English took the sign for eye to represent the pronoun "i". The first glyphs to be deciphered were those dealing with the calendar and astronomy, then many progress have been made in unraveling the rest of the system. Actually we know perhaps 85% of the glyphs.

To speak about Mayan literature in general is not easy, because of the number of languages concerned. The few preserved Mayan codices, as well as many inscriptions, have not revealed all their secrets. The knowledge of this Maya literature will begin with the Spanish missionaries who in contact with the natives, transcribed it in Latin characters. Diego de Landa in "Relacion de las cosas de Yucatan" provides a wealth of historical and ethnographic information of interest.

One must note the sacred book of the Mayas, the "Popul Vuh", which speak about the Maya history and traditions, and about their believes about the creation of the world, in a rare poetic language. This is the most outstanding example of native American literature that has survived the passing of centuries, it was first reduced to writing (in roman) in the middle of the 16th century. The "Rabinal Achi", which is a sacred and warlike drama, tells the magical sacrifice of a prisoner. It was only transcribed in 1850, according to the oral tradition. The "Chilam-Balam", is mythologically and prophetically rich in historical and religious teachings. The "Annales de los Cakchiqueles" tell the origin, of the world, and of Mayas-Cakchiquel people. There are also Maya texts about religion, medicine, magic.


Maya is the most diverse and largest language family in Central America (24 languages). In modern times, the one that is still called Maya is the Yucatec. Maya also include Mam, quel, ketchi, huaxtec.

The first villages of Mayan farmers date from in the preclassic period, which will last 2 millennia until the year 250. It is at the end of the preclassical from -300 that appear, the first pyramids accompanied by a style of sculpture, the polychrome painted pottery and the corbelled vaults.

The classical period (250-950) is the period when the Mayas reach full bloom, particularly in the central region (lowlands of the Peten in Guatemala), and in the southern zone (Guatemala and Chiapas highlands) occupied by People from Teotihuacan. In the northern zone (Yucatan) there is a great architectural development. Then, the Mayan civilization begin to decline, without any real explanation (land exhaustion linked to the population density, wars between cities, invasions.

In the post-classical period, the Toltecs who came from Mexico valley, will be at the origin of a renaissance of the peninsula, before it falls back into an anarchy dominated by wars. After the Spanish conquest, the central part of the Maya area becomes a refuge of fugitives.Today, The descendants of the Mayans, are mixed with other peoples, and are widely acculturated. It would stay only 330,000 authentic Maya, especially in Yucatan.

In the post-classical period (950-1500), the Toltecs coming from the Mexico valley, will be at the origin of a rebirth of the peninsula, before it falls back into anarchy dominated by wars. After the Spanish conquest, the central part of the Mayan area becomes a refuge of fugitives. Today, the descendants of the Mayas are mixed with other peoples, and are largely acculturated. Only 330,000 authentic Mayans would remain, especially in Yucatan.

Mayan society was divided into classes, the nobility being the ruling class (state, religious, army), it owned the land. The peasants representing the class who supported all the others, nobles, priests, military tradesmen, One finds also among the Mayas, some war prisoners reduced to slavery. It is in classical period that the Maya control the most territories. In the Spanish times, each of their cities were governed by an heiress chief.

Others Mayan languages
Yokot'an - Kanjobal - Tzotzil
Poem translated into Mayan (524 languages)