Images de page

earth, in the name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost.

" When the clouds rise in the East, when he comes who sets in order the thirteen forms of the clouds, the yellow lord of the hurricane, the hope of the lords to come, he who rules the preparation of the divine liquor, he who loves the guardian spirits of the fields, then I pray to him for his precious favor; for I trust all in the hands of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost.”

Did he not know then, does he not know now, that even with the admixture of Christian ideas as Brasseur received it from the mouth of Marcelo Canich, mayoral of the hacienda of X-Canchakan (who also recited it to me), if the meaning of the words had been properly rendered, far from being the senseless sentences he has published, he would have found it, as it is, replete with curious and most valuable information ?

His rendering of the Invocation is indeed worthless, but the Maya text tells its own most interesting story. From his not giving a proper translation, made by himself, are we to infer that the learned professor of linguistics does not know the Maya language as he would have the world believe ?

No one can read the learned analysis of the Maya, and the comparison of its grammatical construction with that of the ancient Greek, by the scholarly Brasseur, which forms the introduction to his “Elements of the Maya tongue,” in the second volume of the Troano MS., without being satisfied that he was thoroughly acquainted with said language; and without acquiring the conviction that, by attacking the memory of a great scholar, who now lies silent in the grave, Dr. Brinton has given another proof that he wants to build for himself a reputation for learning at the cost of that of fellowstudents.

In mentioning Balam, the Yumilcax, the “lord of the fields,” the learned Professor of Archæology of the University of Pennsylvania confounds him with the Chacs, “ the gods of rain,” “guardians of the cardinal points.” “These Balams,”

* says he, “are in fact the gods of the cardinal points, and of the winds and rains which proceed from them,” etc.,' and to prove his assertion he covers several pages of his book with idle tales, known to everybody. They are current to-day among the natives, who beguile the evening hours by recounting them over and over. These stories have no relation with ancient traditions. They contain as much teaching as the stories of “Puss in Boots” and “ Bluebeard."

We have seen (p. 103) that the Chacs were the "gods of rain," and as such held as the “keepers of the fields,” the


· D. G. Brinton, Essays of an Americanist, “ The Birds of the Winds” (p. 175). It will be noticed that Dr. Brinton writes the word Balams and gives H-Balamob as the Maya plural. This is a word of his own coinage. He will not find it in his copy of Brown Library (Motul) dictionary. He does not seem to know that the ancient termination ob, as sign of plural in nouns, has not been in use for very many years, having been replaced by ex, second person plural of the personal pronoun. So that, if in addressing his workmen he should say to them, “Palob ” (“ Boys”), as it was proper anciently, they would cast at each other an inquiring glance, the meaning of which would plainly be, What does he say? But should he tell them, “Palex! conex hanal” (“Boys, let us go to eat "), he would not have to repeat the order twice.

Neither does he seem to know that h is never used before a noun, except as a mark of the masculine gender, it being the contraction of ah, masculine article, never as a diminutive or particle of elegance. In that case x, contraction of the feminine article ix, is, and has always been, employed, even before a masculine noun, as, for instance, in X-Kukulcan. But this is regarded as affectation on the part of the speaker.

[ocr errors]

good genii who brought fertility to the earth. Balam's office, however, is quite different. He is the lord of the fields, the protector of the crops, and to him the primitiæ of all the fruits of the earth are offered before the harvesting is begun. Is he an imaginary Being? By no means. His name Balam tells who he is an anthropomorphism of the puma, whose clear, shrill whistle rings sharply through the forests, breaks the stillness of the night, and, waking the sleeping echoes, sends a thrill of terror coursing along the spine of the superstitious native. How came he to be looked upon as the protector, the guardian of the fields—Yumil col ? Most naturally, indeed.

The fields, covered with their abundant, ripening crops of corn, beans, and pumpkins, are nightly the resort of deer, peccaries, rabbits, and other herbivora that, during the day, sheltered by thick foliage from the fierce rays of the tropical sun, roam in the forests. All these grass-eating denizens of the woods are the natural food of leopards, pumas, catamounts, and other carnivora. These emerge from their lairs after sunset in search of prey. In the twilight, in the darkness, they prowl in and around the fields where they know their intended victims are feeding. Pouncing upon those nearest, an awful struggle for life takes place. Alarmed by the noise and the despairing cries of the victims, the others seek safety in flight, and the crops are thus saved from destruction. This is why these self-constituted protectors of the crops came to be regarded as natural guardians of the fields. Believing that the pumas and leopards obey the orders of their invisible spirit lord, Balam, the natives, with appropriate ceremonies called Tich, make to him offerings of the best fruits of their fields. (Plate LXXII.)

Notwithstanding his pretensions, Dr. Brinton does not know Maya, even remotely. If any further proof were needed of the truth of this assertion, it would be found in this simple sentence, Pixe avito 1 ænoch cizin,” printed in his book (p. 174), as it is here, in italics; as is also his Spanish translation, which, with cause, I omit. He has copied both, original and translation, from a manuscript by a native of Tihosuco, named Zetina, who, it seems, was not over particular in the choice of his language. I wish to believe that the learned Professor of Linguistics is but little better acquainted with the Spanish tongue than with the Maya, else how does he dare call particular attention, by printing them in italics, to words that no gentleman would use in refined society ?-words that, besides, are not a correct translation of what was probably intended to be conveyed in the Maya; the exact rendering of which in that tongue would be, “Pixe a ito, xnoch cizin,” 2 whilst the intention of Señor Zetina was to write, “ Pixe a uitho, xnoch cizin.” Like the majority of his countrymen, he did not know how to write correctly his mother tongue. It must be confessed very few do.

The first lesson in Maya taught to pupils is the letters of the alphabet and their proper pronunciation. At the same time they are told that several of the characters forming part of the Latin alphabet are not used in the Maya; among these the letter v.


· Avito is not a Maya word. It has no meaning in that language.

· I might be censured for publishing this sentence, which is a verbatim translation of Dr. Brinton's Spanish. My excuse for doing so is to show that the learned doctor does not know Maya, which is an unknown language outside of the countries where it is spoken ; I do not therefore run the risk of shocking the sense of propriety or decency of my readers in this or in European countries.

Dr. Brinton is evidently ignorant of this elementary fact. Throughout his book, whenever he has had occasion to mention the Maya word for man, he has invariably spelled it vinic. This is Quiché. The Maya orthography of the word is uinic.

In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries the letters v and u were used indifferently one for the other. Thus it is that Landa, Cogolludo, Torquemada, Las Casas, and the other writers of those times wrote both uinic and vinic. It is quite different, however, in our day.

It is evident that the learned Professor of Linguistics does not know which is the right word in Maya for “man,” any better than he knows what was the true name for each of the cardinal points among the Mayas, although Landa gives them very explicitly. Shall it be said of Dr. Brinton as of the wooden saints, He has eyes but sees not? Or has he also, perchance, the pretension of being better informed on that subject than the author of “Las Cosas de Yucatan”? In

every one of his books he assigns a different name to each of said points, in the hope of perhaps hitting, in one at least, on the right name.

For instance, in his book “Myths of the New World,” article “Quiché Legends” (p. 82), he magistrally informs his readers: “The four known by the names of Kan, Muluc, Ix, Cauac, represent respectively the east, north, west, and south. As in Oriental symbolism, the east was yellow, the south red, the west black, the north white." These were the names of the guardians of the pillars that sustained the vault of heaven.2 In his “ Essays of an Americanist” (p. 204), the author seems

, D. G. Brinton, Essays of an Americanist, pp. 176, 254, 438, et passim. ? Ibid., Myths of the New World, p. 82.


« PrécédentContinuer »