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“Their numbers were such that we could not make any effectual impression or ascend the steps. At length we forced our way up. Here Cortez showed himself the man that he really was. What a desperate engagement we then had Every man of us was covered with blood.” “They drove us down six, and even ten of the steps; while others who were in the corridors, or within side of the railings and concavities of the great temple, shot such clouds of arrows at us that we could not maintain our ground,” “began our retreat, every man of us being wounded, and forty-six of us left dead on the spot. I have often seen this engagement represented in the paintings of the natives both of Mexico and Tlascala, and our ascent into the great temple.” Again, he speaks of arriving at a village and taking up their “quarters in a strong temple;” “assaulting them at their posts in the temples and large walled enclosures.” At Tezcuco “we took up our quarters in some buildings which consisted of large halls and enclosed courts.” “Alvarado, De Oli, and some soldiers, whereof I was one, then ascended to the top of the great temple, which was very lofty, in order to notice what was going on in the neighbourhood.” “We proceeded to another town called Terrayuco, but which we named the town of the serpents, on account of the enormous figures of those animals which we found in their temples, and which they worshipped as gods.” Again: “In this garden our whole force lodged for the night. I certainly never had seen one of such magnificence; and Cortez and the treasurer Alderete, after they had walked through and examined it, declared that
it was admirable, and equal to any they had ever seen in Castille.” “I and ten more soldiers were posted as a guard upon a wall of lime and stone.” “When we arrived at our quarters at Jacuba it rained heavily, and we remained under it for two hours in some large enclosed courts. The general, with his captains, the treasurer, our reverend father, and many others of us, mounted to the top of the temple, which commanded all the lake.” “We crossed the water up to our necks at the pass they had left open, and followed them until we came to a place where were large temples and towers of idols.” “As Cortez now lodged at Cuejoacan, in large buildings with white walls, very well adapted for scribbling on, there appeared every morning libels against him in prose and verse. I recollect the words of one only:
“Que trista esta el alma mea
How anxious I am for a share of the plunder.” “When our party (for I went with Sandoval) arrived at Tustepeque, I took up my lodgings in the summit of a tower in a very high temple, partly for the fresh air and to avoid the moschetoes, which were very troublesome below, and partly to be near Sandoval’s quarters.” “We pursued our route to the city of Chiapas, in the same province with Palenque, and a city it might be called, from the regularity of its streets and houses. It contained not less than four thousand families, not reckoning the population of the many dependant towns in its neighbourhood.” “We found the whole force of Chiapas drawn up to receive us. Their troops were adorned with plumage.” “On our arrival we found it too closely built to be
safely occupied by us, and we therefore pitched our camp in the open field. In their temples we found idols of a horrid figure.” Now it will be recollected that Bernal Diaz wrote to do justice to himself and others of the “true conquerors,” his companions in arms, whose fame had been obscured by other historians not actors and eyewitnesses; all his references to buildings are incidental; he never expected to be cited as authority upon the antiquities of the country. The pettiest skirmish with the natives was nearer his heart than all the edifices of lime and stone which he saw, and it is precisely on that account that his testimony is the more valuable. It was written at a time when there were many living who could contradict him if incorrect or false. His “true history” never was impeached; on the contrary, while its style was considered rude and inelegant, its fidelity and truth have been acknowledged by all contemporaneous and subsequent historians. In my opinion, it is as true and reliable as any work of travels on the countries through which he fought his way. It gives the hurried and imperfect observations of an unlettered soldier, whose sword was seldom in its scabbard, surrounded by dangers, attacking, retreating, wounded, and flying, with his mind constantly occupied by matters of more pressing moment. The reader cannot fail to be struck with the general resemblance between the objects described by him and the scenes referred to in these pages. His account presents to my mind a vivid picture of the ruined cities which we visited, as they once stood, with buildings of lime and stone, painted and sculptured ornaments, and plastered; idols, courts, strong walls, and lofty temples with high ranges of steps. But if this is not sufficient, I have farther and strong
er support. After the siege of Mexico, on the re-entry of the Spaniards, a ruthless and indiscriminate destruction fell upon every building and monument in the city. No memorials of the arts of the Mexicans were left; but in the year 1790, two statues and a flat stone, with sculptured characters relative to the Mexican calendar, were discovered and dug up from among the remains of the great Teocalli in the plaza of the city of Mexico. The statues excited great interest among the Mexican Indians, and the priests, afraid of their relapsing into idolatry, and to destroy all memorials of their ancient rites, buried them in the court of the Franciscan Convent. The calendar was fixed in a conspicuous place in the wall of the Cathedral, where it now stands. In the centre, and forming the principal subject of this calendar, is a face, published in Humboldt's work, which in one particular bears so strong a resemblance to that called the mask, in the frontispiece of this volume, as to suggest the idea that they were intended for the same. There are palpable differences, but perhaps the expression of the eyes is changed and improved in the engraving published, and, at all events, in both the peculiar and striking feature is that of the tongue hanging out of the mouth. The calendar is in bas-relief, and, ās I understand from a gentleman who has seen it, the sculpture is good.* And, lastly, among the hieroglyphical paintings which escaped destruction from monkish fanaticism are certain Mexican manuscripts now in the libraries of Dresden and Vienna. These have been published in Humboldt's work and in that of Lord Kingsborough, and, on a careful examination, we are strongly of the opinion that the characters are the same with those found on
• Wues de las Cordilleras, vol. xiii., p. 276.