"What time the sun shall brightest shine,
Tearful will be the eyes of the king.
Four ages yet shall be inscribed,
Then shall come the holy priest, the holy god.
With grief I speak what now I see.
Watch well the road, ye dwellers in Itza.
The master of the earth shall come to us.
Thus prophesies Nahau Pech, the seer,
In the days of the fourth age,
At the time of its 'beginning."

Such are the obscure and ominous words of the ancient oracle. If the date is authentic, it would be about 1480—the "fourth age" in the Maya system of computing time being a period of either twenty or twenty-four years at the close of the fifteenth century.

It is, however, of little importance whether these are accurate copies of the ancient prophecies; they remain, at least, faithful imitations of them, composed in the same spirit and form which the native priests were wont to employ. A number are given much longer than the above, and containing various curious references to ancient usages.

Another value they have in common with all the rest of the text of these books, and it is one which will be properly appreciated by any student of languages. They are, by common consent of all competent authorities, the genuine productions of native minds, cast in the idiomatic forms of the native tongue by those born to its use. No matter how fluent a foreigner becomes in a language not his own, he can never use it as does one who has been familiar with it from childhood. This general maxim is ten-fold true when we apply it to a European learning an American language. The flow of thought, as exhibited in these two linguistic families, is in such different directions that no amount of practice can render on equally accurate in both. Hence the importance of studying a tongue as it is employed by natives; and hence the very high estimate I place on these "Books of Chilan Balam" as linguistic material,—an estimate much increased by the great rarity of independent compositions in their own tongues by members of the native races of this continent.

I now approach what I consider the particular value of these records, apart from the linguistic mould in which they are cast; and that is the light they throw upon the chronological system and ancient history of the Mayas. To a limited extent, this has already been brought before the public. The late Don Pio Perez gave to Mr. Stephens, when in Yucatan, an essay on the method of computing time among the ancient Mayas, and also a brief synopsis of Maya history, apparently going back to the third or fourth century of the Christian era. Both were published by Mr. Stephens in the appendix to his "Travels in Yucatan," and have appeared repeatedly since in English, Spanish and French.[6] They have, up to the present, constituted almost our sole sources of information on these interesting points. Don Pio Perez was rather vague as to whence he derived his knowledge. He refers to "ancient manuscripts," "old authorities," and the like; but, as the Abbé Brasseur de Bourbourg justly complains, he rarely quotes their words, and gives no

[6] For example, in the "Registro Yucateco," Tome III.; "Diccionario Universal de Historia y Geografia," Tome VIII. (Mexico, 1855); "Diccionario Historico de Yucatan," Tome I. (Merida, 1866); in the appendix to Landa (Paris, 1864), etc. The epochs, or katuns, of Maya history have been recently again analyzed by Dr. Felipe Valentini, in an essay in the German and English languages, the latter in the "Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society, 1880."

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