Old Tamil Poetry

Translations of Tamil Poetic works that span 2000 years

Thirukkural – 1118

 

If you can shine as bright as this girl’s face,
You too shall be my beloved, O’ moon.

மாதர் முகம்போலொளிவிட வல்லையேல்
காதலை வாழி மதி.

O’ Moon, You wax and wane, have spots in your face. If you’re able to shine as bright as this girl’s face, then you too shall become my love. But you can’t. So she’s my only love.

வல் – able

வல்லையேல் – if you’re able

Thirukkural – 896

Even if engulfed in a fire, one may escape;
But those who cause grief to noble men, cannot escape.

எரியான் சுடப்படினும், உய்வு உண்டாம்; உய்யார்,
பெரியார்ப் பிழைத்து ஒழுகுவார்.

Even if one is caught in a fire and singed, there is a chance for him to escape and survive. But causing grief to noble men is a sin from which there is no escape. One who indulges in it will have to suffer the consequences.

எரி – flame
சுடப் படினும் – even if burned
உய்வு – escape
உய்யார் – உய்ய மாட்டார் – 2will not escape
பிழைத்து – cause grief
ஒழுகுவார் – to do / act

Thirukkural – 1140

They laugh at me in front of my eyes, these dolts –
Since what I suffer, they don’t.

யாம் கண்ணின் காண நகுப, அறிவு இல்லார்-
யாம் பட்ட தாம் படாவாறு.

She tells to herself these idiots (her friends) laugh at me because they don’t suffer the pangs of love as I do

கண்ணின் காண – in front of my eyes
நகு – to laugh
படா – don’t feel

Kambaramayanam – 4464

“Those who give up their vices consciously
Will be freed from cycle of rebirth”
Proclaim faultless philosophers and scriptures;
Yet, removing the wiggling worms from toddy,
I drink and find (false) solace in it,
Like those who put out fire by pouring oil in it.

“‘தெளிந்து தீவினையைச் செற்றோர்
         பிறவியின் தீர்வர் “ என்ன,
விளிந்து இலா உணர்வினோரும்,
         வேதமும், விளம்பவேயும்,
நெளிந்து உறை புழுவை நீக்கி
        நறவு உண்டு நிறைகின்றேனால்
அளிந்து அகத்து எரியும் தீயை
       நெய்யினால் அவிக்கின்றாரின்.

Rama agrees to help Sugreevan defeat his brother Vali in return for Sugreevan helping him find Sita. Rama kills Vali and Sugreeva is made King. He forgets his promise to Rama and indulges in revelry. Rama gets angry and sends Lakshmana to enquire. Seeing an angry Lakshmana marching towards the fort, Angadan goes and wakes up Sugreevan. Sugreevan lies senseless. So Angadan asks Hanuman to help out. Hanuman send Tara and other women to stop Lakshmana since he knows Lakshmana won’t fight women. As Tara explains that Sugreevan has sent spies all over in search of Sita, Lakshmanan cools down a bit. Then Hanuman comes and assuages him. Angadan goes again to wake up Sugreevan. Sugreevan wakes up this time and asks why wasn’t he informed earlier of Lakshmana’s arrival. Angadan says “You were drunk senseless when I tried to wake you up”. Sugreevan castigates himself miserably in this verse.

“Wise men have said that those who have thought through worldly matters and decided to give up their vices will be freed from cycle of rebirth. Scriptures too say the same. Yet even after knowing all this, I still gave in to this vice of drinking. See this toddy. Worms wiggle at its surface. Still I removed those worms and drank myself seeking false contentment. My action is like that of one who sees his house on fire and tries to put it out with oil. It will only burn more”

தெளிந்து – who think and decide / consciously
தீவினை – vices
செற்றோர் – those who give up
பிறவியின் தீர்வர் – escape birth cycle
விளிந்து இலா – fault less
வேதம் – Vedas / scriptures
விளம்ப – say
நெளிந்து – wiggling
உறை – reside
புழு – worm
நறவு – toddy
நிறைகின்றேன் – become content
அளிந்து – blazing
அகத்து எரியும் – burns at home
நெய் – oil
அவி – put out

Kalingathu p Parani – 54

Sweet words stutter, sharp eyes redden, lips pale;
Oh’ women! Nectar of your lips
Has turned to wine, m
aking you lose your senses;
Open your doors!

மதுர மானமொழி பதற வான்விழிசி
வப்ப வாயிதழ்வெ ளுப்பவே
அதர பானமது பான மாகஅறி
வழியு மாதர்கடை திறமினோ.

The poet is in town to praise the valor of victorious Chola army in the battle of Kalinga. (1110 CE) He asks the women to open their doors and listen to their men’s valor. In this poem he says “Because of your love making, you have started stammering your sweet words. Your sharp eyes have turned red and your lips have paled in the act of love making. The nectar of your mouth has become wine and has made you lose your senses. That’s why you are still asleep. Please open your doors and listen the valorous deeds of your army”

Kalingathu p Parani is a short literary work (சிற்றிலக்கியம்) written by Poet Jayamkondar in 12th century. It is written in praise of Kulothunga Cholan’s general Karunakara Thondaiman who invaded and conquered Kalinga country (present day Orissa). Poems 21-74 are the bard calling the women of Kanchi (present day Kancheepuram, the town of Karunakara Thondaiman) to open their doors and hear the valor of their hero. These 54 poems are erotically charged. The next chapters of the work are gory descriptions of battle field and the ghosts getting together for a feast of dead bodies.

Parani is a form of poetic work that is sung in praise of a warrior. It is generally named after the battle. Since this about the battle of Kalinga, it is called Kalingathup Parani.

மதுரம் – sweet
பதற – stumble / stutter
வான்விழி – வாள் + விழி –  sword eyes (sharp eyes)
சிவப்ப – redder
வெளுப்ப – whiten / pale
அதர பானம் – அதரம் + பானம் – lip’s liquid (nectar)
மது பானம்  – liquor / winw
அறிவழியும் – அறிவு +அழியும் – lose sense
கடை – Door
திறமின் – Open

Thirukkural 619

 

Though fate renders one’s work futile,
Efforts of toil will get its fair due still.

தெய்வத்தான் ஆகாதுஎனினும், முயற்சி தன்
மெய் வருத்தக் கூலி தரும்.

Sometimes one may not be able to complete a work because fate destined otherwise. But the effort of labor to do the work will not go unpaid. It will get fair rewards to the toiler.

தெய்வத்தான்- because of God
ஆகாது- cannot be done
மெய் வருத்தம்- physical labor

Pazhamozhi 400 – 399

There are trees that yield nothing though they flower;
There are many who are naive though they’ve grown older;
There are seeds that don’t sprout even if sown in fertile soil;
Even if advised, dimwitted will not turn sensible.

பூத்தாலும் காயா மரம் உள; மூத்தாலும்
நன்கு அறியார் தாமும் நனி உளர்; பாத்தி
விதைத்தாலும் நாறாத வித்து உள; பேதைக்கு
உரைத்தாலும் தோன்றாது உணர்வு.

This is from பழமொழி நானூறு (Four hundred Proverbs). Since most of its content is similar to Naaladiyaar, this is thought to have been written after that, possibly around 4th Century AD. These four hundred proverbs were collated and written in verse by Poet Mundrurai Arayanar (முன்றுரை அரையனார்).

There are trees in this world that have flowers blooming in their branches but do not yield any fruits. Similarly, there are many people in this world who have grown older in age yet are ignorant. There are seeds that don’t sprout even if they are sown in fertile farm lands. Similarly, there are dimwitted who will not become sensible even if advised by the wise. Fertile conditions alone do not promise growth. It is only the inherent quality that decides the outcome. Hence it is best to ignore those who refuse to listen.

பூத்தாலும் – even if flowering
காயா – fruit less (not yielding)
உள – there
மூத்தாலும் – even if they grow old
நனி – many
பாத்தி – small division of farm land (fertile soil)
நாறு – sprout நாறாத – not sprouting
வித்து – seed
பேதை – dimwit
உரைத்தாலும் – even if advised
தோன்றாது – will not appear
உணர்வு – sense

Kurunthokai – 325

He kept repeating “I’ll leave, I’ll leave”
Thinking it was his age-old hogwash to leave,
‘Leave my side and go away forever’ I said;
Oh my God! I wonder where my faultless Lord is now?
Like the wide pond inhabited by black legged white Egret,
Valley of my bosom is filled with tears of regret.

‘சேறும் சேறும்’ என்றலின், பண்டைத் தம்
மாயச் செலவாச் செத்து, ‘மருங்கு அற்று
மன்னிக் கழிக’ என்றேனே; அன்னோ!
ஆசு ஆகு எந்தை யாண்டு உளன்கொல்லோ?
கருங் கால் வெண் குருகு மேயும்
பெருங் குளம் ஆயிற்று, என் இடைமுலை நிறைந்தே.

They have had a fight and he has left her. She regrets her actions now and pines for him. She says “He kept repeating that he will leave me. I thought it was nothing but his age-old tactic and said ‘Leave me and go away’. Oh my God, what have I done? I wonder where he is now. It wasn’t his fault. Thinking of him I shed tears that collect in the valley of my bosom like a wide pond where dark legged white egret roams”

சேறும் – Will leave
பண்டை – age old
மாயம் – lie / hogwash
செலவு – leave
செத்து – thinking
மருங்கு – side
அற்று – leave
மன் – permanently / forever
கழிக – go away
ஆசு – fault
எந்தை – my lord
யாண்டு – now
உளன் – (where) is there
கருங் கால் – black legged
வெண் குருகு – white egret
மேயும் – roaming
பெருங் குளம் – wide pond
இடைமுலை – valley between breasts / cleavage

Thirukkural – 158

Those who arrogantly harm you,
thou shall win over with thy virtue.

மிகுதியான் மிக்கவை செய்தாரைத் தாம் தம்
தகுதியான் வென்று விடல்.

When an adversary arrogantly harms you, you should bear it with patience and win him over with your righteous ways.

மிகுதி – excess (arrogance)
மிக்கவை – harm
தகுதி – righteousness / virtue
வென்று விடல் – win over

 

Thirukkural – 864

One who is always angry and agitated is easy prey
For any one at any place on any day.

நீங்கான் வெகுளி; நிறை இலன்;- எஞ்ஞான்றும்,
யாங்கணும், யார்க்கும், எளிது.

A person who is always boiling with rage and lacks composure is not in his senses. He can be easily defeated any day any place by anybody. Those who want to succeed should learn to control their anger and be composed at all times.

நீங்கான் வெகுளி நிறையில னெஞ்ஞான்றும்
யாங்கணும் யார்க்கு மெளிது.

 

நீங்கான் – Never gives up (Always)
வெகுளி – Anger
நிறை Reserve / composed
இலன் – One who does not
எஞ்ஞான்று – any day
யாங்கண் – any place
யார்க்கும் – for anyone
எளிது – easy

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