Old Tamil Poetry

Translations of Tamil Poetic works that span 2000 years

Kurunthokai – 18

Her friend says:

O’ Lord from the hills, where bamboo stalks
fence trees that have jackfruits growing in roots,
find an auspicious time to marry her soon;
who else knows her plight?
Like a small twig in which a huge fruit hangs,
her life is tenuous, but her love, immense!

தோழி கூற்று:

வேரல் வேலி வேர்கோட் பலவின்
சார னாட செவ்வியை யாகுமதி
யாரஃ தறிந்திசி னோரே சாரற்
சிறுகோட்டுப் பெரும்பழந் தூங்கி யாங்கிவள்
உயிர்தவச் சிறிது காமமோ பெரிதே!

This is another of Kapilar’s marvellous poems. After their usual tryst at night, he starts to go to his town. Her friend stops him and advices him that this nightly visits cannot continue forever. He has to marry her soon. Let’s first look at the last four lines of the poem. “Please find an auspicious time and marry her soon. Other than you, no one knows her plight. The passion she has for you is immense. Her life cannot carry such a burden for long.” The simile she uses is a huge ripening jack fruit hanging on a small twig. The twig cannot bear the fruit’s weight and the fruit may fall anytime and burst open, of use to no one. Similarly her passion is weighing on her life and she can’t bear it for ever. So marry her soon.

jackfruit.jpg

Jackfruit tree in my ancestral house. Fruits in both branches and roots.

Now to the first two lines. Her friend describes his hills as where jackfruits grow in roots underground. They are in no danger of falling down and bursting open. She implies “you don’t understand the plight of your lover. Jackfruits in your country are safe from falling down and are fenced with bamboo stalks so are in no danger of being stolen. But your lover’s status is like a huge jackfruit hanging in a branch, visible to all. It may either fall down or be stolen away. So act fast”

The last line ”இவள் உயிர் தவச் சிறிது, காமமோ பெரிது” portrays the burden of love beautifully. It is one of the most beautiful phrases ever in Tamil. Translating that is a tough ask. I have settled on “her life is tenuous but her love, immense”.

Also while describing the simile Kapilar uses “சாரல் சிறுகோட்டுப் பெரும்பழம்” which literally is “Huge fruits in small twigs in (trees that grow in) mountain slopes”. I wasn’t able to bring the slopes within the structure of the poem. Hence I have skipped it.

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