Old Tamil Poetry

Translations of Tamil Poetic works that span 2000 years

Kurunthokai – 119

Like an alluringly striped snakelet
of a small white snake
that torments a wild elephant –
this lass, with rice grain like bright teeth
and bangle laden arms – torments me.

சிறு வெள் அரவின் அவ் வரிக் குருளை
கான யானை அணங்கியா அங்கு-
இளையள், முளை வாள் எயிற்றள்,
வளையுடைக் கையள்-எம் அணங்கியோளே.

She leaves him after a night of passion. He says though she looks delicate, her love causes him much pain. It is like a snakelet (young snake) troubling a mighty wild elephant. Like how the poison of the small snake troubles the mighty elephant, lust for her troubles him who was previously untamed. He sees her first (young girl), she comes near him and smiles (sparkling teeth), and then she embraces him (bangled arms).


Monocled cobra. Pic : venomstreet.com

Stripes on a snakelet are enticingly beautiful. Snake hood has been used as metaphor for mound of Venus in many Tamil poems. Now if you read the poem again, it becomes more explicit.

அ வரி – beautiful stripe. சிறு வெள் அரவு – small white snake (U Ve Saminatha Iyer in his commentary says it is கோதுமை நாகம் – monocled cobra). அணங்கு – affliction, sufferinng, lust.

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