Old Tamil Poetry

Translations of Tamil Poetic works that span 2000 years

Kurunthokai – 8

What the courtesan said:

The man from the town where fish in canals
grab sweet ripened mangoes that fall off trees,
talks much when he’s in my house,
but in his house,
like an image in a mirror repeating
the actions of one in front of it,
acts as per the wish of his son’s mother.

பரத்தை கூற்று:

கழனி மாஅத்து விளைந்து உகு தீம் பழம்
பழன வாளை கதூஉம் ஊரன்
எம் இல் பெருமொழி கூறி, தம் இல்,
கையும் காலும் தூக்கத் தூக்கும்
ஆடிப் பாவை போல,
மேவன செய்யும், தன் புதல்வன் தாய்க்கே.

Courtesans (பரத்தை) appear often in Sangam poetry. Most of the agrarian landscape (மருதம் திணை) poems are about the interactions between him, her and the courtesan.

In this poem the courtesan mocks him for making tall promises when with her, but losing his voice in front of his wife. He becomes a mirror image of his wife and does what she wants him to do. The first part of the poem about his town seems superfluous at first. What’s the need to bring in mango trees and fish? What she implies is “In his town they are lazy and don’t pluck the fruit, letting it fall into canals. Similarly he is lazy and waits for things to happen on their own”. Also saying son’s mother is a derisive way of calling the wife an old hag.

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