Old Tamil Poetry

Translations of Tamil Poetic works that span 2000 years

Archive for the month “July, 2016”

Thirukkural – 70

A son’s reward to his father is to make other’s praise
“What penance he must’ve done (to merit such a son)”

மகன் தந்தைக்கு ஆற்றும் உதவி, ‘இவன் தந்தை
என் நோற்றான்கொல்!’ எனும் சொல்.

The best way for a son to reward his father is to do such good deeds that the world praises his father , “What penance he must have done to beget such a son”. The original verse does not state ‘to merit such a son’ explicitly- it is implied. In translation I made it explicit

Thirukkural – 1167

I swam the stream of love but unable to find its shore,
at this midnight hour, I’m all alone.

காமக் கடும் புனல் நீந்திக் கரை காணேன்,
யாமத்தும், யானே உளேன்.

He hasn’t come to meet her as promised. So she says I’m unable to bear this burden of passion and am awake at this midnight hour.

Kambaramayanam – 1595

Who can describe the King’s torment
as he collapsed to the ground wallowing in agony?
Singed by intense grief, he breathed feverishly,
like a flame under a blacksmith’s blowpipe.

பூதலம் உற்று அதனில் புரண்ட மன்னன்
மா துயரத்தினை யாவர் சொல்ல வல்லார்?
வேதனை முற்றிட வெந்து வெந்து கொல்லன்
ஊது உலையில் கனல் என்ன வெய்து உயிர்த்தான்.

Kaikeyi has asked King Dasaratha to redeem the two boons he had promised her earlier. Unsuspectingly he agrees. She asks 1) the heir apparent Rama to be exiled to forest and 2) her son Bharatha to be made King. Dasaratha whose life was looking so good till that moment, is felled by her demands.

In this poem Kamban describes how Dasaratha wallowed in agony. Hearing Kaikeyi’s demands he collapsed to the ground and lay thrashing about. His heart could not withstand the grief. The simile Kamban uses is vivid. Dasaratha breathes feverishly. It is like air out of blacksmith’s blowpipe. The flame in his heart doesn’t burn continuously and finish him. As a wave of pain peaks and subsides, he expects this to be a nightmare he can wake out of. Then he realizes it is not so and the next wave starts. Just like the flame in a blacksmith’s foundry burning furiously when the blacksmith blows the blowpipe and cooling down when he stops. “கொல்லன் ஊது உலையில் கனல் என ” – like a flame under a blacksmith’s blowpipe.

Thirukkural – 1282

 

One shouldn’t sulk even a grain sized portion-
when seized by palm tree sized passion.

தினைத் துணையும் ஊடாமை வேண்டும்-பனைத் துணையும்
காமம் நிறைய வரின்.

He has been away for long. She’s waiting for him to come back. She is telling to herself, “when he comes back don’t start sulking and spoil the mood, especially when your passion is growing leaps and bounds.” தினை (thinai) – millet and பனை (panai) – palm are used to quantify the sulking and lust.

Naaladiyaar – 83

Fear while going in; fear while returning;
fear during intimacy; fear while guarding secrecy;
as it begets fear all the time, why does one
unwisely covet other man’s wife?

புக்க இடத்து அச்சம்; போதரும் போது அச்சம்;
துய்க்கும் இடத்து அச்சம்; தோன்றாமைக் காப்பு அச்சம்;
எக் காலும் அச்சம் தருமால்; எவன்கொலோ,
உட்கான், பிறன் இல் புகல்?

This Naaladiyaar poem is straight forward. Naaladiyaar is an anthology of poems by Jain monks, compiled around 3rd Century AD. Coveting other man’s wife makes one fearful all the time. There’s no pleasure in it.

Kurunthokai – 112

If I fear slander, my passion will weaken;
if I give it up to avoid censure,
what’s left is just modesty;
You see, my friend!
Like a fibrous branch an elephant broke,
hanging precariously but not falling down,
is my virtue that he partook.

கௌவை அஞ்சின், காமம் எய்க்கும்;
எள் அற விடினே, உள்ளது நாணே;
பெருங் களிறு வாங்க முரிந்து நிலம் படாஅ
நாருடை ஒசியல் அற்றே-
கண்டிசின், தோழி!-அவர் உண்ட என் நலனே.

They have consummated their love and he has left. She is pining for him. Her neighbours have started gossiping about her.

She says “If I fear the gossip of these people, I have to hide my passion and it will weaken. If give up my passion completely to stop their reprimands, then all I will have left is only modesty. He has already taken my virtue. He has consummated our love and I can’t forget him now.

An elephant bends branches to eat leaves. The broken branch cannot regain its shape. It hasn’t fallen down but hangs precariously by slender fibres. Because it is still attached to the tree, there’s a hope that it can grow leaves again. Similarly he has consumed me and left me. So I am suffering. But if he comes back, I will bloom again. This passion is what keeps me alive.”

Precariously is not explicit in the original poem. I have added it for better readability in English. (பெண்மை)நலன்(ம்) – virtue / beauty is a poor substitute.

Here is a video link of a wild life camera capture of an elephant breaking a branch and eating leaves. http://www.africam.com/wildlife/tm_11_oct_2014_06_10_46flv

 

Thirukkural -1253

I do try to hide my lust; but it shows up
despite my intention, just like a sneeze.

மறைப்பேன்மன் காமத்தை யானோ; குறிப்பு இன்றித்
தும்மல்போல் தோன்றிவிடும்.

This couplet is under the chapter நிறை அழிதல் – losing her reserve. He has been away for  long time. She is waiting for him to come back, and losing control of herself. When her friend advises her to conceal her feelings she replies saying “I do try to hide. But this lust comes upon me suddenly, like a sneeze that one cannot control even if one tries to.”

Naaladiyaar – 127

Who has the ability to know
what’s there in another’s heart?
Ruler of hills where gems glitter! listen :-
people’s thoughts and actions differ.

யாஅர், ஒருவர் ஒருவர்தம் உள்ளத்தைத்
தேரும் துணைமை உடையவர்?-சாரல்
கன மணி நின்று இமைக்கும் நாட! கேள்:-மக்கள்
மனம் வேறு; செய்கையும் வேறு.

This poem in Naaladiyaar talks about how difficult it is to judge people. The poet says people think something, but do something else. Be wary of judging them too soon based on their good deeds. Take your time to understand them. It is like gems glittering in your hills. They look appealing, but the way to reach them is treacherous.

Kundalakesi – 6

The fire of lust that grabs one’s thought
and sizzles like a flame in his heart –
trying to douse it by physical union
instead of cold waters of renunciation
is like trying to dam the waters of a flood
with another flood, who can do that?

அனல்என நினைப்பில் பொத்தி
அகம் தலைக் கொண்ட காமக்
கனலினை உவர்ப்பு நீரால்
கடையற அவித்தும் என்னார்
நினைவிலாப் புணர்ச்சி தன்னால்
நீக்குதும் என்று நிற்பார்
புனலினைப் புனலினாலே
யாவர் போகாமை வைப்பார்.

Kundalakesi is a Tamil Buddhist epic, written before 5th Century AD. Only a part of it is available today.

Lust is a fire that gets hold of one’s thought and burns intensely in his heart, consuming him fully. The only way to put it out is by complete renunciation. Instead of that if one thinks that a physical union with their object of desire will cool the ardour of lust he is a fool. That is like trying to dam a flood with another flood. It will only increase.

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