Old Tamil Poetry

Translations of Tamil Poetic works that span 2000 years

Kurunthokai – 315

The man from rising hill country
where white water falls down
like moon’s reflection on the sea,
is like the sun – my friend!-
and my supple shoulders are like Nerunji.

எழுதரு மதியம் கடல் கண்டாஅங்கு
ஒழுகு வெள் அருவி ஓங்கு மலைநாடன்
ஞாயிறு அனையன்-தோழி!-
நெருஞ்சி அனைய என் பெரும் பணைத்தோளே.

*Nerunji flowers (puncture vine / goat’s head / caltrop) are small yellow flowers that follow the Sun.

Nerunji flower

He has gone away to earn. It will be months before he comes back. Her friend asks her can she sustain herself for him till he comes back. She replies to her friend, “My lover is like the sun to me. My supple shoulders are like Nerunji flowers that look up to the sun and move along with it. So I can sustain myself based on his words that he will come back.” The poet uses பணைத் தோள் – bamboo like shoulders. I’ve translated it with the characteristic of bamboo as supple shoulders.

His hill country is described as one where white water falling down the hills resembles moon’s reflection on the ocean. It was hard for me to understand the simile. So I searched for images and found they were similar. The imagery of Sangam poetry was drawn from what the poets saw around them.

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