Old Tamil Poetry

Translations of Tamil Poetic works that span 2000 years

Archive for the month “December, 2016”

Kurunthokai – 131

Town of the the girl with big battling eyes
and swaying bamboo like strong graceful shoulders,
is far away and tough to reach; my heart,
if you rush ahead overcome with desire,
like a farmer with a single plow
rushing to seed the rain fed field, I suffer.

ஆடு அமை புரையும் வனப்பின் பணைத் தோள்
பேர் அமர்க் கண்ணி இருந்த ஊரே
நெடுஞ் சேண் ஆர் இடையதுவே; நெஞ்சே,
ஈரம் பட்ட செவ்விப் பைம் புனத்து
ஓர் ஏர் உழவன் போல,
பெரு விதுப்பு உற்றன்றால்; நோகோ யானே

This is one of the popular Kurunthokai poems. He is in a distant land, far away from his lady love. His job is over and he is about to go back home. His heart rushes ahead of him and wants to reach the girl with beautiful shoulders and lively eyes in double quick time. He admonishes his heart saying, “Her town is far away and tough to reach. Like a farmer with a single plow rushing to seed his wet green field, you are rushing ahead. This will cause me to suffer. So stay quiet”

The simile farmer with a single plow makes this poem stand out. The farmer with a single plow has to plough and seed his wet field before it dries off. So he rushes to plough his field as his time is short. So does our man’s heart rush towards the girl as each moment is precious. He had promised her that he will come back by monsoon. Monsoon has arrived. She will be waiting for him. But he is still far away. There is a long way to go before he meets her. The pain is aggravated by his heart rushing ahead of him and making him suffer.

அமர் – tranquil (or) fight, based on context. U Ve Saa takes it as fighting eyes in his commentary. AK Ramanujan uses eyes full of peace in his translation. I go with U Ve Saa’s commentary.

செவ்வி – fresh / season. I have used it as season to seed.

Thirukkural – 451

Noble men fear the mean horde;
Ignoble though, embrace it as their own.

சிற்றின மஞ்சும் பெருமை சிறுமைதான்
சுற்றமாச் சூழ்ந்து விடும்.

Noble men are afraid of associating with nasty and mean people. But the ignoble ones feel at home with the mean and embrace them as their own.

Thirukkural – 514

எனை வகையான் தேறியக்கண்ணும், வினை வகையான்
வேறாகும் மாந்தர் பலர்.

Though chosen after tests aplenty,
men changed by nature of the task are many.

Even though a person passes all kinds of tests and is chosen as suitable for a job, many people change once they start doing the job. The nature of the job – power associated with it, for example – transforms them. So the Ruler has to keep an eye on them and not trust them blindly because they passed all tests.

Kambaramayanam – 4182

அரசியல் பாரம் பூரித்து, அயர்ந்தனை இகழாது, ஐயன்
மரை மலர்ப் பாதம் நீங்கா வாழுதி; மன்னர் என்பார்
எரி எனற்கு உரியர் என்றே எண்ணுதி; எண்ணம் யாவும்
புரிதி; சிற்றடிமை குற்றம் பொறுப்பர் என்று எண்ண வேண்டா.

Don’t get powerdrunk and mock others foolishly,
but live without leaving the Lord’s lotus feet;
Think that a Ruler is like a bright flame and act so;
Don’t think that subjects will bear with your faults.

In Kamba Ramayanam, the monkey kings and brothers, Vali and Sugreeva fight each other. Rama, who is on Sugreeva’s side, hides behind a tree and shoots an arrow to kill Vali. Vali, in his death bed, accuses Rama of unethical warfare. Rama explains to him why he had to do so and says that Vali brought it upon himself with his acts against Sugreeva. Vali sees the light and accepts his fate. This poem is his advice to his brother Sugreeva before dying.

“Now that you have power don’t let it get to your head and mock others foolishly. Hold on to Lord Rama’s feet and live as per his advice. A ruler is like a flame. He should provide warmth to his subjects but must not singe them. Don’t think your subjects will bear with whatever you do” . Sound advice to everyone who wins an election.

Kurunthokai – 132

She’s a spirited hugger, an alluring charmer,
with plump soft bosom and flowing tresses.
How can I forget her –  the dusky beauty,
who looks at me,
like a trembling headed calf of a milch cow
turning to look at is mother wistfully.

கவவுக் கடுங்குரையள் காமர் வனப்பினள்
குவவுமென் முலையள் கொடிக்கூந் தலளே
யாங்குமறந் தமைகோ யானே ஞாங்கர்க்
கடுஞ்சுரை நல்லா னடுங்குதலைக் குழவி
தாய்காண் விருப்பி னன்ன்
சாஅய்நோக் கினளே மாஅ யோளே.

His friend admonishes him for being love sick. He responds, “She’s quick to embrace me, she is attractive, with plump soft bosom and flowing tresses. How can I forget the dusky beauty, she who looks at me longingly like a calf looking at its mother” .

He says “she is quick to hug me” implying that she too is in love with him and he is not the only love struck one. He describes her physical beauty implying that their love is already consummated, so he cannot forget her. Her longing look is like that of a calf looking at its mother. He cannot break free of that wistful look.

Thirukkural – 388

A just ruler who safeguards, is revered
by his people as God.

முறை செய்து காப்பாற்றும் மன்னவன், மக்கட்கு
இறை என்று வைக்கப்படும்.

Siddhar Tenet

He’s in you too, he’s in me too
He’s the formless truth.
Those who realize, won’t wander here
but achieve that state themselves.

உன்னுள்ளும் இருப்பான் என்னுள்ளும் இருப்பான்
உருவம் இல்லா உண்மை அவன்.
இதை உணர்ந்தார் இங்கே உலவுவதில்லை
தானும் அடைவார் அந்நிலை தன்னை.

This is a profound Siddhar poem. I can’t find the who the poet is. This is considered as the basic tenet of Siddhars. I interpret it as God is in you and me. He doesn’t have a specific shape, but he is the Truth. Those who realize this won’t waste time in worldly matters but they too become one with the truth.

I am not sure whether the profundity of Tamil has been achieved in English translation.

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