Old Tamil Poetry

Translations of Tamil Poetic works that span 2000 years

Moodhurai – 14

Seeing a peacock spread its plume and dance,
a turkey thinks itself to be alike, spreads
its ugly feathers and dances – like that
is a verse learned by the unschooled.

கான மயிலாடக் கண்டிருந்த வான்கோழி
தானு மதுவாகப் பாவித்துத்-தானுந்தன்
பொல்லாச் சிறகைவிரித் தாடினாற் போலுமே
கல்லாதான் கற்ற கவி.

This is a poem by Avvayar in Moodhurai (மூதுரை) , literally meaning “Old advice”. It is a collection of 30 poems, written around 12th Century AD.

An unschooled person may memorize a verse by hearing it from scholars. However he will not know its meaning or nuances. If he tries to act learned based on this, it is like a turkey thinking itself to be a beautiful peacock, spreading its ugly feathers and dancing. It is not possible to imitate a scholar. If one tries to, it will look ungainly.

“Spread its plume” is implied in the original. I have made it explicit in translation.

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