Old Tamil Poetry

Translations of Tamil Poetic works that span 2000 years

Kurunthokai – 58

Friends who chide! If I were to stop,
as you advice, it’ll be good for me;
Like butter on a sun burned hot rock,
guarded with eyes by an armless mute,
melting freely, spreads this malady;
it’s hard to bear and uproot!

இடிக்கும் கேளிர்! நும் குறை ஆக
நிறுக்கல் ஆற்றினோ நன்று மன் தில்ல;
ஞாயிறு காயும் வெவ் அறை மருங்கில்
கை இல் ஊமன் கண்ணின் காக்கும்
வெண்ணெய் உணங்கல் போலப்
பரந்தன்று, இந் நோய்; நோன்று கொளற்கு அரிதே!

This is one of my favorite poems in Kurunthokai. His friend chides him to stop pining for her. He says, “I too want to stop pining. If I can do that as you advice, it will be good for me. However I am powerless to stop this love sickness. It spreads across my body like butter on a hot rock guarded by an armless mute. It is hard to bear, and I am powerless to put an end to it”.

The simile “butter on a hot rock, guarded by an armless mute with his eyes” elevates this poem. The armless mute person tries to guard the butter with his eyes. But it melts freely on the hot rock. He can’t call on anyone to come and stop it nor can he stop it himself. He can only watch helplessly as the butter melts. So is the condition of our hero. He watches helplessly as love sickness takes over his life. He is powerless to stop it himself nor can he ask for help from others. It consumes him fully. Even if he wishes to, he can’t uproot it.

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