Old Tamil Poetry

Translations of Tamil Poetic works that span 2000 years

Kainnilai – 48

In his town cranes hunt for fish in paddy fields;
Let him embrace voluptuous sandal painted breasts,
and not leftovers like this old woman’s saggy breasts;
Oh bard with a fine harp! – he isn’t welcome here.

கொக்கு ஆர் வள வயல் ஊரன் குளிர் சாந்தம்
மிக்க வன முலை புல்லான், பொலிவு உடைத்தா;-
தக்க யாழ்ப் பாண!-தளர் முலையாய் மூத்து அமைந்தார்
உத்தரம் வேண்டா; வரல்.

He has been at the courtesan’s house and now wants to go back home. So he sends his bard as an advance scout to cool his wife down. She isn’t ready. She retorts to the bard “He is from the town where Cranes hunt for fish in inundated paddy fields. Like that he keeps searching for fresh fish. Let him go and embrace those voluptous sandal paste painted breasts of the courtesan. Let him not come for this old woman’s saggy breasts like reaching out for leftovers. Ask him not to come here.”

Kainnilai is one of the 18 anthologies* in post Sangam era. It originally had 60 poems, 12 each for the five landscapes of Tamil poetry. Written by Pullangadanaar in post Sangam era (between 2nd and 8th Century AD), only 45 verses are extant now. It was first published from Palm leaf manuscripts in 1931 by Anantha Rama Iyer. The commentary in Tamilvu.org site is by Sangu Pulavar, based on the source material from 1931 edition.

  • There is some debate about whether Kainnilai or Innilai (another collection of poems) is the 18th anthology.

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