Old Tamil Poetry

Translations of Tamil Poetic works that span 2000 years

Archive for the month “February, 2017”

Thanippadal – 57

With mom departs palate; with dad departs learning;
with children departs one’s riches – fine life
departs with kin, strength departs with sibling;
everything departs along with one’s spouse.

தாயோ டறுசுவைபோம் தந்தையொடு கல்விபோம்
சேயோடு தான்பெற்ற செல்வம்போம் – ஆயவாழ்(வு)
உற்றா ருடன்போம் உடற்பிறப்பால் தோள்வலிபோம்
பொற்றாலி யோடெவையும் போம்.

This poem by Avvayar (the 3rd) is about what we lose when we lose people in our life. Mother is one who cares about serving tasty food to you. Father is one from whom we constantly learn. Children are one’s valuable possessions. Kith and kin are needed for fine life. A sibling adds strength. We lose each of these when each one of them departs from our life. Wife embodies all this and more. So when you lose your wife, you loses everything.

With mother goes அறு சுவை – six tastes (sweet, sour, pungent, salt,astringent, bitter). I’ve substituted palate for it.
The word used for wife is பொற்றாலி – பொன் + தாலி meaning Golden bridal chain / Mangalsutra. I used generic spouse to make it easier to understand in English.

Thirukkural – 208

Evil doers’ ruin is like the shadow
that never leaves one’s footsteps.

தீயவை செய்தார் கெடுதல் நிழல் தன்னை
வீயாது அடி உறைந்தற்று.

Ruin of the evil doers is inevitable. It won’t leave them,just like shadow that follows one without leaving him.

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.

PazhaMozhi 400 – 18

“They were one with the Virtuous, lived like kith and kin,
hence they’re good too”, saying so none will befriend the inferior;
O’ man from the town where paddy fields are full of cranes!
Can one eat sand mixed with sugar?

தக்காரோடு ஒன்றி, தமராய் ஒழுகினார்;
மிக்காரால்’ என்று, சிறியாரைத் தாம் தேறார்;-
கொக்கு ஆர் வள வயல் ஊர!-தினல் ஆமோ,
அக்காரம் சேர்ந்த மணல்?

This is from பழமொழி நானூறு (Four hundred Proverbs). Since most of its content is similar to Naaladiyaar, this is supposed to have been written after that, possibly around 4th Century AD. These four hundred proverbs were collated and written in verse by Poet Mundrurai Arayanar (முன்றுரை அரையனார்).

“Just because inferior people associate with the virtuous people and live closely with them  like their relatives, doesn’t mean that they are good too.Wise men won’t associate with the them.” The proverb is “Can one eat sand mixed with sugar (thinking it is sugar)?”

Cranes reside in paddy fields to hunt for fish. So do the inferior associate with the virtuous.

Thirukkural – 875

One who is without an ally, and has enemies two,
should make an ally of one of those two.

தன் துணை இன்றால்; பகை இரண்டால்; தான் ஒருவன்
இன் துணையாக் கொள்க, அவற்றின் ஒன்று!

When one faces two enemies and has to fight without an ally, he should ally with the more suitable among the two enemies and defeat the other. This couplet is under the chapter Judging the enemy’s strength (பகைத் திறம் தெரிதல்).

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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