Old Tamil Poetry

Translations of Tamil Poetic works that span 2000 years

Archive for the month “May, 2017”

Kurunthokai – 4

Don’t grieve my heart, don’t grieve my heart;
don’t grieve that our lover who should wipe away
my eyelash singeing tears and cheer me,
is indifferent to my plight.

நோம், என் நெஞ்சே; நோம், என் நெஞ்சே;
இமை தீய்ப்பன்ன கண்ணீர் தாங்கி,
அமைதற்கு அமைந்த நம் காதலர்
அமைவு இலர் ஆகுதல், நோம், என் நெஞ்சே.

He hasn’t come as promised. She chides her heart not to grieve over him. He who should have wiped away her tears that are so hot that they singe her eyelashes and cheered her up is indifferent to her plight. So she asks her heart not to grieve over him.

Two phrases in this poem stand out for me.

இமை தீய்ப்பன்ன கண்ணீர் – eyelash singeing tears. Instead of simply saying ‘hot tears’, when the poet uses ‘ eyelash singeing tears’, the pain comes through more sharply.

The word play of அமைதற்கு அமைந்த நம் காதலர் அமைவு இலர் ஆகுதல் is hard to bring out in English. I have had to settle for prosaic words – “our lover who should cheer is indifferent”.

 

நோ(வு) – suffer , grieve

தீய்ப்பன்ன – burn like fire

தாங்கி – to stop (the tears)

அமைதல் – to be content

அமைந்த – to happen

அமைவு – support

 

 

 

 

Kurunthokai – 120

Like a pauper yearning for pleasure,
you wish for the unattainable, my heart!
My girl’s sweet, you realize;
that she’s hard to get, you don’t.

இல்லோன் இன்பம் காமுற்றாஅங்கு,
அரிது வேட்டனையால்-நெஞ்சே!-காதலி
நல்லள் ஆகுதல் அறிந்தாங்கு
அரியள் ஆகுதல் அறியாதோயே.

He’s returning after yet another secret rendezvous with her. He feels the pain of separation badly. He chides his heart to not wish for what is not attainable. He says “Like a pauper yearning for pleasure you yearn for her. You know that she is a pleasant girl. What you don’t know is that she is hard to get.”

இல்லோன் – இல்லாதவன் – pauper
காமுறுதல் – காமம் உறுதல் – desire / wish / yearn
வேட்ட ல் – desire
அரிது – rare / difficult / unattainable
நல்லள் – good / pleasant girl
அரியள் – hard to get girl

Naaladiyaar – 24

In a dead man’s house, funeral drum is sounded once; 
it’s stopped for a while,  and sounded again; notice that  
before it’s sounded thrice, covering the body,lighting a flame,
the to-be-dead carry away the dead! .

சென்றே எறிப ஒருகால்; சிறு வரை
நின்றே எறிப, பறையினை; நன்றேகாண்,
முக் காலைக் கொட்டினுள், மூடி, தீக் கொண்டு எழுவர்,
செத்தாரைச் சாவார் சுமந்து!

The above Naaladiyaar poem is about impermanence of life (யாக்கை நிலையாமை). In a dead man’s house, funeral drums are sounded once. When it is sounded a second time it indicates to all present that the body is about to be lifted. Before it is sounded the third time, they cover his body, light a funeral torch and carry away the body to the cremation ground. When one is dead, there is not much time left for him even in his house. They take him away quickly. Realize this and do good deeds to make this life worthwhile.

The beauty of the poem is in the last line. Those who carry away the dead too will be dead one day. The poet calls them to-be-dead. “செத்தாரைச் சாவார் சுமந்து – The to-be-dead carry away the dead”. Death is the only constant in this world.

ஒருகால் – once
சிறு வரை – a short time
எறிப – strike
பறை – drum
முக்கால் – third time
கொட்டு – beat
நன்றே காண் – notice carefully ( Tamilvu site commentary interprets this as “Think whether it’s good”)

Azhagar KillaiVidu Thoothu – 153-157

As Sun rose in the horizon
and Azhagar mounted his horse,
glittering Silver canopies and Golden flags
rose rapidly like crores of suns and moons ,
bright flags were raised towards the sky
wiping the sweat of celestials,
ambling elephants with sonorous drums on top
moved like dark clouds and accompanying thunder,
River Vaigai which throws up schools of fish
was overrun by a flood of humans

உம்பரில் வெய்யோ னுதயஞ் செயக்குதிரை
நம்பிரா னேறி நடந்தருளி-அம்பரத்திற்
கோடி கதிரோனும் கோடி பனிமதியும்
ஓடி நிரையா உதித்தவென-நீடிய
பொற்கொடியும் வெள்ளிக் குடையும் பொலிந்திலங்க
விற்கொடிகள் விண்ணோர் வெயர் துடைப்பச்-சொற்கத்
தியலுங் கரியுமதி லெற்று முரசும்
புயலும் உருமேறும் போலக் கயலினத்தை
அள்ளுந் திரைவையை யாறுட் பரந்துநர
வெள்ளங் கரைகடந்து மீதூர

Today is the festival of Lord Azhagar (Thirumal) entering the River Vaigai in Madurai, Tamil Nadu’s ancient city. This festival has been celebrated for  centuries, with slight changes in myths. The above verses are from a comparatively new work, Azhagar Killai Vidu Thoothu (Sending a parrot as messenger to Azhagar), written around 1700 CE. In this long poem the heroine falls in love with Lord Azhagar and sends her parrot as her messenger to him. The poem describes in detail the festival of Azhagar entering the river.

Paripadal – 4 : 25-35

Thy fieriness and radiance are in the Sun;
thy gentleness and grace are in the moon;
thy abundance and bounty are in the rains;
thy patience and generosity are in the earth;
thy fragrance and beauty are in the flowers;
thy slpendour and expanse are in the seas;
thy form and sound are in the skies;
thy arrival and departure are in the breeze;
though these, that, those and others
have grown out of the Supreme you,
they still depend on you.

நின் வெம்மையும் விளக்கமும் ஞாயிற்று உள;
நின் தண்மையும் சாயலும் திங்கள் உள;
நின் சுரத்தலும் வண்மையும் மாரி உள;
நின் புரத்தலும் நோன்மையும் ஞாலத்து உள;
நின் நாற்றமும் ஒண்மையும் பூவை உள;
நின் தோற்றமும் அகலமும் நீரின் உள;
நின் உருவமும் ஒலியும் ஆகாயத்து உள;
நின் வருதலும் ஒடுக்கமும் மருத்தின் உள;
அதனால், இவ்வும், உவ்வும், அவ்வும், பிறவும்,
ஏமம் ஆர்ந்த நிற் பிரிந்து,
மேவல் சான்றன, எல்லாம்.

This poem is in praise of Thirumal from Paripadal in Sangam literature. Paripadal consists of 70 poems in praise of Thirumal, Murukan, Madurai city and the Viagai river. Only 22 of these poems have been found. The above verses are from poem no.4 in praise of Thirumal.

The poet says , ” Your qualities are imbued in everything in this universe – the sun, moon, rains, earth, flowers, seas, skies and the breeze. Hence all these elements have grown out of you, yet they rely on you.” Everything in this world is a manifestation of God. Though they have grown out of him, still they are dependent on him. (I know it is confusing, that’s the best I could explain it.)

Tamil language had a word ‘உது’ that was intermediate between ‘these’ (closeby) and ’those’(far away). The word is now out of use. We find that word in this poem written approximately 2000 years ago. I have used ‘that’ as a compromise.

4th line in the original reads generosity (புரத்தல்) and patience (நோன்மை). I have interchanged them to maintain cadence.

You can find the echo of this poem’s philosophy in many Tamil works , for example 12th century Kambaramayanam to 20th Century Bharathi poems.

தன்னுளே உலகங்கள் எவையும் தந்து அவை
தன்னுளே நின்று தான் அவற்றுள் தங்குவான் (கம்பராமாயணம் – 6374)

பார்க்கின்ற பொருளெல்லாம் தெய்வம் கண்டீர்;
வெயிலளிக்கும் இரவி, மதி, விண்மீன், மேகம்,
மேலுமிங்குப் பலபலவாம் தோற்றங் கொண்டே
இயலுகின்ற ஜடப்பொருள்கள் அனைத்தும் தெய்வம் (பாரதி அறுபத்தியாறு – 18)

Thirukkural – 1286

In his presence, I don’t notice his faults;
In his absence, I notice only his faults.

காணுங்கால் காணேன் தவறு ஆய; காணாக்கால்,
காணேன், தவறு அல்லவை.

She pines for him and tells herself “when I see him I don’t see his faults. But when I don’t see him, I see only his faults.” All her anger about his long absence vanishes the moment she see him. 

I have taken liberty to translate “When I see him / don’t see him” as “in his presence / absence” and “I don’t notice anything but his faults” as “I notice only his faults”

Thirukkural – 1000

Wealth inherited by the mannerless 
is pure milk curdled by impure vessel.

பண்பு இலான் பெற்ற பெருஞ் செல்வம்-நன் பால்
கலம் தீமையால் திரிந்தற்று.

The purpose of wealth is to help others. When wealth is acquired by mannerless and boorish, it goes waste just like pure milk in an impure vessel getting curdled. Thiruvalluvar uses “பெற்ற – acquired / inherited” instead of “ஈட்டிய – earned” to show that the virtue less people aren’t capable of earning wealth.

Puranaanooru – 83

I fear mother noticing that my bangles slip out
as I pine for the anklet wearing, dark bearded young man;
I’m shy to embrace his valorous shoulders in public;
May this indecisive town which doesn’t decide
either in favour of mother or myself
but vacillates between us two,
tremble as much as I do.

அடி புனை தொடுகழல், மை அணல் காளைக்கு என்
தொடி கழித்திடுதல் யான் யாய் அஞ்சுவலே;
அடு தோள் முயங்கல் அவை நாணுவலே;
என் போல் பெரு விதுப்புறுக என்றும்
ஒரு பாற் படாஅதாகி,
இரு பாற் பட்ட இம் மையல் ஊரே.

She is pining for him, the dark bearded young man wearing an anklet awarded for bravery. Her arms weaken and her bangles slip out. She is afraid that her mother might notice this and find out about her lover. At the same time she is shy of going public with her love and embracing his shoulders. The townspeople neither understand her fear and shyness and arrange for her marraige to her lover nor understand her mother’s reluctance and put a stop to the affair. They are indecisive and prolonging her agony. So she curses the town to tremble as much as she is trembling now.

The original poem says “the indecisive town which doesn’t decide for one side but vacillates”. I have expanded it as “in favor of mother or myself” to make it easier to comprehend.

Thirukkural – 1021

There’s no greater dignity than to say
“I will not slack in my duty”

‘கருமம் செய’-ஒருவன்-’கைதூவேன்’ என்னும்
பெருமையின், பீடு உடையது இல்.

This Kural is in the Chapter ‘Clan Duty’ -குடி செயல்வகை. Hence Parimel Azhagar (13th Century) and Devaneya Paavaanar (20th Century) interpret duty as one’s duty towards upliftment of his clan / society.

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