Old Tamil Poetry

Translations of Tamil Poetic works that span 2000 years

Naaladiyaar – 395

Thinking her eyes to be fish, behind her
went a young kingfisher!
though it followed her ready to fish,
it didn’t do so,
for it got to know
that the bend of her eyebrow
is the curve of a bow.

கண் கயல் என்னும் கருத்தினால், காதலி
பின் சென்றது அம்ம, சிறு சிரல்! பின் சென்றும்,
ஊக்கி எழுந்தும், எறிகல்லா-ஒண் புருவம்
கோட்டிய வில் வாக்கு அறிந்து.

A rare love poem in Naaladiyaar. Of the 400 poems in Naaladiyaar, only the last 10 deal with love. In this poem, he exclaims to his friend about his lover. “Her sparkling eyes are like fish. An young kingfisher followed her to fish her eyes out. Though it got ready to dive, it didn’t do so as it realised that the bend of her eyebrow is the curve of a bow. Since it was afraid the bow might shoot an arrow at it, the kingfisher didn’t dive to pluck her eyes.”

‘Fish like eyes’ is a common simile used in Tamil literature. Something like ‘almond eyes’ in English.

I broke up the structure of the poem to make it rhyme in English. Not a scholarly thing to do, but this account is to make Tamil fun to read.

கயல் – fish

சிரல் – kingfisher

ஊக்கி – to act

ஒண் – ஒண்மை – graceful

கோட்டு – curve, bend

வாக்கு – curve, bend

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