Old Tamil Poetry

Translations of Tamil Poetic works that span 2000 years

Archive for the month “July, 2017”

Naanmanik Kadigai – 92

To not learn while young is a sin;
generosity while in want is a sin;
anger while unaided by kin is a sin;
it’s a sin to dine at the home of unfriendly;

இளமைப் பருவத்துக் கல்லாமை குற்றம்;
வளம் இலாப் போழ்தத்து வள்ளன்மை குற்றம்
கிளைஞர் இல் போழ்தில், சினம் குற்றம்; குற்றம்,
தமர் அல்லார் கையகத்து ஊண்.

It is a sin to not learn when one is young. It is a sin to be generous and philanthropic when one himself is indigent. To be angry and itch for a fight when unaided by one’s relatives is a sin. It is a sin to eat at the home of those who are unfriendly.

கிளைஞர் – relative / kin

தமர் – friend

அகம் – home

ஊண் – food

Thirukkural – 1258

Aren’t appeasing words of that crafty crook
the force that breaks our feminine reserve?

பன்மாயக் கள்வன் பணிமொழி அன்றோநம்
பெண்மை உடைக்கும் படை.

She decides to be strong when he comes back from long absence. But hearing his gentle words, her reserve breaks down. She wonders aren’t his words the force that breaks my feminine reserve. She calls him a “பன்மாயக் கள்வன்” – literally “many tricked crook”. I have settled on crafty crook which is a poor imitation of the original.

One never stops being astonished at the longevity and continuity of Tamil. All the words in the above Kural are still in use 2000 years later.

Thirukkural – 1121

Like milk mixed with honey is the dew
on this soft spoken girl’s white teeth.

பாலொடு தேன்கலந் தற்றே பணிமொழி
வாலெயி றூறிய நீர்.

Water secreted by this softspoken girl’s teeth is so sweet that it tastes like milk mixed with honey. I have used the word ‘dew’ for water, following Rev. Dr. G.U.Pope’s translation.

பணி – humble
வால் – whiteness
எயிறு – tooth
ஊறுதல் – secretion
நீர் – water

Thirukkural – 601

Lustrous lamp of one’s clan will dim and peter out,
if grime of laziness creeps in.

குடி என்னும் குன்றா விளக்கம், மடி என்னும்
மாசு ஊர, மாய்ந்து கெடும்.

Though one might have been born in a fabled clan, if he becomes lazy the brightness of his clan dignity will dim and peter out.

குன்றா விளக்கம் – is taken as long burning lamp without a wick by Parimel Alagar in his commentary. Devaneya Paavaanar interprets it as ‘light provided by rare gems’. His reasoning is that grime creeping on gem will dim and put out the light. I have gone with Devaneya Paavaanar’s interpretation.

குடி – Clan
மடி – Laziness
மாசு – grime / dust
ஊர்தல் – creep in
மாய்ந்து – dim / become lustreless
கெடும் – extinguished / destroyed

Thirukkural – 733

Even when overburdened, bearing it and paying
taxes due to the ruler – that’s a country.

பொறை ஒருங்கு மேல்வருங்கால் தாங்கி, இறைவற்கு
இறை ஒருங்கு நேர்வது-நாடு.

Even when a country is over burdened (like influx of refugees from neighboring countries) it should have the resilience and resources to bear it and still pay taxes due to the ruler. That is the hall mark of a good country.

Kainnilai – 50

O’ long and cool seashore! I won’t tell you;
Ibis nesting on closed palm fronds, I won’t tell it too;
Long legged stork roaming in backwaters!
you were there when he vowed;  listen.

நெடுங் கடல் தண் சேர்ப்ப! நின்னோடு உரையேன்;
ஒடுங்கு மடல் பெண்ணை அன்றிற்கும் சொல்லேன்;
கடுஞ் சூளின் தான் கண்டு, கானலுள் மேயும்
தடந் தாள் மட நாராய்! கேள்.

They have met discreetly, fallen in love and became physically intimate. He promised the earth to her and said he will come back soon. But he hasn’t. So she tells the Seashore, “I won’t tell my suffering to you. Because you weren’t witness to our rendezvous. Nor to the Ibis bird that nests on closed fronds in palm trees. But the egret in backwaters, you were there when he vowed to come back soon. You were the sole witness. I will tell you of my grief.”


Ibis nesting on Palm Tree – pixabay.com


Stork in backwaters – wikimedia

தண் – Cool
சேர்ப்பு – Seashore / wharf
ஒடுங்குதல் – close inwards
மடல் – frond
பெண்ணை – palm
அன்றில் – Ibis / heron
சூள் – promise
கானல் – backwaters
தடம் – long
தாள் – leg
மடம் – young
நாரை – stork / egret

Kurunthokai – 30

Listen to me my friend! At midnight,
as an almost true false dream
of that expert liar hugging me tight
deceived and woke me up,
I caressed the bed;
Like a lily flower swarmed by bees
I wilt all alone; surely pitiable am I.

கேட்டிசின் வாழி-தோழி!-அல்கல்,
பொய்வலாளன் மெய் உற மரீஇய
வாய்த் தகைப் பொய்க் கனா மருட்ட, ஏற்று எழுந்து,
அமளி தைவந்தனனே; குவளை
வண்டு படு மலரின் சாஅய்த்”
தமியென்; மன்ற அளியென் யானே!

He has gone away to earn wealth. She pines for him and suffers. When her friend asks why she is so, she replies with this poem. “Listen to me my friend! At midnight I had a dream that he, the master liar was hugging me. It was so real that I believed it to be true, woke up and caressed the empty bed thinking it is him. But then I realised I am pitifully all alone. Like a lily flower swarmed by bees, I wilt and fade”

He is called a master liar, because he hasn’t come home as he had promised. After the bees have sucked honey off the flower and flown away, the flower wilts. His thoughts have sucked life out of her and when she wakes up and realises that it was a dream, she suffers similarly.

அல்கல் – night
பொய் வலாளன் – expert liar
மெய் – body
உறுதல் – embrace
வாய்த் தகை – truth like
மருள் – confuse / deceive
அமளி – bed
குவளை – lily flower
படு – to swarm
சாய்தல் – to grow thin / wilt
தமி – alone
மன்ற – surely / certainly
அளி – pitiable / wretched
யான் – I

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