Old Tamil Poetry

Translations of Tamil Poetic works that span 2000 years

Archive for the month “August, 2017”

Naaladiyaar – 4

“What’s ours, ours won’t be forever ours” realize this;
noble, noble deeds you wanted to do, do them immediately; –
down and down dwindles one’s life time; wrathfully
comes here, comes here the god of death!

‘நின்றன நின்றன நில்லா’ என உணர்ந்து,
ஒன்றின ஒன்றின வல்லே, செயின், செய்க-
சென்றன சென்றன, வாழ்நாள்; செறுத்து, உடன்
வந்தது வந்தது, கூற்று!

This Naaladiyaar poem talks about the impermanence of wealth. All the wealth that we think is ours won’t remain forever ours. So use your wealth to do all good deeds you wanted to do and do them immediately. Don’t wait. Because one’s life time is dwindling rapidly and God of death is approaching one day by day.

The Tamil poem uses simple words repeated twice to achieve an inherent rhythm. I can’t bring that flow in the translation. Yet I have used repetitive words to give a sense of the original poem.

ஒன்றின – suitable / good / noble
வல் – quick
செறு – angry
கூற்று – death

Thirukkural – 560

Cow udders will dry up, all six professions will discard their skills – 
if the protector fails to protect.

ஆ பயன் குன்றும்; அறுதொழிலோர் நூல் மறப்பர்;-
காவலன் காவான் எனின்.

If the King fails in ruling his country justly, his country’s wealth will dry up and people engaged  in professions will discard their skills leading the country to ruin.

Cows will weaken if agriculture fails and their udders will dry up. Six professions are farming, weaving, drawing/painting, education/knowledge, trading and manufacturing. Devaneya Paavaanar comes to this conclusion based on Sendhan Thivakaram, an eighth century thesaurus.

ஆ – cow
பயன் – output
குன்றும் – reduce
அறுதொழிலோர் – six professionals
காவான் – does not protect

Naaladiyaar – 335

Though there’s no real reason, if he doesn’t rage
as if there’s a reason, and in his rage,
rant and rave at those beyond his reach,
a dimwit’s tongue will really itch.

பெறுவது ஒன்று இன்றியும், பெற்றானே போலக்
கறுவுகொண்டு, ஏலாதார்மாட்டும், கறுவினால்
கோத்து இன்னா கூறி உரையாக்கால், பேதைக்கு
நாத் தின்னும், நல்ல சுனைத்து

The reason for one to outrage might not exist in reality. Yet a dumb person will act as if there’s a reason to outrage against those who are beyond his reach, justify his rage to himself and utter harsh words against them. If he does not do so, his tongue will itch (he cannot rein his tongue in).

A dumb person cannot hold his words. He will curse and rave at those who are beyond reach even though there is no obvious reason. Beyond his reach implies that his harsh words will have no effect on them, yet he will rant and rave.

பெறுவது – பெறும் காரணம் – reason to get (angry)
கறுவு – anger
ஏலாதார் – (one whom we) cannot reach
கோத்து – justify
இன்னா – harsh
உரையாக்கால் – உரையாமல் போனால் – if he does not tell
சுனை – itch

Kambaramayanam – 619

Not his sapphire like dark hued mane,
full moon face, long arms,
or beautiful dark boulder like shoulders – but,
it was his smile that first consumed my soul.

இந்திர நீலம் ஒத்து இருண்ட குஞ்சியும்
சந்திர வதனமும் தாழ்ந்த கைகளும்
சுந்தர மணி வரைத் தோளுமே அல
முந்தி என் உயிரை அம் முறுவல் உண்டதே.

After Sita and Rama eye each other for the first time, he goes away. She is struck by love at first sight and pines for him. She loses her composure and is overcome by her emotions. She says, “His hair is dark like the blue sapphire. His face is round and bright like the full moon. His arms are long and hang low. His dark shoulders are like mountains. But it wasn’t all these features that captivated me first. Before all these, I lost my heart looking at his smile.”

Long arms – arms that hang below the knees were considered as a sign of well formed man.
Dark mountain like shoulders – Though the current day TV serials show Rama almost as white as a caucasian, in the epic he is a dark hued person. Hence dark shoulders.

இந்திர நீலம் – Blue sapphire
குஞ்சி – hair
வதனம் – face
சுந்தர – beautiful
மணி – sapphire (dark)
வரை – mountain (I’ve used boulder)
அல – not
முறுவல் – smile

Thirukkural – 784

To befriend isn’t to just laugh merrily; it’s to censure
in advance when one strays from virtue.

நகுதற்பொருட்டு அன்று, நட்டல்; மிகுதிக்கண்
மேற்சென்று இடித்தற்பொருட்டு.

Friendship isn’t meant only for laughing heartily and being pleasant. It is meant to warn in advance and admonish a person when he strays from the righteous path.

நகுதல் – to laugh
நட்டல் – நட்பு கொள்ளுதல் – to befriend
மிகுதி – excess (crossing the line of propriety)
மேற்சென்று – before something happens
இடித்தல் – இடித்து உரைத்தல் – admonish / censure

Kurunthokai – 231

She refuses him entry  when her friend pleads his case:

Though he lives in the same town,
he doesn’t come to our street;
even if he comes to our street,
he doesn’t hug me tight;
he avoids and ignores me
like a stranger’s cremation ground –
making my shameless foolish passion go waste
like an arrow shot from a bow into the distance.

ஓர் ஊர் வாழினும் சேரி வாரார்;
சேரி வரினும் ஆர முயங்கார்;
ஏதிலாளர் சுடலை போலக்
காணாக் கழிபமன்னே-நாண் அட்டு,
நல் அறிவு இழந்த காமம்
வில் உமிழ் கணையின் சென்று சேண் படவே.

He has been spending time at the courtesan’s house for long. He wants to come back home, so he sends her friend as an emissary to placate her. She refuses to hear her friend’s pleading. She says “Though he lived so long in the same town, he never came to our street. Even if he came to our street, he never came home and spent time with me, hugging me tight. Even if he saw me, he acted as if he didn’t and avoided me, like avoiding a stranger’s cremation ground.Because of this, my foolish and shameless passion went waste like an aimless arrow shot from a bow. I don’t love him anymore. He isn’t welcome here”

ஏதிலாளர் சுடலை – ‘stranger’s cremation ground’ is a simile for ignoring something as irrelevant to one.

சேரி – street
ஆர – fully
முயங்கார் – முயங்க மாட்டார் – does not embrace
ஏதிலாளர் – stranger
சுடலை – cremation ground
காணா – without seeing
கழிப – leaves
நாண் – modesty
உமிழ் – discharge
கணை – arrow
சேண் – distance

Thirukkural – 1151

Her friend to him:

If you aren’t leaving, tell me; your promise of speedy return,
tell that to those who’ll be alive then.

செல்லாமை உண்டேல், எனக்கு உரை; மற்று நின்
வல்வரவு, வாழ்வார்க்கு உரை

After marriage, he plans to go in search of wealth. He can’t tell her that he is leaving. So he tells her friend to pass on the message that he will return quickly. Her friend refuses saying “If you have decided not to leave, tell that to me. I will go and tell her. But if you have decided to leave and want to tell her that you will return quickly, I can’t pass that message to her. Tell that to those who will be alive when you come back. She won’t be alive She will wither away in your absence.”

Thiruvalluvar packs so much into those seven words that it is impossible to bring out all the nuances in translation.

வல் – quickness / speed

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