Old Tamil Poetry

Translations of Tamil Poetic works that span 2000 years

Nalvazhi 34

Even if one is illiterate, if he is wealthy,
Every one will welcome and attend to him;
A pauper is not wanted even by his wife,
Nor by the mother who birthed him; 
His words go unheard.

கல்லானே யானாலுங் கைப்பொருளொன் றுண்டாயின்
எல்லாருஞ் சென்றங்கு எதிர்கொள்வர்-இல்லானை
இல்லாளும் வேண்டாள்மற்று ஈன்றெடுத்த தாய்வேணடாள்
செல்லாது அவன்வாயிற் சொல்.

This poem by Avvaiyar (the 3rd, of 12th Century AD) talks about how the world respects the wealthy and discards the pauper. A wealthy man even if he is illiterate, is feted upon by everyone. On the other hand one who doesn’t have money us not wanted even by his wife. Even the mother who birthed him doesn’t want him. Nobody listens to his words and he is treated as useless.

All the words in this poem are still in use in Tamil. இல்லானை இல்லாளும் வேண்டாள் – Even his wife doesn’t want a pauper is a commonly used phrase in Tamil discourse. The wordplay in Tamil doesn’t translate into English.

கல்லான் – illiterate
கைப்பொருள் – wealth (at hand)
இல்லான் – one who doesn’t have / pauper
இல்லாள் – wife
ஈன்று எடுத்த – one who gave birth
செல்லாது – of no use

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One thought on “Nalvazhi 34

  1. When translating Tamil to English, one realizes the rich-layers contained in a single Tamil word. Tamil is an amazing language.

    Like

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