Old Tamil Poetry

Translations of Tamil Poetic works that span 2000 years

Thirukkural – 368

Those who are free of desire will be free of misery;
If one is desirous though, misery grows more and more.

அவாவில்லார்க் கில்லாகுந் துன்பமஃ துண்டேற்
றவாஅது மேன்மேல் வரும்.

People who have given up desire will not have misery in their life. But if desire is present in one’s life, misery will keep growing more and more.

அவா – wish / desire
இல்லார்க்கு – one who doesn’t have
இல்லாகும் – will become nil
துன்பம் – misery
அஃது – That
உண்டேல் – if present

தவா – without reducing
மேண்மேல் – more and more

Thirukkural 787

To stop one from ruin and guide them on to the right path,
And to suffer along with one in distress, is friendship.

அழிவி னவைநீக்கி ஆறுய்த்து அழிவின்கண்
அல்லல் உழப்பதாம் நட்பு.

A good friend will stop one from ruinous actions and guide them on to the right path. Also in times of distress, they will share the suffering of their friend like their own. This defines a good friend.

அழிவு – Ruin / distress
நீக்கி – remove / stop
ஆறு – (Right) way
உய்த்து – to guide
அல்லல் – suffering
உழப்பது – suffer

Thirukkural – 616

Efforts put in will make one wealthy;
Lack of effort will bring in poverty.

முயற்சி திருவினை யாக்கு முயற்றின்மை
யின்மை புகுத்தி விடும்.

முயற்சி-திருவினை ஆக்கும்; முயற்று இன்மை
இன்மை புகுத்திவிடும்.

Untiring efforts put in to do one’s duty will make them wealthy. If one is lazy and does not out in required effort, it will bring in poverty in their life.

Thiruvalluvar plays with the word இன்மை. Which means absence/lack/poverty. 

முயற்சி – effort
திரு – wealth
வினை – work
இன்மை – Lack / Poverty. http://www.oldtamilpoetry.com

Thirukkural 1211

The dream that brought my lover’s message,
What feast can I offer it?

காதலர் தூதொடு வந்த கனவினுக்
கியாதுசெய் வேன்கொல் விருந்து.

He has gone away for a long time and she is pining for him. In her sleep she dreams that he has sent a message to her about his arrival. So she tells her friend, “The dream brought me a message from my lover and revived my spirits. What feast shall I prepare to offer my thanks to it?”

தூது – message
யாது – what
விருந்து – feast

Thirukkural 1206

Thinking of days when I was one with him, do I live;
How else can I still be alive?

மற்றியா னென்னுளேன் மன்னோ அவரொடியா
னுற்றநா ளுள்ள வுளேன்.

மற்று யான் என் உளேன் மன்னோ! அவரொடு யான்
உற்ற நாள் உள்ள, உளேன்.

He has been away a long time.She pines for him and becomes pale. Her friend asks her to forget him as it is not good for her health . She replies, “The only reason I’m alive is by remembering those days of bliss when we were embracing each other. What else keeps me alive?”

Thirukkural 922

Don’t drink Toddy! If one drinks, let him drink
Who doesn’t bother about what wise men think.

உண்ணற்க, கள்ளை! உணில், உண்க, சான்றோரான்
எண்ணப்பட வேண்டாதார்!

Thiruvalluvar admonishes those who drink. He says only if one isn’t bothered about losing esteem in wise men’s eye, shall he drink.

Thirukkural 385

One who creates avenues of growth, earns wealth, safeguards it,
And shares it as required, is an able ruler.

இயற்றலும் ஈட்டலும் காத்தலும் காத்த
வகுத்தலும் வல்லது அரசு

Thiruvalluvar defines what are the hallmarks of a good ruler. One who creates (avenue of growth), earns (wealth through that), safeguards (the earned wealth) and shares (for the development of hos country) is an able ruler. As with most Kurals, I had to be elaborate in translation, compared to the brevity of the original.

Thirukkural 1328

Should I feign a tiff to find again – the sweat on her brow
that appeared when we made love!

ஊடிப் பெறுகுவம்கொல்லோ-நுதல் வெயர்ப்பக்
கூடலின் தோன்றிய உப்பு!

Her brow sweats due to their lovemaking. He thinks “Should I have a mock fight with her so her brow sweats again”, that is extend their time together.

ஊடுதல் – tiff / mock fight நுதல் – forehead கூடல் – copulation உப்பு – salty(sweat)

Thirukkural 584

Officers, kith and kin, opposition –
To watch them all carefully is a spy’s vocation.

வினைசெய்வார் தஞ்சுற்றம் வேண்டாதா ரென்றாங்
கனைவரையு மாராய்வ தொற்று.

வினைசெய்வார், தம் சுற்றம், வேண்டாதார், என்று ஆங்கு
அனைவரையும் ஆராய்வது-ஒற்று.

A good spy is one who watches closely everyone including officers of the ruler, his close relatives and his enemies.

வினை செய்வார் – one who does work
தன் சுற்றம் – one’s relatives
வேண்டாதார் – those who oppose
ஆராய்வது – study closely / watch closely
ஒற்று – spying

Kapilar Agaval – Lines 25-33

Wealth is like a swiftly flowing swollen river;
Youth is like the eroding bank of that river;
Lifetime is like a tree perched on that river bank;
So, do your duty; and do that duty well;
And what you do well, do it today;
And what you have to do today, do now itself;
If you put it off saying I will do it tomorrow,
You never know if it’s your turn or Death’s turn tomorrow.

            ஆவதுமறியீர் நமனுடைமுறைநாள்

These lines are from 15th century long poem கபிலர் அகவல். It is a 142 line long moral aphoristic poem.

Wealth doesn’t stay for long. It swiftly flows through like a river. One’s youth is like the river bank of that river, which is eroded quickly. And one’s lifetime is like a tree growing in that river bank. Once the river bank is completely eroded, the tree loses its roots and falls down. Likewise one’s life span also vanishes quickly.

As life is so fickle, you should not put off doing your duty. And you have to do it to the best of your ability. Do it today and do it now. If you put it off saying you will do it tomorrow, one never knows if tomorrow might be your turn or God of death’s turn

பெருக்காறு – பெருக்கு + ஆறு – swollen river
ஒத்தது – like
இடிகரை – eroding river bank
ஒன்றே – one thing (duty)
நன்று – well
இன்று – today
இன்னே – now itself
என்பீர் ஆகில் – if you say so
முறை நாள் – (your) turn நமன் – எமன் – God of Death

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