Old Tamil Poetry

Translations of Tamil Poetic works that span 2000 years

Archive for the tag “Kurunthokai”

Kurunthokai – 387

The day’s over, jasmine blooms,
fiery sun softens; even if I swim across
this forlorn dusk with night as its end,
what’s the point, my friend?
Night’s expanse is vaster than the sea.

எல்லை கழிய முல்லை மலரக்
கதிர்சினந் தணிந்த கையறு மாலையும்
இரவரம் பாக நீந்தின மாயின்
எவன்கொல் வாழி தோழி
கங்குல் வெள்ளங் கடலினும் பெரிதே.

She’s pining for him but he hasn’t come to meet her. She says “The day is over. Jasmines have bloomed. (Jasmines bloom at night time. Their fragrance adds to her grief.) Fieriness of the sun has softened. But he hasn’t come and I miss him a lot. I am forlorn this evening without him. Even if I some how bear my pain and cross this evening holding myself together, there is no point in it. For, at the end of the evening lies the never ending night. It is even more vaster than the sea. I can’t bear this pain through the night.”

“Night’s expanse is vaster than the sea” is a poor imitation of கங்குல் வெள்ளங் கடலினும் பெரிதே. The cadence in that phrase is unmatchable.

எல்லை – Daytime
முல்லை – jasmine
கதிர் – sun
வரம்பு – boundary
நீந்தினம் – we swim
ஆயின் – if
கையறு – helpless (forlorn)
எவன்கொல் – what is the use
கங்குல் – night
வெள்ளம் – excess

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

Kurunthokai – 75

Did you see yourself? Or heard from those who saw?
from whom did you hear of my lord’s arrival?
I’d like to know for sure; please tell me!
You’ll receive the golden city of Patali
where elephants with white tusks play in river Son.

நீ கண்டனையோ? கண்டார்க் கேட்டனையோ?-
ஒன்று தெளிய நசையினம்; மொழிமோ!
வெண் கோட்டு யானை சோணை படியும்
பொன் மலி பாடலி பெறீஇயர்!-
யார்வாய்க் கேட்டனை, காதலர் வரவே?

She is desperately waiting for her lover’s arrival. The bard comes to her and says that her lover has come to town. She asks the bard “Did you see yourself o just heard from some one who saw him? If so who? I would like to know for sure, please tell me. If what you say is true, you will receive the wealth of the golden city of Pataliputra where elephants with white tusks play in river Son”

The poem brings out her desperation for good news. It also talks about the wealthy city of Pataliputra built in 3rd century BC as capital of Magadha empire. That might help to date this poem. Of course, Pataliputra was a flourishing city till 9th century AD. Pataliputra was situated at the confluence of three rivers – Ganges, Gandaki and Son.


நசை – desire / wish
மொழி – tell
வெண் கோடு – white tusk
சோணை – river Son
மலி – abound


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

Kurunthokai – 312

He tells his heart:

Two faced charlatan, our lover is:
one who comes to us at midnight
like fragrant breeze from the forests
of mighty spear wielding Malayan;
The other, who at day break
gets rid of flowers in her tresses
and plaits her hair with fragrant oil,
goes to her kin and becomes a stranger.

இரண்டு அறி கள்வி நம் காதலோளே:
முரண் கொள் துப்பின் செவ் வேல் மலையன்
முள்ளூர்க் கானம் நாற வந்து,
நள்ளென் கங்குல் நம் ஓரன்னள்;
கூந்தல் வேய்ந்த விரவுமலர் உதிர்த்து,
சாந்து உளர் நறுங் கதுப்பு எண்ணெய் நீவி,
அமரா முகத்தள் ஆகித்
தமர் ஓரன்னள், வைகறையானே.

This is a popular poem in Kurunthokai. She leaves his after their nightly rendezvous. He tells his heart, “This girl, our lover, is a two faced charlatan. She comes like fragrant breeze from the forests of Malayaman and brings joy to us. At day break she gets rid of flowers strewn in her tresses, applies oil to her hair and plaits it like goody two shoes and goes to her relatives. Then she becomes a stranger to us”

Kurunthokai – 244

Her friend says :

It’s not that we didn’t hear you
try to open the door like a strong elephant
at midnight when every one was asleep;
We did hear, my lord!
Like a fine peacock trapped in a net
with its crown crushed and feathers broken,
heartless mother hugged us tight everytime we shuddered.

பல்லோர் துஞ்சும் நள்ளென் யாமத்து,
உரவுக் களிறுபோல் வந்து, இரவுக் கதவு முயறல்
கேளேம் அல்லேம்; கேட்டனெம்-பெரும!-
ஓரி முருங்கப் பீலி சாய
நல் மயில் வலைப் பட்டாங்கு, யாம்
உயங்குதொறும் முயங்கும், அறன் இல் யாயே.

He tried to meet her at night. But the door was locked and she did not open. Next day her friend says to him, “My lord, it is not that we did not hear you try to open our door at midnight when the whole town was asleep. We heard you clearly. However she was sleeping next to her foster mother, who kept hugging her tightly when she as much as moved. Her situation was like a peacock caught in a hunter’s net. That’s why she couldn’t open the door and meet you”. The implied meaning is since it is difficult to meet at night anymore, you better take steps to marry her. Mother is called heartless as she put paid to their nightly rendezvous plans.

துஞ்சுதல் – sleep
நள் – middle
யாமம் – mid night
உரவு – strong
களிறு – elephant
ஓரி – mane (here the crown of a peacock)
உயங்கு – suffer / shudder
முயங்குதல் – embrace
அறன் – fairness (அறன் இல் – unfair / heartless)
யாய் – mother

Kurunthokai – 249

School of peacocks scream and
white faced monkeys shiver with their young ones
in rain drenched thickly wooded slopes of his hill country.
Looking at those hills – my friend! –
my faded forehead gains colour, you see?

இன மயில் அகவும் மரம் பயில் கானத்து,
நரை முக ஊகம் பார்ப்பொடு பனிப்ப,
படு மழை பொழிந்த சாரல் அவர் நாட்டுக்
குன்றம் நோக்கினென்-தோழி!-
பண்டையற்றோ, கண்டிசின், நுதலே?

He has not come to see her for long. She is afflicted by love sickness in his absence. Pallor spreads on her face. Noticing that her friend asks how will you manage to hold yourself together in his absence? She says, “I’ll look at his hills and that will sustain me through this period of sepration. See how my faded forehead gains colour on seeing his hills.” Peacocks screaming and monkeys shivering indicate that it is the monsoon season and he will be back soon.

இனம் – group
அகவுதல் – scream (sound of a peacock)
பயில் – செறிந்த – thick
கானம் – forest
நரை – white
ஊகம் – monkey
பார்ப்பு- young one
பனித்தல்- shiver
சாரல் – slope
குன்றம் – hill
பண்டை- (as it was) earlier
கண்டிசின் – you see
நுதல் – forehead

Kurunthokai – 401

In his shores glistening crabs scurry into the sea
afraid of frolicking girls whose damp hair
is adorned with braided flower strings
of fragrant creeper flowers and lilies;
my physical revelry with him, rules out 
further harmless fun, even for a day; strange is this!

அடும்பின் ஆய் மலர் விரைஇ, நெய்தல்
நெடுந் தொடை வேய்ந்த நீர் வார் கூந்தல்
ஓரை மகளிர் அஞ்சி, ஈர் ஞெண்டு
கடலில் பரிக்கும் துறைவனொடு, ஒரு நாள்,
நக்கு விளையாடலும் கடிந்தன்று,
ஐதே கம்ம, மெய் தோய் நட்பே!

She’s been to the beach and made out with him. As her mother notices the change in her, she is locked up at home and further meeting with him is ruled out. She says, “It is surprising that a day’s physical brings about changes in me and rules out chances of even being around with him.” Since she has bathed in the sea her hair is damp and she’s wearing fresh flowers. These make her mother suspicious.

அடும்பு – creeper
ஆய் – beautiful
விரை – fragrant
நெய்தல் – lily
தொடை – braid
ஓரை – frolic
ஈர் – wet
ஞெண்டு – crab
பரி – run
துறை- shore
நகு(தல்) – laugh
கடிதல் – rebuke
ஐது – surprising / strange
மெய் – physical
தோய் – embrace

Kurunthokai – 4

Don’t grieve my heart, don’t grieve my heart;
don’t grieve that our lover who should wipe away
my eyelash singeing tears and cheer me,
is indifferent to my plight.

நோம், என் நெஞ்சே; நோம், என் நெஞ்சே;
இமை தீய்ப்பன்ன கண்ணீர் தாங்கி,
அமைதற்கு அமைந்த நம் காதலர்
அமைவு இலர் ஆகுதல், நோம், என் நெஞ்சே.

He hasn’t come as promised. She chides her heart not to grieve over him. He who should have wiped away her tears that are so hot that they singe her eyelashes and cheered her up is indifferent to her plight. So she asks her heart not to grieve over him.

Two phrases in this poem stand out for me.

இமை தீய்ப்பன்ன கண்ணீர் – eyelash singeing tears. Instead of simply saying ‘hot tears’, when the poet uses ‘ eyelash singeing tears’, the pain comes through more sharply.

The word play of அமைதற்கு அமைந்த நம் காதலர் அமைவு இலர் ஆகுதல் is hard to bring out in English. I have had to settle for prosaic words – “our lover who should cheer is indifferent”.


நோ(வு) – suffer , grieve

தீய்ப்பன்ன – burn like fire

தாங்கி – to stop (the tears)

அமைதல் – to be content

அமைந்த – to happen

அமைவு – support





Kurunthokai – 120

Like a pauper yearning for pleasure,
you wish for the unattainable, my heart!
My girl’s sweet, you realize;
that she’s hard to get, you don’t.

இல்லோன் இன்பம் காமுற்றாஅங்கு,
அரிது வேட்டனையால்-நெஞ்சே!-காதலி
நல்லள் ஆகுதல் அறிந்தாங்கு
அரியள் ஆகுதல் அறியாதோயே.

He’s returning after yet another secret rendezvous with her. He feels the pain of separation badly. He chides his heart to not wish for what is not attainable. He says “Like a pauper yearning for pleasure you yearn for her. You know that she is a pleasant girl. What you don’t know is that she is hard to get.”

இல்லோன் – இல்லாதவன் – pauper
காமுறுதல் – காமம் உறுதல் – desire / wish / yearn
வேட்ட ல் – desire
அரிது – rare / difficult / unattainable
நல்லள் – good / pleasant girl
அரியள் – hard to get girl

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