Old Tamil Poetry

Translations of Tamil Poetic works that span 2000 years

Archive for the tag “Thirukkural”

Thirukkural – 1049

It’s even possible to sleep inside fire; but impossible
any which way to close eyes and sleep in poverty.

நெருப்பினுள் துஞ்சலும் ஆகும்; நிரப்பினுள்
யாது ஒன்றும் கண்பாடு அரிது.

It might even be possible for a person to sleep inside a fire, but it is impossible to sleep peacefully when one is destitute.

துஞ்சல் – sleep
நிரப்பு – poverty
கண் பாடு – close eyes and sleep
அரிது – difficult

Thirukkural – 389

King who tolerates words bitter to his ears,
under his protection does the world abide.

செவிகைப்பச் சொற்பொறுக்கும் பண்புடை வேந்தன்
கவிகைக்கீழ்த் தங்கு முலகு.

When a ruler deviates from justice, his ministers have to advice him and point out his mistakes. If a ruler can tolerate those bitter words and listen to them, then the world will abide by his rule.

A ruler who wants to rule the world should be open to hear harsh words from his advisors. The word கவிகை mean Umbrella / parasol. It was a symbol of royalty. Since this is not so common in English speaking world, I have used protection.

கைத்தல் – bitter
கவிகை – umbrella / parasol / protection

Thirukkural – 1307

There’s a distress in lover’s tiff too – when mind worries
whether love-making will be delayed or not.

ஊடலின் உண்டாங்கோர் துன்பம் புணர்வது
நீடுவ தன்று கொல் என்று.

They are meeting after a long separation. She feigns a tiff with him, to make him wait more. But the tiff comes with its own distress, as her mind worries whether they will start making love soon or will it be delayed further because of the tiff. Implied meaning is feigned tiff shouldn’t extend too much and delay the conjugal union.

Dr. Mu Varadarasan and others take ‘நீடுவது’ as ‘love-making time will be extended’ and interpret the Kural as “Whether love-making time will extend or be cut short because of the tiff”. Devaneya Paavaanar takes it as ‘time to start making love will be lengthened (delayed)’ and interprets the Kural as “Whether love-making will be delayed because of the tiff or start soon”. I have gone with Devaneya Paavaanar’s interpretation.

ஊடல் – lover’s tiff / quarrel / pouting
ஆங்கோர் – ஆங்கு + ஓர் – there (is) a
புணர்வது – making love
நீடுவது – extend
அன்று – not

Thirukkural – 664

It’s easy for any one to declare;
harder to do as declared.

சொல்லுதல் யார்க்கும் எளிய அரியவாம் 
சொல்லிய வண்ணம் செயல்.

It is easy for any one to declare “This is how I am going to do this job”. But much harder for him to do as he claimed he would do.

எளிய – easy
அரிய – difficult / hard

Thirukkural – 882

Fear not sword like overt foes,
fear friendship of kinsmen-like foes. 

வாள்போல் பகைவரை அஞ்சற்க வஞ்சுக
கேள்போல் பகைவர் தொடர்பு

One can protect oneself from visible sword like known enemies, so he need not fear them much. But one has to fear enemies who pretend to be kin yet harbor enmity in their hearts. He has to be more careful with them than open foes.

The original verse does not explicitly state ‘overt’. I have added it in translation for better readability.

வாள் – Sword
கேள் – Relatives

Thirukkural – 1103

Sleep in the soft arms of the girl one falls in love with –
is lotus-eyed lord’s heaven blissful than that?

தாம்வீழ்வார் மென்தோள் துயிலின் இனிதுகொல் 
தாமரைக் கண்ணான் உலகு

This Kural is under the chapter புணர்ச்சி மகிழ்தல் – to delight in copulation (Some English commentators title it as ‘Rejoicing in embrace’, out of prudishness). When his friend advises him to not give in to carnal pleasure, he says “The nap I take in the soft arms of the girl I have fallen for, is so blissful that even lotus-eyed lord’s (Thirumal) abode can’t be compared to it”.

தாம் வீழ்வார் – literally ‘whom one falls to’. I have translated it as ‘whom one falls in love with’.

Based on the preceding Kurals, this Kural can be taken as praising the bliss of post coital nap.

வீழ் – fall down (yield)
துயில் – sleep
தாமரைக் கண்ணான் –  Lotus-eyed lord (Thirumal)
உலகு – world (where the lotus -eyed lord lives)

Thirukkural – 114

Was one fair or unfair will be known
by the legacy one leaves behind.

தக்கார் தகவு இலர் என்பது அவர் அவர்
எச்சத்தால் காணப்படும்.

This Kural is under the chapter நடுவுநிலைமை – Impartiality / Neutrality. In this couplet Valluvar says whether one has been fair or unfair will be known by what he leaves behind. The word எச்சம் means ‘remainder / balance’.

Parimel Alagar and Devaneya Paavaanar interpret it as ‘progeny / children’ and read the Kural as “whether one was fair or unfair will be known by the qualities of his children”. Dr. Mu.Va. on the other hand interprets it as fame or infamy. In that case the Kural will be read as “whether one was fair or unfair will be known by his fame or infamy after his death”

I couldn’t decide either way and felt as if Valluvar was laughing at us across 2 milleniums with his ambiguous choice of words. I settled on legacy which can be read either way, as ambiguous as the original.

தக்கார் தகவில ரென்ப தவரவ
ரெச்சத்தாற் காணப் படும்.

தக்கார் – தகுதி மிக்கவர் – qualified / just person
தகவு – Quality
இலர் – இல்லாதவர் – without
எச்சம் – Balace / remainder / left over

Thirukkural – 772

It’s more laudable to carry a spear that missed a tusker,
than an arrow that shot a rabbit.

கான முயல் எய்த அம்பினில், யானை
பிழைத்த வேல் ஏந்தல் இனிது.

To try something big and fail is more laudable than middling success.

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

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

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