Old Tamil Poetry

Translations of Tamil Poetic works that span 2000 years

Archive for the tag “Thirukkural”

Thirukkural – 235

Fame that grows as mortal body weakens, and endures after death,
is hard for anyone other than the masterly.

நத்தம்போல் கேடும், உளதாகும் சாக்காடும்,
வித்தகர்க்கு அல்லால் அரிது.

As one’s days pass by the mortal body weakens. For those who are proficient and skillful, fame grows at the same time as their mortal body weakens. Their fame achieves its zenith on their death and endures after that. Such achievement is not easy for any one other than those who are masters in their field.

Fame and mortal body are implied in the original, not mentioned explicitly.

நத்தம் – நந்து + அம் – growth / increase
கேடு – diminish / weakens
உளதாகும் – உளது ஆகும் – established / endures
சாக்காடு – death
வித்தகர் – adept / skillful / proficient
அரிது – hard / difficult

Thirukkural – 781

What else is harder to make than friendship? If made,
What else is better than it to guard the work we do?

செயற்கு அரிய யா உள, நட்பின்?-அதுபோல்
வினைக்கு அரிய யா உள, காப்பு?

A good friend is the hardest thing to acquire in this world. But once we have acquired a good friend, there is no one better to protect our work from foes. So work hard in getting good friends. They will take care of you.

செயற்கரிய – செய்தலுக்கு + அரிய – hard to make
யா – யாது – what
உள – உள்ளது – there
நட்பின் – than friendship
வினை – task / duty
காப்பு – protection

Thirukkural – 1041

What’s more miserable than poverty, if you ask,
poverty alone is more miserable than poverty.

‘இன்மையின் இன்னாதது யாது?’ எனின், இன்மையின்
இன்மையே இன்னாதது.

There is nothing more miserable than poverty. If you ask what is more miserable, then the answer is only poverty is more miserable than poverty.

Tamil classical poetry follows strict rules of meter. Hence words are joined together to adhere to the rules. To understand the verse, one has to split them and understand it. For example the unsplit versionof the above verse is

இன்மையி னின்னாத தியாதெனி னின்மையின்
இன்மையே யின்னா தது.

As you can see it has four words in the first line and three in the second line, the way you were taught in school. After a lot of thought, I stick to split version of the verse, to make it easy for regular Tamil readers to understand. It is a compromise, it makes the verse lose its cadence; yes, but I don’t want to scare people off immediately.

இன்மையின் – than poverty
இன்னாதது – miserable
இன்மையே – only poverty / poverty alone

Thirukkural – 1257

She tells her friend:

We know nothing called as shame – when, overcome by passion,
our lover does all that we longed for.

நாண் என ஒன்றோ அறியலம்-காமத்தான்,
பேணியார் பெட்ப செயின்.

This couplet is under the chapter நிறை அழிதல் – Losing reserve.

She was angry with him for going away leaving her alone. She had promised herself that she would make him pay for it when he comes back. But when he comes back she gives into him. Her friend asks her “why didn’t you fight with him as you said you would?”

She replies “When he came back and did all that I longed for (in his absence) due to unbridled passion, I wantonly gave in. I didn’t know that quality called shame when he fulfilled my desires”

நாண் – shame
ஒன்றோ – anything
அறியலம் – அறிய மாட்டோம் – we don’t know
காமத்தான் – due to lust / passion
பேணியார் – one who loves us
பெட்பு – wish
செயின் – செய்தால் – if he does

Thirukkural – 276

Those who haven’t renounced genuinely, but deceive as if they have –
there’s none more evil than them.

நெஞ்சின் துறவார், துறந்தார்போல் வஞ்சித்து,
வாழ்வாரின் வன்கணார் இல்.

There are some God men who haven’t really renounced material life from their heart. They only deceive people and act as if they have renounced everything. There is nobody more evil that such people, for they betray the trust of general public who revere them.

நெஞ்சின் – heartfelt / genuine
துறவார் – haven’t renounced / aren’t ascetic
துறந்தார் – has renounced
வஞ்சித்து – deceive
வன்கண் – evil

Thirukkural – 1071

The despicable appear like any other human, they do;
We haven’t seen such similarity as between these two.

மக்களே போல்வர், கயவர்; அவர் அன்ன
ஒப்பாரி யாம் கண்டது இல்.

Despicable people look just like any other humans externally. There is nothing that differentiates them in physical appearance. It is so remarkable that no where else have we found such similarity between two different beings.

கயவர் – despicable person
ஒப்பார் – equivalence / similarity


Thirukkural – 995

Mockery hurts, even if done in jest; considerate people
behave courteously. even to their foes.

நகையுள்ளும் இன்னாது, இகழ்ச்சி; பகையுள்ளும்
பண்பு உள, பாடு அறிவார் மாட்டு.

Mocking a person hurts them, even if it is done in jest. So those who are considerate of other people behave courteously even to their foes.

நகை – laughter / joke
இன்னாது – grief
இகழ்ச்சி – mockery
பகை – enemy / foe
பாடு அறிவார் – those who know the right way (considerate)

Thirukkural – 64

Far sweeter than ambrosia is the porridge that is  
messed up by tender fingers of one’s own kids.

அமிழ்தினும் ஆற்ற இனிதே-தம் மக்கள்
சிறு கை அளாவிய கூழ்.

Food in which kids have put their tender fingers in and played with, is far more sweeter for their parents than even the food of Gods. That is because becoming a parent is considered a boon. This couplet is in the chapter ‘(Boon of) having children’ (புதல்வரைப் பெறுதல்)

அமிழ்து – ambrosia / food of Gods
மக்கள் – children
அளாவுதல் – mix up / play with
கூழ்  – porridge

Thirukkural – 878

Know what’s to be done. prepare and guard yourself,;
thus will the foe’s arrogance be felled.

வகையறிந்து தற்செய்து தற்காப்ப மாயும் 
பகைவர்கட் பட்ட செருக்கு.

When fighting an enemy, analyse the situation and understand what needs to be done. Do it and protect yourself. If you do so, the arrogance of the enemy will be felled.

தற்செய்து – தன் + செய்து – do / prepare self
மாய்தல் – killed / brought down
செருக்கு – pride / arrogance

Thirukkural – 1048

Will it come today too, like it did yesterday,
poverty that sucked my life away!

இன்றும் வருவது கொல்லோ-நெருநலும்
கொன்றது போலும் நிரப்பு!

For கொன்றது – I have used ‘sucked my life away ‘ instead of literal meaning ‘killed’

கொல் – An affix implying doubt ( Will it)
நெருநல் – Yesterday
நிரப்பு – Poverty

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