Old Tamil Poetry

Translations of Tamil Poetic works that span 2000 years

Archive for the tag “Thirukkural”

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

Thirukkural – 1151

Her friend to him:

If you aren’t leaving, tell me; your promise of speedy return,
tell that to those who’ll be alive then.

செல்லாமை உண்டேல், எனக்கு உரை; மற்று நின்
வல்வரவு, வாழ்வார்க்கு உரை

After marriage, he plans to go in search of wealth. He can’t tell her that he is leaving. So he tells her friend to pass on the message that he will return quickly. Her friend refuses saying “If you have decided not to leave, tell that to me. I will go and tell her. But if you have decided to leave and want to tell her that you will return quickly, I can’t pass that message to her. Tell that to those who will be alive when you come back. She won’t be alive She will wither away in your absence.”

Thiruvalluvar packs so much into those seven words that it is impossible to bring out all the nuances in translation.

வல் – quickness / speed

Thirukkural – 336

“Yesterday, one was alive; today he is not”
such is the reputation of this world.

‘நெருநல் உளன், ஒருவன்; இன்று இல்லை!’ என்னும்
பெருமை உடைத்து, இவ் உலகு.

This Kural verse talks about the impermanence of life. One who was alive yesterday is no more today. This world is well known for such fickleness.

நெருநல் – Yesterday
பெருமை – reputation

Thirukkural – 1161

I conceal this malady; but it gushes forth,
like spring water to those who draw it up.

மறைப்பேன்மன் யான், இஃதோ, நோயை-இறைப்பவர்க்கு
ஊற்றுநீர் போல மிகும். 

Her friend tells her that revealing her love sickness is not good for her reputation. She  replies, “I do conceal this ailment of passion. But it gushes up like spring water gushing up to those who draw. Spring water never dries up, how much ever one draws. Similarly I can’t hide my love sickness how much ever I try”

Thirukkural – 942

No medicine a body needs – if one eats
after digestion of previous meal.

மருந்து என வேண்டாவாம், யாக்கைக்கு- அருந்தியது,
அற்றது போற்றி உணின்.

If you eat only after sure signs of digestion of previous meal, then there is no need of medicine to take care of one’s body.

யாக்கை – body
அருந்துதல் – to eat
அறுத்தல் – to digest
போற்றுதல் – consider
உண் – eat

Thirukkural – 1258

Aren’t appeasing words of that crafty crook
the force that breaks our feminine reserve?

பன்மாயக் கள்வன் பணிமொழி அன்றோநம்
பெண்மை உடைக்கும் படை.

She decides to be strong when he comes back from long absence. But hearing his gentle words, her reserve breaks down. She wonders aren’t his words the force that breaks my feminine reserve. She calls him a “பன்மாயக் கள்வன்” – literally “many tricked crook”. I have settled on crafty crook which is a poor imitation of the original.

One never stops being astonished at the longevity and continuity of Tamil. All the words in the above Kural are still in use 2000 years later.

Thirukkural – 1121

Like milk mixed with honey is the dew
on this soft spoken girl’s white teeth.

பாலொடு தேன்கலந் தற்றே பணிமொழி
வாலெயி றூறிய நீர்.

Water secreted by this softspoken girl’s teeth is so sweet that it tastes like milk mixed with honey. I have used the word ‘dew’ for water, following Rev. Dr. G.U.Pope’s translation.

பணி – humble
வால் – whiteness
எயிறு – tooth
ஊறுதல் – secretion
நீர் – water

Thirukkural – 601

Lustrous lamp of one’s clan will dim and peter out,
if grime of laziness creeps in.

குடி என்னும் குன்றா விளக்கம், மடி என்னும்
மாசு ஊர, மாய்ந்து கெடும்.

Though one might have been born in a fabled clan, if he becomes lazy the brightness of his clan dignity will dim and peter out.

குன்றா விளக்கம் – is taken as long burning lamp without a wick by Parimel Alagar in his commentary. Devaneya Paavaanar interprets it as ‘light provided by rare gems’. His reasoning is that grime creeping on gem will dim and put out the light. I have gone with Devaneya Paavaanar’s interpretation.

குடி – Clan
மடி – Laziness
மாசு – grime / dust
ஊர்தல் – creep in
மாய்ந்து – dim / become lustreless
கெடும் – extinguished / destroyed

Thirukkural – 733

Even when overburdened, bearing it and paying
taxes due to the ruler – that’s a country.

பொறை ஒருங்கு மேல்வருங்கால் தாங்கி, இறைவற்கு
இறை ஒருங்கு நேர்வது-நாடு.

Even when a country is over burdened (like influx of refugees from neighboring countries) it should have the resilience and resources to bear it and still pay taxes due to the ruler. That is the hall mark of a good country.

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