Old Tamil Poetry

Translations of Tamil Poetic works that span 2000 years

Archive for the tag “Thirukkural”

Thirukkural – 1288

Though it causes shameful misery, dear to the reveler is toddy;
You rogue, so is your chest to me!

இளித்தக்க இன்னா செயினும் களித்தார்க்குக் 
கள்ளற்றே கள்வநின் மார்பு.

This couplet is in the chapter ‘Desire for reunion’ – ‘புணர்ச்சி விதும்பல்’. He has been away for long and is now back. She was angry with him for deserting her, but now that he is back all her anger vanishes. She says, “Though toddy makes one behave shamelessly and causes misery, it is still desired by the reveler. Similarly, though I remember the untold misery you have caused me, you rogue, I still desire to embrace your chest”

இளி – shame
இன்னா – misery
களித்தார் – reveler
கள் – toddy
கள்வ – rogue

Thirukkural – 600

Resolute will is one’s real strength; those who lack it
Are just trees, only their form is human.

உரம் ஒருவற்கு உள்ள வெறுக்கை; அஃது இல்லார்
மரம்; மக்கள் ஆதலே வேறு.

 

A person’s real strength is the strength of his spirit. Those who lack that strength ar just like trees. Only difference between trees and them is they are in human form.

உரம் – strength
உள்ள வெறுக்கை – big heart / resolute will

 

Thirukkural – 751

 

To make even the unworthy into men of worth,
Is possible only for wealth and nothing else.

பொருள் அல்லவரைப் பொருளாகச் செய்யும்
பொருள் அல்லது, இல்லை பொருள்.

Even the unworthy& uncouth will be considered as men of worth as long as they are wealthy. Other than wealth there is nothing in this world that can make this happen.

There’s a wordplay in this couplet. பொருள் = Wealth,Thing or Worth. It’s impossible to bring that in translation.

Thirukkural – 1116

 

Unable to tell apart the moon and this girl’s face,
Stars are flustered up in the sky.

மதியும் மடந்தை முகனு மறியா 
பதியிற் கலங்கிய மீன்.

They’re meeting at night. The stars flicker and move. He says the stars are confused between her bright face and the moon , hence are moving about.

மதி – Moon
பதி – place of residence (sky)
கலங்கிய – agitated / flustered
மீன் – விண்மீன் – stars

Thirukkural – 591

 

One who is motivated, is said to have it all; Without it,
whatever else one has, does he have it at all?

உடையர் எனப்படுவது ஊக்கம்; அஃது இல்லார்
உடையது உடையரோ, மற்று?

Motivation is the most important possession one can have. One who has it is said to have it all. People might have obtained wealth and position by inheritance or circumstances. But if they lack the spirit, then it is as good as not possessing any.

Thirukkural – 337

 

Whether they’ll be alive the next moment they don’t know,
Yet they fret over a million things and more.

ஒருபொழுதும் வாழ்வ தறியார் கருதுப
கோடியு மல்ல பல.

People don’t know whether they will be alive for the next moment. Yet they think and worry over a million things and more.

The Tamil verse says கோடி – crore (10 million), I’ve use million for better reading in English.

பொழுது – day. So Parimel Azhagar interprets it as ‘end of the day’. Devaneya Paavaanar interprets it as ‘நொடிப் பொழுது’ – a moment. I have gone with his interpretation.

Thirukkural – 608

 

If laziness takes residence in a noble clan,
It will enslave them to their foes.

மடிமை குடிமைக்கண் தங்கின், தன் ஒன்னார்க்கு
அடிமை புகுத்திவிடும்.

If a ruler born in a noble clan lets laziness enter, he will lose control and become a slave to his enemies.

மடிமை – laziness
குடிமை – clan
ஒனானார் – those against / enemies
அடிமை – slave

Thirukkural – 1206

 

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

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

He has been away a long time.Her friend asks her to forget him and the affair. She replies, “How can I forget? The only way I’m alive is by remembering those days of bliss when we were in embrace. What else keeps me alive?”

Thirukkural – 68

To have their children wiser than themselves,

is pleasurable for everyone in this world.

தம்மின், தம் மக்கள் அறிவுடைமை மா நிலத்து
மன் உயிர்க்கு எல்லாம் இனிது.

When a child is wiser than its parents, it is pleasing not only to parents but to the whole world.

I have gone with Devaneya Paavaanar’s commentary. Parimel Azhagar interprets it as “Wisdom of children is pleasurable to the world, more than what it is to parents”

தம்மில் – more than themselves
தம் மக்கள் – their children
மா நிலம் – world
மன் உயிர் – humans

#ChildrensDay

Thirukkural – 997

Though their intellect is sharp like a file*, just like a tree are they,
those who lack virtue and grace.

*file – filing tool

அரம்போலும் கூர்மைய ரேனும் மரம்போல்வர்
மக்கட்பண்பு இல்லா தவர்.

Some people might be highly knowledgeable in their area of expertise. Their wit might be sharp like a file (tool). However if they lack characteristics (virtue / courtesy) that differentiate humans from other beings, they are dumb, just like a tree. Their sharpness is of no use.

மக்கட் பண்பு – நன் மக்கள் + பண்பு – characteristics of good human beings. I have taken some liberty to translate it as virtue and grace. Dr. G.U. Pope translated it as ‘humane courtesy’. Intellect is not explicit in original couplet. Literally it reads ‘Though they are sharp like a file’

அரம் – file (tool)
கூர்மை – sharp
மக்கட் மக்கட் பண்பு – நன் மக்கள் + பண்பு – characteristics of good human beings

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