Old Tamil Poetry

Translations of Tamil Poetic works that span 2000 years

Archive for the tag “Thirukkural”

Thirukkural – 1273

Like the thread that gleams through gems strung,
something gleams in this girl’s beauty, unsung.

மணியுள் திகழ்தரும் நூல்போல், மடந்தை
அணியுள் திகழ்வது ஒன்று உண்டு.

The thread through which the gems are strung is not directly visible to the eye, but it shines through the light of the gems. Similarly there is something that radiates through this girls beauty (which cannot be explained).

‘Unsung’ is not explicit in the original Kural. I have made it explicit in the translation.

Devaneya Paavaanar interprets அணி – post coital glow. That adds an extra layer to the Kural.

மணி – gem / necklace of gems strung together
திகழ் – shine / glimmer
மடந்தை – girl
அணி – beauty
ஒன்று உண்டு  – Something there

Thirukkural – 1274

Like fragrance inside an yet to blossom bud,
There’s a hint in this girl’s budding smile.

முகைமொக்குள் உள்ளது நாற்றம்போல் பேதை
நகைமொக்குள் உள்ளதொன் றுண்டு.

This couplet is under the chapter குறிப்பு அறிவுறுத்தல் – Reading the signs. She is half smiling at him, keeping him on tenterhooks. He says it is like fragrance hidden inside a bud. When the bud blossoms, it will spread its fragrance. But one has to wait till then. Similarly, her half smile hints of her love, but he has to wait till she confirms it.

முகை & மொக்கு – both mean bud. Hence I have used ‘yet to blossom bud’. Could have used ‘unblossomed’, but that didn’t sound good to my ears.

முகை – bud
மொக்கு – bud
நாற்றம் – fragrance / scent
நகை – smile
உள்ளதொன்றுண்டு – உள்ளது ஒன்று உண்டு – there’s  something in it – a hint

Thirukkural – 1082

This stunning looker looking back at my ogling gaze
is like a mighty war goddess bringing an army too.

நோக்கினாள் நோக்கெதிர் நோக்குதல் தாக்கணங்கு
தானைக்கொண் டன்ன துடைத்து.

In the previous couplet, he first sees her and is perplexed whether she is a celestial or a splendid peacock or a human. She looks back at him. Now he is sure that she is a human being. He says, “Her beauty alone is enough to knock me out. On top of that she returns my stare and looks back at me. It is like a mighty war goddess who can win a victory on her own, bringing additional armies too to battle”. Her beauty is equated to war goddess and her looking back is equated to additional armies. Ogling is implied in the original verse, not explicit.

நோக்கினாள் – நோக்குமாறு வனப்பாய் இருப்பவள் – Beautiful / looker
நோக்கெதிர் – நோக்கு எதிர் – opposite (to my) gaze
நோக்குதல் – looking
தாக்கணங்கு – தாக்கும் அணங்கு -mighty war goddess
தானை – army
கொண்டன்னது – like bringing

நோக்கினாள் is interpreted by some commentators as ‘one whom I saw’ – என்னால் நோக்கப்பட்டவள். In that case the first line will read as “This girl whom I saw looking back at my ogling gaze..”

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

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