Old Tamil Poetry

Translations of Tamil Poetic works that span 2000 years

Kaliththokai – 37

You, of lined eyes like blue lily in a pond! listen: A man,
with a great bow tied to his shoulder, came here
as if tracking foot marks of a mighty elephant;
looked at me, showed his face, but went away
without expressing his love, for many a day;
I lost sleep, cried and was afflicted
with sorrow on his behalf; he’s meek,
won’t look into my eyes and speak;
I’m a girl, how can I speak out; Afraid
that this might not go beyond mere gazing,
as my shoulders wasted away, I gathered my courage
and did a shameless thing one day: My friend!
I waited on the swing next to the millet field
where we chase away parrots, and when he came,
asked him, “Sir, push my swing a little”;
saying “fine, girl!” he pushed the swing;
pretending to lose my grip, I fell on his chest;
Thinking it was real, he rushed to hold me tight;
I lay still as if I had fainted;
If only I had opened my eyes to rise,
he would’ve moved away from me in a trice,
saying “comely lass, go home”,
for such a gentleman is he.

கய மலர் உண்கண்ணாய்! காணாய்: ஒருவன்
வய மான் அடித் தேர்வான் போல, தொடை மாண்ட
கண்ணியன் வில்லன், வரும்; என்னை நோக்குபு,
முன்னத்தின் காட்டுதல் அல்லது, தான் உற்ற
நோய் உரைக்கல்லான் பெயரும்மன், பல் நாளும்;
பாயல் பெறேஎன், படர் கூர்ந்து, அவன்வயின்
சேயேன்மன் யானும் துயர் உழப்பேன்; ஆயிடைக்
கண் நின்று கூறுதல் ஆற்றான், அவனாயின்;
பெண் அன்று, உரைத்தல், நமக்காயின்; ‘இன்னதூஉம்
காணான் கழிதலும் உண்டு’ என்று, ஒரு நாள், என்
தோள் நெகிழ்பு உற்ற துயரால் துணிதந்து, ஓர்
நாண் இன்மை செய்தேன்: நறுநுதால்! ஏனல்
இனக் கிளி யாம் கடிந்து ஓம்பும் புனத்து அயல்,
ஊசல் ஊர்ந்து ஆட, ஒரு ஞான்று வந்தானை,
‘ஐய! சிறிது என்னை ஊக்கி’ எனக் கூற,
‘தையால்! நன்று! என்று அவன் ஊக்க, கை நெகிழ்பு
பொய்யாக வீழ்ந்தேன், அவன் மார்பின்; வாயாச் செத்து,
ஒய்யென ஆங்கே எடுத்தனன் கொண்டான்; மேல்
மெய் அறியாதேன் போல் கிடந்தேன்மன்; ஆயிடை
மெய் அறிந்து ஏற்று எழுவேனாயின், மற்று ஒய்யென,
‘ஒண்குழாய்! செல்க’ எனக் கூறி விடும் பண்பின்
அங்கண் உடையன் அவன்

Kaliththokai Poem no.37. Written by Poet Kapilar. This is a remarkable poem, capturing a romantic interlude in life. The girl belongs to the farming community. The man is  a hunter who comes often pretending to track wild game, but the real reason is to see her. She too knows that he has fallen in love with her. But he doesn’t have the courage to make the first move. She realizes that he will never speak out. So she takes things into her hands and one day asks him to push her swing. As he pushes, she pretends to have lost her grip and falls on his chest. He thinks it is real and holds her tight. She doesn’t want to leave his hug, so she acts as if she has fainted. While narrating this to her friend, she is quick to absolve him of any blame. She says if only I had opened my eyes and tried to rise, he immediately would have moved away from me. He is such a gentleman.

Kapilar is a remarkable poet. Out of the 2381 Sangam poems available today, he has written 235, that is almost 10% of the extant poems. Most of his poems are in Kurinchi Thinai (குறிஞ்சித் திணை) – the mountainous landscape. The leitmotif of this landscape is making love.

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