Old Tamil Poetry

Translations of Tamil Poetic works that span 2000 years

Nattrinai – 359

Her friend’s thought :

As a short horned cow grazing in the slopes
shakes a bunch of flame lilies, pollen is strewn,
startling its calf; the man from those hills
gifted a skirt, made of leaves and flowers;
If she wears it, I fear her mother’s query;
If she returns it, I fear his misery;
Can the skirt, made of rare foliage from his hillside,
where the goddess resides
and even wild goats fear to leap, be left to fade away?

சிலம்பின் மேய்ந்த சிறு கோட்டுச் சேதா
அலங்கு குலைக் காந்தள் தீண்டி, தாது உக,
கன்று தாய் மருளும் குன்ற நாடன்
உடுக்கும் தழை தந்தனனே; யாம் அஃது
உடுப்பின், யாய் அஞ்சுதுமே; கொடுப்பின்,
கேளுடைக் கேடு அஞ்சுதுமே; ஆயிடை
வாடலகொல்லோ தாமே-அவன் மலைப்
போருடை வருடையும் பாயா,
சூருடை அடுக்கத்த கொயற்கு அருந் தழையே?

This is another master piece from Kapilar. This poem is written from the point of view of her friend. He has sent a skirt made of leaves and flowers to her through her friend. The friend gives it to her and thinks “If she wears it, I am afraid that her mom will ask how did you get this, who brought this to you. If she returns it I am afraid of seeing his pain. But this skirt is invaluable, made of rare foliage he has gathered with much difficulty. We can’t let it fade away”. Here the skirt is a metaphor for her love. The friend is saying, “don’t let your love fade away, come and ask for her hand in marriage.”

The other metaphor in this poem are the animals –  Cow, calf and wild goat. Her mother, she and him. Now read the poem again. She is still afraid of her mother. He is an impulsive man, roaming around the hills. But her love is so difficult to attain that even the wild goat can’t reach.

The cow metaphor can also be read as  – When the friend gives her the skirt, she stays quiet. The friend thinks like how a cow covered in pollen looks different and startles its calf, she is covered by shyness and hence is not her normal self, thus startling her friend.

Another reading – seeing her clad in a new skirt, her mother is startled; like how a calf is startled seeing its mother covered in pollen from flowers. In this case the metaphor transposes mother/her to calf/cow.

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