Old Tamil Poetry

Translations of Tamil Poetic works that span 2000 years

Archive for the month “August, 2016”

Thinaimozhi 50 – 25

Her friend says:

As pregnant dark clouds mix with air and rise,
sweating male deer leaps up in joy with its doe;
My fine bosomed friend! – our lover will arrive
now, the weather assures us so.

தோழி கூற்று:

கரு இயல் கார் மழை கால் கலந்து ஏந்த,
உருகு மட மான் பிணையோடு உகளும்;-
உருவ முலையாய்!-நம் காதலர் இன்னே
வருவர்; வலிக்கும் பொழுது.

He has gone to earn money. He promised to her that he will come back by monsoon. He hasn’t come back and she is starting to panic. Her friend assuages her saying, “Look at the dark clouds pregnant with water. It is about to rain. As the temparature cools down, the deer which was sweating in the heat leaps up joyously with its partner. Your lover too will come back now and make you joyous like those deers. The rain clouds assure us about that.”

“Clouds pregnant with water” stands for the monsoon bringing good news. ”உருகு மடமான்” – male deer that was melting(in the heat).

பிணை – female deer / doe

உகளல் – jump

வலித்தல் – tells / assures

SiruPanchaMoolam – 19

The learned men are like gods; the unlearned
are but devils; foolish is one who hasn’t earned
when young; one who says “we were youthful
and worry free then” is a two legged bull.

தேவரே கற்றவர் கல்லாதார் தேருங்காற்
பூதரே முன்பொருள் செய்யாதா-ராதரே
துன்ப மிலேம்பண் டியாமே வனப்புடையே
மென்பா ரிருகா லெருது.

This is from the “Siru Pancha moolam”, a treatise of post Sangam era. Written by “Kaari Aasaan”, it is a collection of 100 poems advising people on how to live. Based on the advisory nature of the poems, the poet is thought to be a Jain. So that dates this book between 200 CE to 600 CE, when Tamil Nadu was predominantly Buddhist and Jain.

The learned men are to be treated like Gods. If you look closely, the unlearned men are like devils. One who hasn’t earned when he is young is a fool. One who in his old age laments that we were youthful and worry free earlier is nothing but a two legged bull who has wasted his youth.

Kurunthokai – 41

My friend ! When my lover is by my side,
I rejoice like the people of a festive town;
I lose my sparkle and languish,
like an empty house deserted by people –
where squirrels scamper  in the courtyard –
in that quaint town, when he moves away.

காதலர் உழையர் ஆகப் பெரிது உவந்து,
சாறு கொள் ஊரின் புகல்வேன் மன்ற;
அத்தம் நண்ணிய அம் குடிச் சீறூர்
மக்கள் போகிய அணில் ஆடு முன்றில்
புலப்பில் போலப் புல்லென்று
அலப்பென்-தோழி!-அவர் அகன்ற ஞான்றே.

When he is with her, she is joyful and soaks in the pleasure, like people of a festive town. But once he moves away, she feels all alone. The simile used by the poet is that of a deserted house in that town abandoned by people. The house is so deserted that the squirrels which hide in the roof come out to the court yard and play around. There is not a soul in sight. Complete emptiness. That is what she feels when he moves away from her.

Though she is surrounded by her friends and family, all of them don’t exist for her. He is the only person who matters in her life. Without him she feels like an empty house. The metaphor “அணில் ஆடும் முன்றில்” – “courtyard where squirrel scampers” signifies the emptiness in her life. The squirrel is nothing but her thoughts of him. They merrily skitter about in the loneliness she feels.

Nattrinai – 133

She says to her friend (who pacifies her saying that her lover will come back soon):

My dear friend! your kind words –
that he won’t let me suffer
the town women’s slander
“look at this dusky girl
with braided dark hair,
sporting  beauty spots
along with chains on her waist;
her arms have thinned so much
that her bangles slip out,
her eyes have lost
their cut tender mango shape,
her forehead too has started to pale”
– like a frond of cool water sprinkled
on hot coals by a black smith,
soothe my love sick heart a little.

“தோளே தொடி கொட்பு ஆனா; கண்ணே
வாள் ஈர் வடியின் வடிவு இழந்தனவே;
நுதலும் பசலை பாயின்று-திதலைச்
சில் பொறி அணிந்த பல் காழ் அல்குல்
மணி ஏர் ஐம்பால் மாயோட்கு” என்று,
வெவ் வாய்ப் பெண்டிர் கவ்வை தூற்ற,
நாம் உறு துயரம் செய்யலர் என்னும்-
காமுறு தோழி!-காதல்அம் கிளவி,
இரும்பு செய் கொல்லன் வெவ் உலைத் தெளித்த
தோய் மடற் சில் நீர் போல,
நோய் மலி நெஞ்சிற்கு ஏமம் ஆம் சிறிதே.

He has gone to earn money. He hasn’t come back as promised and she is beginning to suffer. Her arms have thinned out, her eyes have started drooping and pallor spreads in her forehead. Her friend is alarmed and tries to pacify her saying “Don’t worry, he will be back soon. He won’t let the town women gossip about you”. She tells her friend “I am sure he will come back. Yet my heart suffers. Your kind words soothe me and  provide me temporary relief, like cool water sprinkled on hot coals by a black smith”

She doesn’t want to blame him for her predicament. At the same time she needs the reassurance of her friend. Her heart, suffering from love, is in a state of turmoil. Her friend’s kind words provide temporary relief from that pain.

Cut mango shape for eyes is an interesting simile

cut mango

pic courtesy:

https://anubalakitchen.wordpress.com

Thirukkural – 1186

Like darkness that lies in wait for lights to cease,
pallor lies in wait for my lover’s hug to ease.

விளக்கு அற்றம் பார்க்கும் இருளேபோல், கொண்கன்
முயக்கு அற்றம் பார்க்கும், பசப்பு.

Her friend asks her the reason for her pallor. She replies, “just like the darkness that waits to engulf once the lights are put out, this pallor lies in waiting to pounce upon me once his embrace eases off me. He has been away for long and I am losing my color because I miss his embrace.” Women suffering from pallor (பசலை, paleness) when separated from their lovers is a repeated motif in Old Tamil literature.

Silappathikaaram – Kanal Vari – 17

Your elders live by entering the ocean and killing life;
you too live by entering a human body and killing my life;
heavy are your breasts, pushing against their confines;
let them rest against me, lest you lose your slender waist.

கடல் புக்கு, உயிர் கொன்று, வாழ்வர் நின் ஐயர்;
உடல் புக்கு, உயிர் கொன்று, வாழ்வைமன் நீயும்;
மிடல் புக்கு அடங்காத வெம் முலையோ பாரம்;
இடர் புக்கு இடுகும் இடை இழவல் கண்டாய்!

This poem is from SilapPathikaram, the earliest and greatest epic in Tamil literature. The epic is dated to 2nd Century CE.  It describes the Tamil society of that era in detail.

This poem is sung by the protagonist, Kovalan when he visits the beach with the courtesan Madhavi. He sings of an imaginary fisherwoman. Madhavi is piqued and in return she sings about River Kaveri as a woman pining for her lord. This creates a rift between Kovalan and Madhavi and leads to their separation.

“You are from the fishing community. Your father and your brothers enter the ocean to kill fish and live by that. Similarly you have entered a human form and kill my life and live by that. Your breasts are heavy and struggle to be contained in their confines. So don’t lose your slender waist unable to carry the burden of your breasts. Rest them against me”

Rest them against me is implied and not explicit in the original. I have included it in the translation for better comprehension.

Thirikadugam – 24

Sweet words of an attractive lissome courtesan,
toad that’s baited in the hook, excessive civility
of hardened enemies – these three
are like quicksand that sucks in.

காண் தகு மென் தோள் கணிகை வாய் இன் சொல்லும்,
தூண்டிலினுள் பொதிந்த தேரையும், மாண்ட சீர்,
காழ்த்த பகைவர் வணக்கமும்,-இம் மூன்றும்
ஆழ்ச்சிப் படுக்கும், அளறு.

This poem from Thirikadugam talks about things to be careful of. Courtesan’s words, baited toad, civility of enemies – these three look good but have dangers hidden in them. If one accepts them at face value, they will suck in like quicksand and take one’s life.

அளறு – hell / quagmire. The commentary by Punnaivana Natha mudhaliar takes it as hell. The previous phrase ஆழ்ச்சிப் படுக்கும் means to sink into. Considering the examples in the poem, I have taken it as sinking into quicksand instead of sinking into hell.

Kurunthokai – 149

Poor modesty! it has suffered
along with us for long; but now,
like the sandy embankment of flowering cane
destroyed by floods smashing against it,
after bearing as much as it can
it has deserted me as passion smashes against it.

அளிதோ தானே-நாணே நம்மொடு
நனி நீடு உழந்தன்று மன்னே; இனியே,
வான் பூங் கரும்பின் ஓங்கு மணற் சிறு சிறை
தீம் புனல் நெரிதர வீந்து உக்காஅங்கு,
தாங்கும் அளவைத் தாங்கி,
காமம் நெரிதரக் கைந் நில்லாதே.

This is a poem in Kurunthokai by Velliveethiyaar, a female poet. Heroine’s friend asks her to elope with the hero. She is hesitant, but decides to elope. She tells her friend that the modesty  that has suffered along with her for so long has now left her as it couldn’t compete against the force of love. Similar to the sandy embankment that holds flowering sugar cane being swept away as fresh floods dash against it. So she pities modesty that has been her companion for long but which she has decided to discard now.

The tone of the poem brings out the narrator’s ambivalence. Modesty and passion have been tormenting her equally. Now she has decided to give up modesty. But is it the correct decision? Should she have stayed back with modesty?

Flowering sugar cane is her youth. Sandy embankment is the modesty that  held her back. Flood is the passion that erodes modesty and sweeps her away.

Thirukkural – 1302

Like needed amount of salt, is lover’s tiff; like a bit
more than needed, is prolonging it.

உப்பு அமைந்தற்றால், புலவி; அது சிறிது
மிக்கற்றால், நீள விடல்.

Mock anger with one’s lover while making love is like salt added to food. It should be of the right quantity (duration) to spice up the experience. However, if one extends the duration of sulking, then it spoils the  love making mood just like how excess salt spoils the food.

Paraphrasing the about couplet

Lover’s tiff is like salt to food;
excess of it is not good.

 

Post Navigation