Old Tamil Poetry

Translations of Tamil Poetic works that span 2000 years

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.

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