Old Tamil Poetry

Translations of Tamil Poetic works that span 2000 years

Archive for the tag “Velliveethiyaar”

Kurunthokai – 58

Friends who chide! If I were to stop,
as you advice, it’ll be good for me;
Like butter on a sun burned hot rock,
guarded with eyes by an armless mute,
melting freely, spreads this malady;
it’s hard to bear and uproot!

இடிக்கும் கேளிர்! நும் குறை ஆக
நிறுக்கல் ஆற்றினோ நன்று மன் தில்ல;
ஞாயிறு காயும் வெவ் அறை மருங்கில்
கை இல் ஊமன் கண்ணின் காக்கும்
வெண்ணெய் உணங்கல் போலப்
பரந்தன்று, இந் நோய்; நோன்று கொளற்கு அரிதே!

This is one of my favorite poems in Kurunthokai. His friend chides him to stop pining for her. He says, “I too want to stop pining. If I can do that as you advice, it will be good for me. However I am powerless to stop this love sickness. It spreads across my body like butter on a hot rock guarded by an armless mute. It is hard to bear, and I am powerless to put an end to it”.

The simile “butter on a hot rock, guarded by an armless mute with his eyes” elevates this poem. The armless mute person tries to guard the butter with his eyes. But it melts freely on the hot rock. He can’t call on anyone to come and stop it nor can he stop it himself. He can only watch helplessly as the butter melts. So is the condition of our hero. He watches helplessly as love sickness takes over his life. He is powerless to stop it himself nor can he ask for help from others. It consumes him fully. Even if he wishes to, he can’t uproot it.

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.

Kurunthokai – 27

Like a fine cow’s sweet milk spilt on ground
neither sating its calf
nor milked in a pot,
my pale pudenda and dusky beauty
neither useful to me
nor satisfying my lord,
are left for love sickness to devour.

கன்றும் உண்ணாது, கலத்தினும் படாது,
நல் ஆன் தீம் பால் நிலத்து உக்காஅங்கு,
எனக்கும் ஆகாது, என்னைக்கும் உதவாது,
பசலை உணீஇயர் வேண்டும்-
திதலை அல்குல் என் மாமைக் கவினே

This is a well known poem in Kurunthokai. Written by Velli Veethiyaar, one of the few women poets in Sangam literature, this talks about a girl pining for her lover. They have separated and he has gone away (some commentators say she is widowed). She cannot forget him and because of that her beauty is losing its sheen. She equates that to a cow’s milk that is not drunk by its calf nor collected in a pot, spilling on the ground and going waste. An arresting simile.

Many translations and commentaries skip the word அல்குல் – pudenda. Based on context it either means pudenda or hip. In this poem it is clear that it is pudenda. I too thought of using an euphemism or skipping it altogether, but finally decided to stick to the original.

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