Friday, May 22, 2009

A poem from Purananuru

யானை புக்க புலம்

காய்நெல் லறுத்துக் களவங் கொளினே
மாநிறை வில்லதும் பன்னாட் காகும்
நூறுசெறு வாயினுந் தமித்துப்புக் குணினே
வாய்புகு வதனினுங் கால்பெரிது கெடுக்கும்
அறிவுடை வேந்த னெறியறிந்து கொளினே
கோடி யாத்து நாடுபெரிது நந்தும்
மெல்லியன் கிழவ னாகி வைகலும்
வரிசை யறியாக் கல்லென் கற்றமொடு
பரிவுதப வெடுக்கும் பிண்ட நச்சின்
யானை புக்க புலம்போலத்
தானு முண்ணா னுலமுங் கெடுமே.

- பிசிராந்தையார்

The field entered by an elephant

"If an elephant take mouthfuls of ripe grain cut for it,
The twentieth part of an acre will yield it food for many days;
But if it enter a hundred fertile fields, with no keeper,
Its foot will trample down much more than its mouth receives.
So if a wise king, who knows the path of right take just his due,
His land will prosper, yielding myriadfold,
But, if the king, not softened by his knowledge, take just what he desires,
Nor heed prescriptions rule, feasting with song and dance,
Amid his court and kindered, and show no love to his subjects;
Like the field that elephant entered,
His kingdom will perish, and he himself will lose his all".

-Translation by Rev. Dr. G.U. Pope

The above verse is an obituary by a friend in the memory of his master, the King. G.U. Pope comments, they were not exactly "words of love." The players there are Ko-Perum-Cholan, Pottiyar and Piciranthaiyar - the noble King and his two intimate friends, who were also poets. All the three, after death were commemorated by stones placed side by side over their urns.

Apart from the discourse on why and how anyone should use valuable resources without waste, the composition also elegantly applies the Tamil fraction 1/20 'ma' [மா] in the 2nd line.