India is a multi-lingual country and each language has its great literature, both ancient and modern. It is however not given to everybody to read and enjoy the beauties of other Indian languages, excepting his own. There is in fact an utter lack of interest in most of us to know writings in other languages. The Editors have genuinely felt this indifference and would like to create an interest in the readers to take to such studies. We also intend to bridge the gap by providing sincere and reliable translations. Kurinji in Tamil is the name of a rare flower that blooms but once in twelve years. Kurinji is also the back- ground for the great love poems of ancient Tamils. There is an unusual blending of directness with symbolism in the early Tamil poems and the young have to meet only in Kurinji, the hills and the hilly region. Thus, Kurinji, in a broader sense also denotes, the meeting place.
It is our earnest desire that Kurinji Quarterly will be the meeting place of all lovers of literature.
Fittingly, the first in the series is a translation of Kurinci-p-Pattu, a Tamil idyll, written by Kapila nearly two millenniums ago. This remarkable poem, fresh with the dew of the dawn of Tamil literature, was rendered into English by Mr. P. N. Appuswami and appeared in nearly thirty years ago. The poem and the translation so greatly impressed the late Rt. Hon. V. S. Srinivasa Sastri, that he said, “To be unable to enjoy it to be kept out of a great heritage.”
The Editors sincerely hope to make the best of our heritage available to the readers in English.
Over two thousand years ago, the Tamils possessed a large body of poetry remarkable for its beauty, range, and large body of poetry remarkable for its beauty, range, and variety. Their poets sang of war and love, of kings and birds, of heroes and maidens, of truth and honour, and all the noble virtues. Of religion too they sang, but as far as could be judged from the anthologies, it was not the dominant note which it became in later ages.
Selections were made out of this poetic literature; and nine anthologies, of verse were compiled nearly eighteen centuries ago, perhaps, eight of these anthologies were of short poems and the ninth PATTU-P-PATTU (The Ten Idylls) consisted of ten long poems.
The piece of which a rendering is given here is the eight poem in this anthology, and it is two hundred and sixty one lines long in the original. It is called KURINCI-P-PATTU, and its author is the reputed kapila, friend and con panion of Pari the Unique.
The language of the poem is archaic, and the social scene it depicts is different from ours, yet its sentiments are extra-ordinarily fresh and modern.
This rendering was done over thirty years ago. The translator enjoyed the poem, and wished to communicate, to the extent possible by him, the joy so felt. The background of the poem, the scenes described therein, the behaviour, attitudes, and modes of thought of the characters involved, are very different from those current today. The language of the poem is archaic, different as much from modern Tamil as Chaucer differs from modern English, not as much as Beowulf though several centuries earlier. So, the rendering is not a translation, nor yet a paraphrase, but somewhere in between. The antiqueness has been sought to be conveyed by words like ‘thee’, and ‘thou’ and their corresponding. Verbs, and by the use of some words which are not altogether current coin. The emphasis and stresses in the poem are sought to be communicated by poetic inversions, and by the use of ree verse, and long and short lines, as seemed suitable.
A nation's greatness does not lie in her brick and mortar; but the measure of her glory is fathomed by her noble and splendid achievements in the field of art and literature. It is to the ceaseless and untiring efforts of the late Dr. U. V. Swaminatha Ayyar that we owe the unearthing of a glorious body of literature of which any nation may be legitimately proud. Our ancestors have bequeathed to us a rich heritage of wisdom and imperishable classics which age cannot wither nor custom stale.
It is no exaggeration to say that one may recognize the well of Tamil undefiled in our Sangam Classics which have exercised a tremendous influence on the Alwars and Nayanmars. All the literary conventions of the classical age have been pressed into service for forging new patterns of spiritual experiences.
War and Iove which are the governing features of the Sangam Classics have assumed a new tone and colour in the hands of these mystics. These God-intoxicated men have poured the rich wine of their experiences into old bottles. It was the war without; now it has become a war within; the human love has been transfigured into divine love.
Kamban's great epic is indeed a noble commentary on the influence of the classics which have really shaped his extraordinary genius. The immortal voice of the classics is heard in the poetry of Bharathi. In short all our great literary achievements have their living root in the classics.
Tamil has a hoary tradition; and it is coeval with Sanskrit. Tholkappiyam which' is a treatise on grammar must have been written more than two thousand years ago. The author traces the romance of Sanskrit words which have crept into Tamil. Besides a treatise on grammar cannot but pre-suppose a glorious wealth of literature that must have perished beyond recall. One can very well imagine the great antiquity of Tamil. Tholkappiyam reveals to us in an abundant measure a vanished civilization of the ancient Tamils.
But the vitality of our language is preserved; and the words then used are current. For instance 'madi' which means indolence or idleness is still the spoken word in Malayalam, An Englishman cannot make out an Anglo- Saxon text, if he has no hard training and discipline in that direction, but the language of the Tamil Classics is not far removed from the language of to-day. Such is the robust nature of our language, which persists through ages. It is an effective and noble instrument with which one may unlock the inner-most secrets of one's own soul.
The Sangam Classics fall into two sharp sections-'Akam' and 'Puram'. Akam or subjective poetry deals with love; whereas Puram or objective poetry is concerned with war and other external activities. Man's heroic achievements and noble deeds in the affairs of the world find their greatest expression in Puram. In 'Akam' even the name of the beloved or the lover ought not to be mentioned. The vaguest hint would banish it from the region of the Akam; and it would be placed within the pale of Puram. It is indeed a very narrow definition of 'Akam'. It is better that it includes all the inner working of the human heart, its joys and sorrows, its hopes and fears, its storm and sunshine. Some of the songs which are included in 'Purananooru' may be adtmitted to the rank of the finest lyrics which the world has ever seen.
In ‘Purananooru’ we find a lyric of the highest order. An old man bent double with the weight of old age looks at the sun-lit meadows of his youth through the casement of his withered old age. He laments over the vanished innocent joys of the spring-time of his youth. "Will the youth with all its innocent pastimes ever return to me?" is the passionate cry of the old man who falls into a melancholy reverie over the buried joys of his early childhood. We perceive the same note of sadness in Thomas Moore's poem 'The Light of Other Days'.
Oft in the stilly night,
Ere slumber's chain has bound me,
Fond Memory brings the light
Of other days around me:
The smiles, the tears
Of boyhood years,
The words of love then spoken;
The eyes that shone,
Now dimm'd and gone,
The cheerful hearts now broken;
Thus in the stilly night,
Ere slumber's chain has bound me
Sad memory brings the light
or other days around me.
When I remember all
The friends so lik'd together
I have seen around me fall
Like leaves in wintry weather,
I feel like one
Who treads alone
Some banquet-hall deserted,
Whose lights are fled
Whose garlands dead,
And all but he departed !
Thus in the stilly night,
Ere slumber's chain has bound me,
Sad Memory brings the light
Of other days around me.
Is it not. exceedingly surprising and strange that this mood of an old man lamenting over his vanished youth was captured and imprisoned in one of the immortal lyrics of the Sangam Age?
In the mellow light of the musing moon, the daughters of Pari are-wandering alone-with Kapilar across a lonely blasted heath. The glory and splendour of the moon bring back to their memory the joyous days which they spent among the lovely hills of their celebrated father. They burst into a song which for its sweetness, pathos and simplicity and directness stands unsurpassed in the realm of poetry. It is indeed a tear-compelling poem which speaks to us across the vast gulf of years. Poems of this mould and tint and colour ought to have found a place in 'Akam'.
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