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This world lives -- Ilam Peruvaluti

Guest poem submitted by Sudha Shastri
(Poem #471) This world lives
 This world lives
 Some men
 do not eat alone,
 not even when they get
 the sweet ambrosia of the gods;

 they've no anger in them,
 they fear evils other men fear
 but never sleep over them;

 give their lives for honor,
 will not touch a gift of whole worlds
 if tainted;

 there's no faintness in their hearts
 and they do not strive
 for themselves.

 Because such men are,
 this world is.
-- Ilam Peruvaluti
This is a poem from the Sangam Tamil written by a poet called Ilam Peruvaluti
(Puranuru 182 - must confess I do not know what exactly this means ) and
translated by A. K. Ramanujan.

I am unsure about what to comment on. Obviously there is adherence to metre of a
sort which the translator has tried to follow. No doubt it is all very expressly
laid down in the Tamil.

Sudha Shastri.

[thomas adds]

Ramanujan has featured on the Minstrels before: check out 'A River', at
poem #382, and 'Extended Family', at poem #434.

As several of you have pointed out, the Minstrels could do with more examples of
poetry written in languages other than English. Sadly, neither Martin nor myself
is terribly conversant with such poetry; however, we have managed to cover a
fair amount thereof, thanks to the mechanism of guest submissions.
Some of my especial favourites are:
'Banalata Sen', by Jibanananda Das, poem #446
'The Winter River', a haiku by Buson, poem #277
'A Prison Evening', by Faiz, poem #118
Fitzgerald's translation of 'The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam', two separate
extracts, poem #162 and poem #342.
'Romance Sonambulo', by Federico Garcia Lorca, poem #210
'The Midnightmouse', by Christian Morgenstern, poem #252
'Coda', by Octavio Paz, poem #442
'Madhushala', by Harivansh Rai Bachchan, poem #72

Also, sort by poet and look for 'Anon' - we've covered snatches of verse in
tongues ranging from Hebrew to Welsh to Serbian to Navajo...

The next incarnation of the website (webmaster Sitaram, are you listening?) will
(we hope) include a 'search by theme' feature; translated poetry will be one of
those themes.


[Brittanica on Sangam Literature]

 ... the earliest writings in the Tamil language. The writings are thought to
have been produced in three cankams, or literary academies, in Madurai, India,
from the 1st to the 4th century AD. The Tolkappiyam, a book of grammar and
rhetoric, and eight anthologies (Ettuttokai) of secular poetry were compiled:
Kuruntokai, Narrinai, Akananuru, Ainkurunuru, Kalittakai, Purananuru,
Patirruppattu, and Paripatal. These secular writings are possibly unique in
early Indian literature, which is almost entirely religious. The poems are
concerned with two main topics, love and the praise of kings and their deeds.
Many of them, especially on the latter subject, display great freshness and
vigour and are singularly free from the literary conceits of much of the other
early and medieval literatures of India. Since they are almost entirely secular,
these poems are also free from the complex mythical allusions that are such an
outstanding feature of most Indian art forms. There are, nonetheless, some
instances of religious works in cankam poetry. Pattupattu ("The Ten Long Poems")
contains the earliest Indian poem of personal devotion to a god, and Paripatal
contains poems about Vishnu, Siva, and Murugan.

        -- EB

(I remember studying about Sangam poetry in the 9th grade, but this is the first
time I've actually read an example - t.)

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T. Madhava Menon said...

Here is a more prosaic translation: "The world indeed survives because of great people. See! Even if they get amrtam (ambrosia) from the gods, and even if they know that it is very sweet, they will share it with others. They hate none, harbor no regrets, and do not sit idle neglecting their duties, feeling anxious over mistakes they could make, even though such mistakes may frighten other people. For the sake of honor they will sacrifice their lives. And if their actions could cause disgrace (to themselves or others), they will refrain from doing them even if they stand to gain the whole world by doing them. The have no anxiety. Because such people exist, always ready to work for others, the world survives" (from translation by T. Madhava Menon, Purananuru, 2011, published by International School of Dravidian Linguistics, Trivandrum.

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