Friday, December 29, 2006

Land, simplicity and a dream - II


Poetry is the art of painting with words. A true poem paints an image in the mind of the reader, a new image for every reader and a new image everytime the reader reads it. This poem here is one such painting.

Observe the images in this poem. A big expanse of land, a single building standing erect in it, coconut trees, a well with clear water, cool moonlight, a very gentle breeze... this is painting of rest. This is a painting in which the background is work and the image is rest. This poem speaks of rest after a hard day's work. It shows very clearly how rest blends into work instead of the two being opposing entities.

And what rest! A rest that is absolute stillness. The coconut trees do not sway, the breeze is gentle, the cuckoo too shouts from a distance. Everything has an ethereal stillness about it. Even the lover, the lady with our poet is still. She just sits there with Barathi and his songs. Observe the subtle change in the word vENdum (வேண்டும்). Once Barathi asks for the coconut trees and from there on goes towards the breeze, the moon and the other natural aspects, the word becomes vENum (வேணும்) a rustic version. It is thus that Barathi the sophisticated poet becomes the rustic man seeking rest.

I spoke about work being the background. Let us reconstruct this background. Barathi wakes up early in the morning, to the chirping of the sparrows. He goes out into the field with his plough and toils in the earth. His sweat shines in the glow of the afternoon sun. His sinews gleam and twist as his arms push the plough lovingly into the field. Then finally, the sun goes down on the Western horizon.

Barathi comes home. A single lighted lamp welcomes him. He sees the idol of parAsakthi in this light. It is then he decides to ask boons from Her. He does not ask for mere rest - that is there in his hut. He asks for rest that brings peace.

A vast tract of land, open and unbound like the soul itself. In this land he asks for a building, a pure white building with strong pillars. And even this building he says 'kattith thara vENdum', Sakthi must build this building and give it to him, meaning it is She who shall build and destroy. Action is Hers alone. Only rest belongs to man.

And then, he seeks coolness. His body and soul are sweating from the heat generated from sheer action. He is a man of fire. He has kept the tAmasic fire of the night alvie in his sleep. Then the day has fed his wild rAjasic fire driving his action. Now in the evening, he seeks from his sakthi the cool sAttvic fire of love. And this fire of coolness comes from the moon, the coconut trees by the well, the breeze and above all the love of his Goddess.

Look at this - siththam magiznththidavE nanRAy iLanthenRal varavENum (சித்தம் மகிழ்ந்திடவே நன்றாய் இளந்தென்றல் வரவேணும்). The breeze touches and pleases his siththam, his mind not his body. It is thus that everything in this kANi nilam of his touches the soul and cools it.

It is thus that man should act and rest. When he works, the sun, the land and the stream should aid him in his task. And when he rests, they should touch his soul and lead him to harmony. He should work when the world around him rests in peaceful harmony. He should toil when the birds sing in joy, when the morning sun looks at him with calm, when the breeze around stands in rapt stillness. And then he should come home and rest when the breeze plays, when the moon shines forth with purpose, when the jasmine toils hard in spreading Her fragrance. Then his work blends with nature's rest and his rest with Her work. It is then that the land that he walks on truly becomes his. It is then that the earth holds him in Her arms like a mother holding a child. It is thus that Barathi lived and wrote. It is thus that life must be lived.

Lyrical translation has not been attempted as it might be difficult to adhere to the original poem. Any attempt by readers is very much welcome.


My dear Mother,
These I need from you.
Land, a vast expanse of it
Free and open like the mind you gave me.

In this land,
a home you shall build.
A home with pillars strong and pristine.
A home you shall build.

In this land,
a few coconut trees with cool leaves and sweet water
Placed at your will
near the well.

In this land,
you shall give me the moon,
the distant bird and the gentle breeze
to touch my soul.

Thus when I lay,
a woman you shall give
a woman for my songs
of beauty, freedom and union.

In this land,
my Mother,
you shall stand protecting me.
Me and this sooting peace.

Give these my mother.
And then I shall in return
Save this world of yours
with the magic of my songs.

Read Chenthil's translation of the same poem here.

Download the entire translation (Complete with word by word meaning) of this poem as a PDF here.


JAB said...

Lovely adaptation, Agni. I loved reading the appreciation part. Made me learn/appreciate so many new things about the poem..:)

Let the world ask for
whatever it wants.
All I want
Is a piece of land.

A piece of land
wide as the green expanse
Of my mind.

A piece of land
to make my home;
A home around which
Coconut trees dance.
A piece of land
where water springs,
like the joy in my heart
when I see
Your beautiful face.
where birds fly free
touching your saree
in boundless mirth.
where the moon shines,
like the face of the
One of I love.

I know you will
protect me there-
Oh Lover of Song!
Come home to me,
In that piece of land,
All my songs are but Yours."

msp said...

The appreciation section was very interesting. JAB's translations was very poetic. Particularly the emphasis on "All I want is"...which is designed not to reflect the largeness of his request (nay, demand) "wide as the green expanse
Of my mind."

The Omar Khayyam quote and the rather universal sigh for pastoral lives was very extremely appropriate for this poem.

Reminded me of an AvvaiAr couplet in her typical clean-sweep style:

உழுதுண்டு வாழ்வாரே வாழ்வார்
பழுதுண்டு வேறோர் பணிக்கு

I found your reading of 'duty' into kaaNi nilam vEndum quite novel and I guess very personal. I am more inclined to see it in the framework of idyllic world, without even the necessity of justifications like 'well earned rest'

My champion sings out boldy: "கடமை புரிவார் இன்புறுவார் எனும் பண்டைக் கதை பேணோம்"
Of course, he is a poet of the moment and inconsistency is a mark of his genius. My reading reflects a personal distaste for the universal notion of one having to 'earn' rest :P

Great job. Carry on.

அக்னிபாரதி said...


I'm enamoured with JAB's adaptations as well!

And yes, the idea of duty and rest that is well-earned and in harmony with everything else is a personal interpretation. That is the idea behind the complete translation - to give a personal insight into the poem instead of just presenting an one dimensional approach.

In fact in reality there is no usch thing as rest earned - rest follows work like shadow follows light.

Thanks a lot for your continued reading! :)

Phoenix said...

beautiful translation no doubt... however I am not sure of the positivist stance... very good appreciation.. you seem to be enamored with bharathi more than his poetry..

And of course I cannot relate to the religious stance as well but that is no hindrance to appreciating a work of love. :)

Continue the good initiative!

அக்னிபாரதி said...

@Phoenix - Thanks a lot for your words of encouragement! I'll need more support from actual Literature students like you for this BLOG! :)

Parvati said...

A wonderful blog! Revealing the sincerity passion and abundant talent and knowledge of JAB and you.

Translation is an art that is difficult and a science with its own rules for excellence, and obviously JAB is superlative. Not to forget the exhaustive analyses done here.

Personally, I prefer reading the original creations in tamizh of Mahakavi Bharathiyaar or anybody else, so maynot be the commenter that this amazing blog deserves
:-). I would be a frequent rover in your other tamizh blog more than here...Do bear with the omission!

அக்னிபாரதி said...

@Parvati - Thanks a lot for honouring the invitation and visiting this blog. With your wishes we would, hopefully be able to carry on this task to fruition. :)

Harini Gopalswami Srinivasan said...

Hi Agni! I was browsing the Net for a translation of this song and was thrilled to find yours. I love this post and the different versions, including JAB's. Thank you, and keep up the good work!