Tuesday, 20 June 2006

Chapters 39 to 50


Tirukkural: Getting close to the original
In Spirit, Content and Style
The 'choicest' of all translations in English


This Tirukkural translation in English is drawn from a comparative study of 25 different translations. Sixteen of these were either complete or partial translations and the remaining nine were translations that appeared in articles, monographs and books authored by different people on Tirukkural and Tiruvalluvar. The choicest translation that is close to the original - in spirit, content and style - has been chosen for presentation. Preference has been given for brevity, simplicity and clarity. Emphasize was also laid on translations that manage to reflect, as much as possible, every word found in the original.  Sometimes translations of two authors were combined to produce the best reflection of the original. The translator or translators of every couplet have been acknowledged with their initials (eg. PS, SS, SB, VS etc.) in a separate column. The initials have been expanded with the full names of these translators at the end of this page. When no translation was found particularly satisfactory, I chose to render them myself. These have been marked by initial NV. An astrix (*) at the end of a translation indicate that the rendering has been improved upon, either by adding/replacing words or deleting words found to be unnecessary. To know more on the process of this comparison and criteria of selection, click here: ComparingTirukkural translations to unfold the best.


Division II. Wealth

039
Greatness of the king
Translators
Notes
0381
Who has these six is a lion among kings:
An army, subjects, food, ministers, allies and forts.
PS

0382
These four unfailing mark a king:
Courage, liberality, wisdom and energy.
PS

0383
A ruler should never lack these three:
Diligence, learning and boldness.
PS

0384
He is a honourable king who sticks to virtue,
Re
moves evil, and is spotless in valour. *
PS

0385
He is a king who can do these:
Produce, acquire, conserve and dispense.
PS

0386
That king, who is easy of access and soft-spoken,
Is extolled in his kingdom. *
PS

0387
The world listens to all the commands of the king
Who is sweet-spoken and liberal. *
GU, PS

0388
A just king, who guards over his subjects,
Will be deemed god by them.
NV

0389
The world is secure under the parasol of the worthy king
Who brooks bitter counsel. *
MS

0390
A light among kings is he who has these four:
Grace, bounty, justice and concern. *
PS


040
Learning
Translators
Notes
0391
Learn thoroughly what should be learnt.
And having learnt, stand according to that.
NV

0392
They say: Numbers and other one called Letters
Are the two eyes to live with. *
VC, PS

0393
Only the learned have eyes.
The unlearned have two sores on their face! *
PS
Yes
0394
It is the prowess of scholars that meetings bring delight
And departures leave memories. *
SS

0395
The learned learn to humble, like destitute before the rich;
Only the low never learn.
NV, SB

0396
The more you dig a sand-spring, more the flow.
The more you learn more the wisdom.
NV

0397
Why does one stop learning till he dies
When it makes all lands and place his?
PS

0398
The learning acquired in one birth
Protects a man in the next seven. *
PS

0399
Seeing that what delights him delights the world,
Gets a scholar also delighted. *
PS

0400
The wealth that never declines is learning.
All others are not riches.
PS, DL


Notes:
393. Compare with couple 575 where Valluvar uses the same idea to emphasize compassion in eyes: “Compassion is an ornament of the eyes. Without it eyes are deemed sores” (SS)
397. SI's alternate translation: "The learned can feel at home everywhere. Why then shun learning all one's life?"

041
Illiteracy
Translators
Notes
0401
Addressing a gathering with poor scholarship
Is like playing dice without a board.
NV

0402
An illiterate's lust for words is like the lust of a woman
Who has neither of her breasts.
SM

0403
Even a fool is fine
If he can hold his tongue before the wise! *
PS

0404
The learned will not acknowledge
An ignoramus' occasional knowledge.
PS

0405
An unlettered man's conceit will find its end
When the occasion for speech arrives.
CR

0406
The ignorant are like barren land:
They are there, but useless. *
PS

0407
A handsome man without subtle and sharp intellect
Has the beauty of a mud-doll.  *
PS

0408
The wealth of the ignorant does more harm
Than the want of the learned. *
PS

0409
The ignorant, however high-born,
Is lower than the low-born learned.
PS

0410
Amid scholars of celebrated works,
Are others like beasts among men.
NV, DL


042
Listening
Translators
Notes
0411
The wealth of wealths is the wealth of hearing;
That wealth out-tops all else. *
PS
Yes
0412
When there is no food for the ear,
A little can be given to the stomach as well.
GV

0413
As gods in heaven are fed through fire,
So men on earth are fed through their ears.
PS

0414
Though unlettered, listen;
You will find this a great help in distress.
PS

0415
Words from the lips of upright men
Are like a steadying staff in a slippery place.
SS

0416
Listen to the good however little
And even that much will bring great dignity.
PS, DL

0417
Those who have sought and heard much
Will not talk nonsense even by mistake.
PS

0418
Ears may hear and yet remain deaf,
If not drilled by words of instruction.
SS, VS

0419
A modest mouth is hard for those
Whose ears lend not to wise counsels.
SB, JN

0420
What matters if they live or die
Whose taste is in their tongues, not ears?
PS


Notes:
411. It is Valluvar's style to use the same idea to emphasize an important point. Here he emphasizes the wealth of hearing, at other places on the wealth of grace and learning. i.e. 241. The wealth of wealth is the wealth of grace. Material wealth, even the mean possess. * - SB, PS. 400. The wealth that never declines is learning. All others are not riches - PS, DL.

043
Possession of Wisdom
Translators
Notes
0421
Wisdom is a weapon of defence,
An inner fortress no foe can raze.
PS

0422
Wisdom checks the wandering mind
And pulls it from ill to good.
PS

0423
The mark of wisdom is to discern the truth
From whatever source it is heard.
NV
Yes
0424
Wisdom lies in simplifying intricate facts
A
nd grasping that of others, however intricate. *
NV, KV
Yes
0425
Prudence goes with the world,
But wisdom is not a lotus to open and shut at will. *
PS

0426
It is a part of wisdom to conform
To the ways of the world.
VS
Yes
0427
The wise know what comes next.
The unwise lack that wisdom.
PS, SB

0428
It is folly not to fear what ought to be feared.
The wise dread what ought to be dreaded. *
SS
Yes
0429
No frightful evil shocks the wise
Who guard against surprises.
SB

0430
Those who have wisdom have all:
Fools with all have nothing.
PS


Notes:
423. Compare with 355. "Wisdom is to ascertain reality in whatever way things are presented" - KK
424. KV's full explanatory translation. "Wisdom lies in making anything easy for others to understand, and easily understanding what others say, however intricate"  
426. Compare with 140. "Those are fools, however learned, who have not learnt to walk with the world" - PS
428. Compare with 201. "The sinful will not dread; the great will dread the wanton pride of sinful action" - MS

044
Faults
Translators
Notes
0431
Freedom from arrogance, anger and meanness
Spells dignity in greatness.
DZ

0432
Miserliness, undignified pride and fraudulent indulgence
Are flaws in a king.
DL, NV

0433
To those ashamed of wrong doings,
Even millet of fault is as big as a palm-tree. *
VR, PS
Yes
0434
Guard against error as you would guard wealth,
For error is a foe that kills.
PS

0435
A life that does not guard against faults
Would vanish like a heap of straw before fire. *
PS

0436
How can a king be faulted who removes his own fault
Before seeing that of others? *
PS

0437
The miser's wealth, unspent on what should be spent,
Does not increase but cease. *
PS, NV

0438
That miserliness which clings to men
Is one thing that stands out among all sins.
NV

0439
Never flatter yourself,
Nor delight in deeds that bring no good. *
PS

0440
Keep your delights in pleasures unknown
To keep the designs of your foes at bay.
NV


Notes:
433. It is simply because, as Valluvar says in couplet 965, “Even a hill-like eminence can be brought low by deeds as small as a speck.” Also compare with couplets 104 & 1282 for the use of same similes “Millet” and “Palm tree”. “To the discerning even millet of aid is as big as a palm tree.” and “Where love is as large as a palm tree, even millet of sulk is misplaced”.

045
Company of the great
Translators
Notes
0441
Value and secure the friendship
Of the virtuous, mature and wise.
PS

0442
Ally with them who can allay your present ills
And avert those to come. *
SS, PS

0443
The rarest of rare things is to seek and secure
The friendship of the great.
PS

0444
The greatest of all strengths come from
Associating with one greater than oneself. *
KV

0445
A king's counselors are his eyes
To be chosen with careful counseling.
NV, PS

0446
Foes are rendered ineffective by one
Who lives in fellowship with the worthy. *
SS

0447
Who can ruin the man who commands
The friendship of those who can reprove him?
VS

0448
A king unguarded with reproving counsel
Needs no foes to come to grief. *
PS

0449
There can be no gain without capital,
And no stability unpropped by wise counsel.
PS

0450
To give up good friends is ten times worse than
Being hated by countless foes.
SB


Notes:
447. Compare with 795 and 784. "Seek a friend who will make you cry, rail and rate when you go astray" – PS. "Friendship is not for merriment
but for stern reproach when friends go astray" - NV

046
Avoiding mean company
Translators
Notes
0451
The great fear the company of the base.
Only the mean take them as kinsmen.
NV

0452
Nature of soil governs the quality of water.
One's wisdom by the nature of company.
NV

0453
Perceptions spring from nature
And character from company.
PS

0454
Wisdom which seems to come from the mind
Comes really from one's company.
PS

0455
The pure thought and the pure deed, these two,
Come from pure company. *
PS

0456
Good legacy is for the pure-minded.
No evil deeds befall men of pure company.
NV

0457
A good mind is an asset to everyone
While good company contributes to glory.
PS

0458
Even though the wise have a good mind,
They strengthen it by good company. *
NV, PS

0459
Purity of mind leads to heaven,
But even that is secured by good company.
SS, PS

0460
There is no greater aid than good company,
Nor worse affliction than bad.
PS


Notes:
452. Compare with 959. Nature of sprout indicates the quality of soil; so does the quality of speech one’s descent. (NV)

047
Planned action
Translators
Notes
0461
Act after taking into account the cost,
The benefit and the resultant net. *
PS

0462
Nothing is hard for him who acts with
Worthy counsels weighing facts.
SB

0463
The wise will never, in the hope of profit,
Launch an undertaking to lose their capital.*
DL
Yes
0464
Those who fear the disgrace of failure
Will not launch thoughtless ventures. *
PS

0465
Ill considered aggressive operations serve
Only to mobilize and strengthen the enemy.
CR

0466
It is ruinous to do what should not be done,
And ruinous to leave undone what should be done.
PS

0467
Think before you launch.
To launch and then think is disgrace.
NV
Yes
0468
Undetermined efforts of any scheme
Are bound to fail even if backed by many.
NV

0469
Even perfect schemes can fail when there is
Imperfection in the division of labour.
NV
Yes
0470
Think and act without incurring scorn.
The world will not approve what is improper. *
PS


Notes:
461. Compare with 676. "Weigh well before you plunge: the inputs, impediments and gain" - PS

463. PS would say: "It is not wisdom to lose the capital for the sake of interest"
469. This couplet can be rendered with different meanings:
Even worthy schemes can fail when there is dearth in apportionment of tasks - NV
Even good works go wrong if they don't match the recipient's nature - SI
Even a good scheme goes awry when contributions don't come equally from all - PS, NV
Even reliable schemes can fail when responsibilities are not shared equally - NV
 
048
Knowing the strength
Translators
Notes
0471
Weigh the strengths of the task, yourselves,
Opponents, and allies before acting. *
KK

0472
Nothing is impossible for him
Who knows his task and strength, and is well set.
PS

0473
Ignorant of their strengths,
Many in their zeal have perished midway.
SS, PS

0474
The inadaptable have speedy end
Who boast unconcerned of their real strengths.
NV

0475
Too great a load of even peacock-feathers
Will break the axle-tree of the cart.
CR

0476
Persisting to climb beyond the terminal branches of a tree
Will forfeit one's life.
NV, SS

0477
Know the limit and grant with measure.
This is the way to guard your treasure. *
SB

0478
No harm if income is narrow
If outgoings are not broad.
PS

0479
A life lived without adjustment to the means
May seem to prosper but will perish.
NV
Yes
0480
He who is generous beyond his means
Will quickly lose the measure of his wealth.
PS, DL
Yes

Notes:
479. A short and crisp way of putting it: "A spendthrift's life is a phantom that will fade" – PS.
480. Idea expressed here is very similar to the one in 477. 

049
Knowing the time
Translators
Notes
0481
A crow can defeat an owl by day.
Kings need the right time to win.
PS

0482
The rope that binds Fortune
Is deeds done at the right time.
PS

0483
What is impossible
If right means are adopted at the right time? *
PS

0484
Even the world will be yours,
If you act choosing the right time and place.
NV

0485
Those who hope for the world wait unperturbed
Hoping for the right moment. *
KK

0486
The restraint of an active person
Is akin to the retreat of a butting ram.
NV

0487
The wise do not burst with rage.
They hold it for the right time.
PS

0488
The best is to bear with your enemy
Till the time comes to topple him. *
PS
Yes
0489
Hesitate not to seize opportunities rare,
And achieve tasks otherwise hard. *
SS
Yes
0490
Bide your time like the stork, and like it
Strike at the opportune moment.
PS, NV


Notes:
488. SB has a daring interpretation. He takes the word "
தலை" to mean "head" instead of the usual meaning "chief". His translation reads thus: "Bear with hostilities when you meet them. Fell down their head in fateful time" – SB
489. Compare with 975. If the great achieve anything, it will be deeds rare in achievement. * PS

050
Knowing the place
Translators
Notes
0491
Don't despise your foe, nor start any action
Till you find a place to besiege him. *
PS

0492
A fortress gives numerous advantages
Even to men of strength and valour. *
PS

0493
Even the weak can fight enemies with determination
If they choose the right place.
NV

0494
When fighters fight from strategic locations,
Enemies lose their strategic plans.
NV

0495
A crocodile prevails in deep waters;
But when out of water, others prevail over it.
NV, PS

0496
A mighty chariot cannot run in the sea,
Nor a boat navigate land.
PS

0497
No other aid than courage is needed
If one ponders from which place to pounce.
NV, SS

0498
A large army will lose its morale
If driven to a place meant for a small one.
NV

0499
Men on their own ground are hard to tackle
Even when they lack fortress and strength.
PS

0500
A fearless tusker that defies spearman, if caught in a bog,
Will be overcome by jackals. *
JN, PS



Key to the initials of different translators:
CR - C. Rajagopalachari
KS - Kasthuri Sreenivasan
SI - K.R. Srinivasa Iyengar
DL -W.H. Drew and  J. Lazarus
KV - K. Krishnaswamy & Vijaya Ramkumar
SM -S. Maharajan
DZ - S.M. Diaz
MS - M.S. Poornalingam Pillai
SS - Satguru  Subramuniyaswami
EL - F.W. Ellis
NC - Norman Cutler
TD - S. Thandapani Desikar
GU - G.U. Pope
NV - N.V.K. Ashraf
TK - T.K. Chidambaranatha Mudaliar
GV - G. Vanmikanathan
PS - P.S. Sundaram
VC - V.C. Kulandai Swamy
JN - J. Narayanaswamy
SB - Shuddhananda Bharatiar
VR  - V. Ramasamy
KK - K. Kannan
SD - S.D. Rajendran
VS - V.V.S. Aiyar
KN - K.N. Subramanyam
SG - G. Siromoney, S. Govindaraju & M. Chandrasekaran,

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