Tamil Love Poetry: The Five Hundred Short Poems of the Ainkurunuru, an Early Third Century Anthology
Martha Ann Selby
Columbia University Press, 2011 - Poetry - 200 pages
Dating from the early decades of the third century C.E., the Ainkurunuru is believed to be the world's earliest anthology of classical Tamil love poetry. Commissioned by a Cera-dynasty king and composed by five masterful poets, the anthology illustrates the five landscapes of reciprocal love: jealous quarreling, anxious waiting and lamentation, clandestine love before marriage, elopement and love in separation, and patient waiting after marriage.
Despite its centrality to literary and intellectual traditions, the Ainkurunuru remains relatively unknown beyond specialists. Martha Ann Selby, well-known translator of classical Indian poetry and literature, takes the bold step of opening this anthology to all readers, presenting crystalline translations of 500 poems dense with natural imagery and early examples of South Indian culture. Because of their form's short length, the anthology's five authors rely on double entendre and sophisticated techniques of suggestion, giving their poems an almost haikulike feel. Groups of verse center on one unique figure, in some cases an object or an animal, in others a line of direct address or a specific conversation or situation. Selby introduces each section with a biographical sketch of the poet and the conventions at work within the landscape. She then incorporates notes explaining shifting contexts.
He has gone off all by himselfbeyond the wasteswhere tigers used to prowland the toothbrush trees grow tall,their trunks parched,on the flinty mountains,
while the lovely folds of your loins, wide as a chariot's seat, vanish as your circlet worked from gold grows far too large for you.
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A. K. Ramanujan addresses her girlfriend addresses the heroine Aiṅkuṟunūṟu animals anthologies anthropomorphism armlets Aviṉi backwaters bamboo bangles bard bees blooms blossoms blue lilies Burton Watson cassia chariot Chennai chest cool daughter decad Donald Keene dunes dying hatchling earshot elephant elopement embrace final poem flowers ford forest foster mother fragrant Friend girl girl’s girlfriend addresses gleaming gossip gray-cowled crow hair heart hero hero’s heroine addresses heroine’s hill husband implied simile jasmine jewels Kalof king kohl-rimmed eyes kuṟińci landscape leave Listen Look lord lover marriage marry the heroine marutam mate millet monkey mountain mullai Muruku myrobalan neytal obliquely ofthe paddy pālai paperback parrots path pattu peacock poems are set poetic postmarital context premarital context rains rival shoulders soft soft-gaited heron soliloquy spoken sweet Ten Poems Teyyō tōḻi Tolkāppiyam town translation vast virtues wasteland water lily white water bird wife wife’s woman women words young zoomorphism