Poems of Love and War: From the Eight Anthologies and the Ten Long Poems of Classical Tamil
A. K. Ramanujan
Columbia University Press, Jun 14, 2011 - Poetry - 368 pages
The anthologies from which Ramanujan derives his poems were compiled some two millennia ago and contain about two thousand poems composed by nearly five hundred poets. The poems in this volume are drawn from two major anthologies of early classical Tamil literature (c. 100 B.C. - A.D. 250): the Eight Anthologies (Ettuttokai) and the Ten Long Poems (Pattuppattu), while sections of a grammar collection called the Tolkappiyam (“The Old Composition”) are used to develop a commentary on Tamil poetry and poetics. Apart from some epigraphic and archaeological evidence, the classical literature (called Cankam) provides us with the most important native source of historical and cultural information for this period in Tamil South India.
In the rhetoric and anthologies of the period, the poems were classified as either akam (interior) or puram (exterior). The former were love poems, while the latter were poems on war, kings, death, etc. Ramanujan’s selection follows this division. In addition, he includes two more sections of late classical poems (c. fifth to sixth century). The third section consists of comic, earthy, and bawdy poems, while the fourth book inclues a long hymn to Vishnu, one of the earliest examples of its kind in Indian literature. The poems are followed by an Afterword, an essay on the Tamil world and its relationship to Tamil poetry and poetics.
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