The decad below is the Ninth Cycle from the Ninth Hundred of the Tiruvaymoli. While it is usually difficult to bring over the antati into English, this cycle of songs lends itself easily to replicating the effect in translation. Like other alvar poets, Nammalvar favored the female voice–mothers, heroines, friends, fortune-tellers, cowherd girls. This cycle is in the voice of the cowherd maidens who feel abandoned by Krishna.
These translations have not been published. They are copyrighted to me. They may NOT be circulated or reproduced in any media (print, web, performed etc.) without explicit, prior, written permission from me (Archana Venkatesan).
IX.9. 1 The breeze sweet with jasmine cuts
The haunting notes of kuriñci pierce
The waning light of dusk bewilders
The clouds red in the evening light destroy me
My lord with eyes bright as lotus
That bull among the cowherds, a lion, the mysterious one
Embraced these shoulders, these breasts
Now where has he gone?
Why am I alone?
IX.9.2 Forlorn, forsaken, I’ve nowhere to go.
Mournful bells, the gentle breeze, water lilies
The dying light of day, evening, the scent of sandal
The keening middle note, the smell of jasmine, the cool breeze
This wide world created, dug up, eaten, spat out, measured, ruled
By that mysterious one, lord of cowherds, bringer of death to demons
He still does not come
Who can save me now?
IX.9.3 Who is to save me now?
My soft breasts yielded to his touch, my hips too
When he pushed into me, plunged deep into my self
Then he left, abandoned me, cast me aside, thief.
Now that solitary young lion, my mysterious lord won’t return
Still his lotus eyes, his lush lips, his cool dark curls
His four wide shoulders torment my heart
This is my wretched fate.
9.4 I am wrecked. A breeze pierces my heart
One moment cool, one moment hot.
The moon burns, my soft bed of flowers scalds.
He swooped down on Garuda, came to me:
A divine bee sipped me like a flower
drained and depleted
His wicked ways are more than I can bear
My heart is no help at all.
IX9.5 The heart is no friend.
As evening falls the cows return
And my cowherd’s heart turns to stone
His flute’s sweet song cuts deep
Here my friend yearns for him
Dissolves to death before my eyes
Now who is to protect my life?
How hard it is to earn his grace.
IX.9.6 How hard it is to earn his grace
But only his grace will suffice
Nothing else can save my life.
Evening ends the day, my heart is lost.
He joins himself to Śiva, to Brahmā, to Śrī
He cuts into me
Where do I hide? What can I do?
What is left to be said?
IX.9.7 What is left to be said?
The sharp, cold breeze singes my life
Still my lonely heart stays with him
Deceitful Kaṇṇaṉ, dark as rain clouds.
The breeze from the north bears down
Carrying with it the fine smoke of akil
the harp’s haunting melodies
cool red sandal and heady jasmine.
With such an army, it wages war against me
I am destroyed.
IX.9.8 I burn.
The young breeze from the north surges
heady with the scent of fresh jasmine, the red sky fades
bringing misery greater than Kaṇṇaṉ’s deceit
He came. He left.
is the honey-sweet jasmine and fresh sandal
But most cruel of all
is the haunting song he plays for his cowherd women
This I cannot bear.
IX.9.9 He slays me with his sweet song
His bright eyes speak secrets,
His darting glances toy with me
He makes a sad face, then he pretends to be hurt
Now to ease the pain in my stupid heart
He sings another song.
I know nothing except
Evening has come, he has not.
IX.9.10 Evening has come, and he has not.
Soft cowbells seem like a lament
as the cows nuzzle their mighty bulls
A flute’s cruel song fills the air, while
bees hum over clusters of bright buds of jasmine and karumukai
The sea’s howls rend the sky.
How do I console myself
When I cannot live without him?
IX.9.11 The wails of cowherd women filled the evening
bereft of him.
These ten verses from his thousand
are Māṟaṉ Śaṭakōpaṉ’s lament
his songs of yearning
for the one who ate and spat out worlds.
Sing this garland of words and live well
Sing these words and draw near him.