The Naladiyar

The Indian Antiquary, A Journal Of Oriental Research

18,838 words

The Naladiyar is one of the few original works we have in Tamil. It contains altogether forty chapters, of ten stanzas each, on moral subjects....

Chapter 29 - Poverty

1. Although a man live wearing a patched cloth round his loins, yet the possession of eight or ten pieces of money will gain him great honour among many persons. Those who have nothing at all, though born of a respectable family, are considered (by such) as more despicable than a dead carcase.

2. It is said that ghee is more subtle than water, and all know that smoke is more subtle than ghee. If you inquire, you will find that the afflicted mendicants will creep in through crevices through which even smoke cannot permeate.

3. O king of the woodlands where they chase the parent from the cultivated field with stones, where the Kantharla (November-flower plant) growing upon the mountains lofty and abounding with rocks, is out of flower the swarms of red-spotted winged insects will not even approach near it (to extract its honey): thus the destitute have no relations.

4. In the day of prosperity thousands are very slaves, as crows will collect together at the mangled carcase (i.e. the dead crow); but in the day when this is changed, like the insect (which wanders about for food), there is not one single person in the world who will ask you, Are you well?

5. O lord of the fair hills crowded together, where the streams fall upon the rocks and wash them! the high birth of those who are environed by poverty will disappear, their great dignity will disappear, and their illustrious learning will also disappear.

6. Scorn those who, though they live in the same town, give no alms to those who came to them tormented in mind by sharp hunger, and asking for somewhat with great desire. It would be far better to go away to some distant place and live as guests in other houses, than to remain fruitlessly spending their days in that place.

7. O thou who hast sharp teeth causing envy to the buds of the jessamine! those who are mendicants (or those who have the affliction of begging) will lose, together with their right-mindedness, abundant accurate learning, and all other good qualities which they may have at any time possessed.

8. It is better for him who once was charitable, i.e. who stood in the way of giving, but who now cannot give aught to beggars, to spend his life in the afflictive way of stretching out his hands for alms in every house in the far land to which he has gone, than to remain in his own land,--than living in his native town, standing in the way of poverty, trying to mend his circumstances.

9. When wealth has gone, in the time of adversity, the poor, with those arms once adorned with bracelets, bend the branches of trees, pluck off the leaves and eat them, using as a dish an earthen pot, and live on with discontented minds eating leaf-curry (or that which is (cooked) without salt.

10. O lord of the hill-country, cool and very beautiful and lofty, where the streams of water fall down (from the rocks)! the swarms of shining and beautiful winged beetles crowded with red spots crawl not on the branch which has ceased to blossom; in like manner the unfortunate have no friends.

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