Sleep

During the few hours
I happened to live in this world,
not even the smallest creature
because of my vile deeds
suffered;
this sweet assurance,
an elegant lullaby
that warms my heart

In that glow,
a little milk,
mixed with fruits;
I stretch my limbs, a blanket
covering me.

When, having surrendered myself
to that lullaby
I forget myself in sleep,
do not wail
or gather my friends.

I know well enough
what happens thereafter,

so, do not try to wake me;
try to understand,
shut our doors

let not the drums
disturb my slumber;
do not dissemble with dirges;
I need no white cloth
for my long journey,
no guarded utterance no eulogy.

Reach down if you will
into your silence,
draw from the  depth of your heart
the hazy outline
of my feeble portrait
complete my image
in the pupils of your eyes;
light the lamp
and in the cradle
sing my story.

Later, with nature
laugh at death with derision.

 

–Translated by R. Murugaiyan

This was published in ‘Uprooting the Pumpkin’ Selections from Tamil literature in Sri Lanka, published by Oxford University Press, 2016

 

This poem was written in 1964 and was included in the author’s collection of poems ‘Vazhi’ (Kalmunai, Sri Lanka 1976). The theme of the poet contemplating his own death is not uncommon in  Sri Lanka Tamil poetry, although later poets tend to be much less romantic in their tone.

Tamil version

 

 

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