‘You quote a hundred laws, But welcome the bribe’

Legendary poet Bharathiyar spoke for the freedom of the spirit of man. Some of his verses have been translated and compiled in the collection I Sing The Glory Of This Land. Read two of his poems here

Bharathiyar was a scholar-poet of great repute, a powerful orator and a splendid organizer. He was an essayist, writer, translator, journalist and champion for the cause of freedom. He was also a polyglot. Apart from Tamil and Sanskrit literature (classical languages of India), he was well-read in English and French literature as well. No wonder he is called ‘India’s National Poet’.


Neither strength of heart
Nor honesty they have
O parrot! They are cheats
And vocal heroes indeed

O parrot! They join the crowd
And blabber nonsense
Without thinking at all
They are wilful forgetters

Can the blind hope to have
Autonomy, comforts
And greatness? O parrot!
Can the eunuch dream of joy?

‘Our factories, our own garments’
They would proclaim
O parrot! Did ever magic
Produce mangoes?

‘Salt, sugar and homespun sarees’
Louder they say
O parrot!
They know not how they are made

‘Women’s honour, devotion to God’
Thus blabber their tongues
O parrot! Indeed they are
All utterly faithless

Fear and impotence
And petty minds were lofty to them
O parrot! They are merely dumb

Do these beasts, O parrot!
Deserve to live at all
With no love for truth
Vigour or inner strength?

Can one live, O parrot!
Among the evil gang
Who think that mean life
Is greater than honour
In this world?


You with weak shoulders, away, away
You with the shrunken chest, away, away
You with listless face, away, away
You with lacklustre eyes, away, away
You with graceless voice, away, away
You with lacklustre skin, away, away
You with chicken heart, away, away
You slave forever and ever, away, away

You remain like a dog here
Living a degraded life? Away, away
Afraid of auspicious speech? Away, away
Shameless beggar, away, away
You deem truth as untruth and praise
All of yesterday’s lies? Away, away
You mistake untruth as truth
Remaining in laziness, away, away.

You learn, not the mother tongue
But other languages, away, away
You talk of hundred books, but not
Profit from one holy book, away, away
You enter into arguments on many, many
Controversial subjects, away, away
You build a small house
with mud and filth, away, away

You talk of hundred castes
Yet fail in charity, away, away
You quote a hundred laws
But welcome the bribe, away, away
You won’t fear doing evil but
When evil returns, you will run away
You gather filth that obscures
The rarest gem, away, away

(Poems extracted from I Sing The Glory Of This Land by Bharathiyar and translated by M Rajaram with permission from Rupa Publications India)

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