For talking about the voices in poetry, we need to talk about Mahakavi Subramania Bharati.

Chinnaswami Subramania Bharathi (1882 – 1921) was an Indian writer, poet, journalist, Indian independence activist and social reformer from Tamil Nadu, India. Popularly known as “Mahakavi Bharathiyar”, he is a pioneer of modern Tamil poetry and is considered one among the greatest of Tamil literary figures of all time. His numerous works were fiery songs kindling patriotism and nationalism during Indian Independence movement.

He says, “When I was a young poet, I was committed to the Muse totally. But circumstances have led me to renounce my absolute dedication to pure poetry.”

‘Pure poetry’ Apparently, Bharati had two voices in him and one was his private voice, rhapsodic, lyrical and spontaneous and the other, his public voice that led him to identify himself with the political and social causes of his slumbering nation.

Kuyil Paattu (Cuckoo’s Song) is simply a remarkable illustration of the poet’s private voice. It deals with neither a political nor a social issue. The poem reads as though it wrote itself. It is in direct conversation with the reader, emanating as it does from the inner voice of the poet. Bharati calls it ‘a dream’ and mischievously adds, which reads like a challenge, “if the learned Tamil scholars are able to find a philosophical meaning for this poem let them tell me.”

The poem reads like a fairy tale not committed to logic or reason. It is just a fantasy. The dream constructs a story and there is a story within that story. The reality comes at the end, as the poet wakes up to find himself ‘living in his old house, surrounded by his ancient mat, writing pen and scattered manuscripts and magazines.’

The recurring theme of love is expressed in exquisite poetry in a universal language, unburdened by thematic or critical conventions. It is a pure poem of sheer aesthetic charm that does not assume the moral responsibility of offering any message to the reader.

An excerpt from an English translation- The cuckoo sings its love for the monkey:


‘Oh! My divine Monkey-Lover!

Can any woman resist your love?

Man thinks he is the Lord of the Earth!

Maybe, he is for such mundane matters

As institutionalising things!

But look! Your incomparable hairy chest

And gentle speech,

And your bewitching hunch that adds a gait

To your walk and stature

Of no less charm

Can man be equal to you?

True, he competes with you

Covers his body with umpteen clothes

To match your silken charm from head to foot,

Apes his face and chin with hairy growth

In poor imitation calling it beard and moustache!

Leaps and jumps as you do

But, he does in a drunken state,

But, yet, tell me

Where will he go for a god-given tail?