Plaidoirie for a "Prince" of Jaffna

“We learn from history that we learn nothing from history.”
George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) Nobel Prize

by T. Wignesan

Blue blood gushes when heroes die
From gory wounds on battlefields
Not in castle intrigues when for a lie
Crowns use commoners as shields.

A royal house does not construct itself
After centuries have broken tradition
Or on formal rules on how to name itself
Nor on who should follow in succession.

A true prince re-possesses the land first
Takes for his witnesses native-born citizens
Bids them follow his will out of dire thirst
Not as the self-crowned leader of denizens.

To be born a Kshastriya is not a privilege,
The birthright is even an act of sacrilege
If he who dons the crown scorns the people;
A spurned poem in the culled florilege.

In the blown sliver of land at Great Bharat’s feet
No one knows what Tamil line came to greet
Found refuge and took throne to announce a reign
Nor helas to make much of a glorious feat.

Kings are not born to hoist the castial banner,
Rather had they earlier scaled the social ladder
Through heroic deeds by protecting the masses;
Chieftains peer-elected to top the social order.

A Prince may not bring dishonour to his kingdom
In times of strive for the sake of Christendom;
If he seeks spurious honours to feather his nest
And alienates a people who die for freedom.

A King is he who in high danger opts for sacrifice
Like Kattabomman seeking no excuse nor artifice
Met the East India Company’s Collector all alone
And fought his valiant way through gunfire malice.

The history of Tamil kingdoms in all ages gone by
Teaches us the same lesson made proverbial by
An Ettappan who in his insatiable envy of grandeur
Caused the ultimate Tamil Prince to hang high.

We live in a world where politicians are the real Princes
Who wear no crowns but their ministerial pince-nez;
Yet other captains struggle against such fait accompli
And in jungles forge a human bulwark of chances.

It’s not the cherry on the icing that makes a cake
If underneath the slender icing over a lake
Wild worms bore at the crust raised in protection,
Won’t people then take a Kshastriya for a fake.

If you want to be king then let your voice be true
Renounce all wish to be ordained a true blue;
Let the people choose what they want for a crown
If they need you, will they not call upon you.

Uneasy the head which wears the realm’s crown
While the people fret and fume and frown;
See how caretaker John usurps the Lion-Heart’s throne:
Uneasier the head become the butt of a clown.

Lay aside all thought of fame
In the quest for a feudal name;
He who assumes an ancient title
Must prove worthy of the same.

T. Wignesan

If I might be allowed to say so, I think my "first" love was poetry. Unfortunately for me, the British curricula at school did not put me in touch with the Metaphysical Poets, nor with the post-Georgian school. Almost all the school texts after World War II contained invariably Victorian narrative poems and some popular examples of Romantic poetry. I chanced upon a selection of T. S. Eliot's and Fitzgerald's Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, and a little later on Pope's An Essay on Man and Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. That did the trick. Yet, I regret not having taken to prose in earnest earlier than the publication of my first collection: Tracks of a Tramp (1961). There's nothing like trying your hand at all kinds of prose exercises to come to grips with poetry. Or rather to see how poetry makes for the essence of speech/Speech and makes you realise how it can communicate what prose cannot easily convey. I have managed to put together several collections of poems, but never actually sought to find homes for them in magazines, periodicals or anthologies. Apart from the one published book, some of my sporadic efforts may be sampled at of Poems.htm

Last updated July 05, 2016