Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Asia: Vols. XXI–XXIII. 1876–79.

India: Coorg

Harvest Song

By From the Coorgi

  • Translated by C. E. Gover
  • “The word Coorg is a corruption of the native name Kodagu, and belongs to the country lying on the summit of a plateau on the western Ghauts. Kodagu, from Kodi, means a hill, and the name as a proper noun is therefore The Hilly Country. This is by no means inapplicable, for the whole land is a series of ridges rising from the body of the Ghauts. Between the lines of hills are charming valleys, watered perfectly by the clouds from the Indian Ocean which impinge upon the Ghauts. Perennial verdure clothes every hollow, and giant forest-trees cover the hill slopes. Every dale is constantly receiving fresh stores of the fertilizing soil washed down from the hill sides by the monsoon rains.”—Gover, Folk-Songs of Southern India.

  • SUN and moon the seasons make,

    Rule o’er all the sky they take.

    God is Lord of heaven and earth.

    All the joyous earnest toil

    Happy ryots give the soil,

    Our rich land is fully worth.

    Famous Jambudwipa’s bounds

    Circle many fertile grounds;

    Which among them is the best?

    Far above the highest hill,

    Mahameru’s snows are still

    Showing where the saints are blest.

    Midst the beauteous forest-trees

    Brightest to the eye that sees

    Is the brilliant Sampigè.

    Sweeter than the sweetest rose,

    Purer than the mountain snows,

    Better than mere words may say;—

    Thus is Coorg the noblest land,

    Rich and bright as golden band

    On the neck where youth doth stay.

    In this happy lovely realm

    No misfortunes overwhelm.

    Live and prosper while you may!

    Now my friends with one accord,

    Joyous on the verdant sward,

    Sing we our dear country’s praise.

    Tell us then, from first to last,

    All the wondrous glories past,

    Trolling out a hundred lays.

    Like a robe of precious silk,

    Green or golden, white as milk,—

    Like the image in a glass,—

    Bright as shines the sun at noon,

    Or at night the silver moon,—

    Sweet as fields with flowers and grass,—

    Thus in happiness and peace,

    Riches knowing no decrease,

    Apparandra lived at ease.

    In this glorious land he dwelt,

    Forest-girt as with a belt,

    Coorg the blesséd, green with trees.

    Soon he said within his heart,—

    “Now ’s the time to do our part,

    For the tilling of the field.

    Sow we must, and speed the plough,

    Dig and plant, spare no toil now,

    Harvest then the ground will yield.”

    Thus he said, to Mysore went,

    To her fairs his steps he bent,

    Where the country met the town.

    Thirty-six great bulls he bought

    Of the best and largest sort;

    White and black, and some red-brown.

    Nandi, Mudda were one pair,

    Bullocks both of beauty rare.

    Yoked together were two more;

    Choma, Kicha were they called.

    With them was their leader stalled,

    Kale, best among two score.

    Then did Apparandra say,—

    “All my bulls will useless stay

    If I give not tools and plough.

    Know ye why they worked so well?

    No? then listen as I tell

    How he made those we have now.

    Choosing sago for the pole,

    At the end he made a hole;

    Pushed the palm-wood handle through.

    Sampigé was for the share,

    On its edge he placed with care

    Iron plates to make the shoe.

    Sharp as tiger’s claws the nail

    Fixing to the share its mail.

    Yoke and pins he made of teak.

    Strongly tied the whole with cane

    Strong and lithe as any chain;

    Other strings would be too weak.

    When, in June, the early rain

    Poured upon the earth and main,

    Sweet as honey from the bee,

    All the fields became as mud,

    Fit for plough and hoe and spud,

    Far as e’er the eye could see.

    Then before the break of day,

    Ere the cock began his say,

    Or the sun had gilt the sky,

    In the morning still and calm,

    Twelve stout slaves who tilled the farm,

    Roused the bullocks tethered nigh.

    Six-and-thirty bulls they drove

    Through the verdant fragrant grove,

    To the watered paddy field,

    Brilliant ’neath the silver moon

    As a mirror in the gloom,

    Or at noon a brazen shield.

    Turning then towards the east

    Apparandra gave a feast,

    Milk and rice, unto the gods.

    Then unto the rising sun

    Glowing like a fire begun,

    Lifts his hands, his head he nods.

    After that they yoke the bulls.

    Each than other harder pulls,

    And the ground they quickly plough.

    Day by day the work goes on,

    For the seed seven times is done,

    Then the harrow smooths the slough.

    Six times more they plough the field

    Before the planting drill they wield.

    This requires full thirty days.

    Then a dozen blooming maids

    Crowned with heavy, glossy braids,

    Leave the house like happy fays.

    Each one brings into the fields

    An offering to the god that shields

    House and home from drought and pain.

    Each one lifts her tiny hands,

    Before the sun a moment stands,

    Offers thanks for heat and rain.

    Then they pluck the tender plant,

    Tie in bundles laid aslant;

    Twenty bundles make a sheaf.

    Next the sheaves are carried thence

    To their future residence,

    Where they spend their life so brief.

    But they only plough a part

    Of the field to which they cart

    Plants so tender and so young.

    Just enough is done each day

    For the plants they have to lay

    There the new-made soil among.

    In the following month they weed,

    Mend the bunds as they have need,

    Place new plants where others died.

    Two months after this they wait

    Till with corn the ears are freight

    Near the western ocean tide.

    There the Huttri feast they make

    For the bounteous harvest’s sake.

    Spreading ever towards the east

    By the Paditora Ghaut,

    Gilding all the land about,

    Coorg receives the Huttri feast.

    To the Padinalknad shrine

    Gather all the Coorgi line,

    Offering praise and honor due.

    There they learn the proper day

    From the priest who serves alway

    Iguttappa Devaru.

    When at last the time has come,

    And the year’s great work is done

    In our happy glorious land;

    When the shades are growing long,

    All the eager people throng

    To the pleasant village Mand.

    First they praise the God they love,

    Thronéd high the world above.

    Then the Huttri games commence,

    And the evening glides away.

    Singing, dancing, wrestling, they

    Strive for highest excellence.

    When the seventh bright day begins,

    Each man for his household wins

    Leaves of various sacred plants.

    Five of these he ties with silk,

    Then provides a pot of milk,

    Ready for the festive wants.

    When the evening shades draw nigh,

    Each the others would outvie

    In a rich and splendid dress.

    Thus they march with song and shout,

    Music swimming all about,

    For the harvest’s fruitfulness.

    First they pray that God’s rich grace

    Still should rest upon their race.

    Waiting till the gun has roared

    Milk they sprinkle, shouting gay,

    Polé! Polé! Devaré!

    Multiply thy mercies, Lord!

    Soon the tallest stems are shorn

    Of the rich and golden corn,

    Carried home with shouts and glee.

    There they bind with fragrant leaves,

    Hang them up beneath the eaves,

    On the northwest pillar’s tree.

    Then at home they drink and sing,

    Each one happy as a king,

    Keeping every ancient way.

    On the morrow young and old,

    Dressed in robes of silk and gold,

    Crowd the green for further play.

    Here they dance upon the sward,

    Sing the songs of ancient bard,

    Fight with sticks in combat fierce.

    All display their strength and skill

    Wrestling, leaping, as they will;

    Till with night the crowds disperse.

    Last of all they meet again,

    Larger meed of praise to gain,

    At the district meeting-place.

    There before the nad they strive,

    All the former joys revive,

    Adding glories to the race?

    Now, my friends, my story ’s done.

    If you ’re pleased my end is won,

    And your praise you ’ll freely give.

    If I ’ve failed, spare not to scold.

    Though I ’m wrong or overbold,

    Let the joyous Huttri live.