Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > Asia
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Asia: Vols. XXI–XXIII.  1876–79.
India: Coorg
Harvest Song
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,        5
  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,        10
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.        15
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        20
  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,        25
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.        30
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,—        35
  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,        40
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.        45
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,        50
  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,        55
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.        60
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        65
  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,        70
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.        75
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,        80
  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,        85
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.        90
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,        95
  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        100
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.        105
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.        110
  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        115
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.        120
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,        125
  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        130
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.        135
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.        140
  Spreading ever towards the east
By the Paditora Ghaut,
Gilding all the land about,
  Coorg receives the Huttri feast.
To the Padinalknad shrine        145
Gather all the Coorgi line,
  Offering praise and honor due.
There they learn the proper day
From the priest who serves alway
  Iguttappa Devaru.        150
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        155
  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.        160
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.        165
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        170
  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        175
Still should rest upon their race.
  Waiting till the gun has roared
Milk they sprinkle, shouting gay,
Polé! Polé! Devaré!
  Multiply thy mercies, Lord!        180
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,        185
  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,        190
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.        195
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,        200
  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.        205
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.        210

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