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What is the summary and theme of A. K. Ramanujan's Poems of Love and War?

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Poems of Love and War: From the Eight Anthologies and the Ten Long Poems of Classical Tamil is an anthology of ancient Sangam poems (meaning that they were written by the Tamil aristocracy) edited and translated by A. K. Ramanujan. It consists mainly of poems about the two topics named in the title, beginning with "Akam Poems" (primarily about love) and moving on to "Puram Poems" (primarily about war). At the end, there are brief sections containing religious poems and poems on other topics.

The Akam poems are normally spoken in the first person by a young woman. These poems cover various aspects of love and may be romantic, sentimental, or erotic. One of their distinguishing features is the use of metonymy and symbolism to express these feelings. Kurinji, a flower that grows in the mountains, is associated with sex, and marutam, a tree with red flowers, signifies betrayal. Palai, a tree found in the desert, symbolizes estrangement or abandonment. The emotions of the lovers are therefore continually connected with the landscape.

Although Puram poems are principally about war, they also cover other topics related to masculine virtue, including kingship, and the practice of writing poetry. The division between Akam and Puram poems can also be described as separating those verses concerned with the inner landscape, including religious meditation as well as love, from those that focus on the exterior landscape of politics, war, and ritual.

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