For four centuries, Jnana-paana and Narayaniyam have been touchstones of faith in Kerala. Puntanam’s Jnana-paana may claim to be the first original modern poem in Malayalam; simple and innocent, it still speaks directly to the reader. Melpattur’s Narayaniyam is ‘the last great hurrah of classical Sanskrit’ in India; the poem excerpted here, majestic in its humility, describes a vision of the Lord. With his elegant verse translations, Vijay Nambisan brings these poems to a new audience. Also translated is a poem by Mahakavi Vallathol which relates the story of Melpattur and Puntanam’s meeting and how the Sanskritist scorned the vernacular poet.