dimanche, août 29, 2010

My Merdeka Thoughts

My precious bird nest ferns and our flag

Merdeka will be here soon as we can see in the neighbourhood - and pretty much around the country. This is our Jalur Gemilang flying in the wind in our garden doing double duty for our household and our wonderful neighbours - Cikgu Rahim and Cikgu Ani. And those are my precious bird nest ferns which you will see in abundance around our little garden.

Now, while I do not subscribe to the notion that my homeland is merely 53 years old, Merdeka is just as good a time as any to celebrate the coming of age of our nation. First let me explain my earlier statement. For me, my home - which we now call Malaysia, has been in existance millions of years ago when the tectonic plates moved to severe Australia from the continents. A 400 year colonial rule does not obliterate this reality and history. It is however, part and parcel of our country, as necessary to the story as any other part.

My homeland witnessed the birth of the oldest rainforest in the world.

And the most beautiful coral seas surrounding our shores.

The peninsula saw the movement of people to and fro the Kra Ithmus from the ancient cities Langkasuka to Gangga Nagara. Settlements began to fill out at the mouth of major rivers, sea-masters braved the pirate infested seas to seek new territories.

...and bewitched Ptolemy to call it Aurea Chernosese.

At the end of the 16th century after the fall of Melaka, copies of the ancient manuscript Sulalat us-Salatin or Sejarah Melayu began to appear. And the pantun was a unique feature of the highly stylised Malay literature. In no other form of poetry that a relationship between the metaphor and the reality is so intricately woven.


In the 18th and 19th centuries, if not earlier, the peninsular was called Tanah Melayu or Malaya for obvious reasons. There is a song that brings a threatening tear when I listen to it. It goes...

Sungguh gemilang negeriku
Yang ku puja
Oh! Tanah Melayu
Di serata dunia
Harum semerbak
Namamu oh! Malaysia...

Intrigue was bound during this era, especially in the tin rich land of Perak. The Wikipedia's account of it is the mildest and full of diplomacy,

"By the terms of the Pangkor Treaty, the Resident was an adviser whose decision were binding in all matters except for custom or religion. The first Resident had been murdered in 1874, precipitating a war that left nearly all high-rankingMalay officials either dead or in exile. Low's appointment marked a return to civil authority.

The intrigue, for now, can wait. It suits the purpose of my story to relate that the then Sultan of Perak, Sultan Abdullah was exiled to Seychelles. Described in Seychelles as a most Universal of Man, the Sultan mastered French, Creole and English. His favourite tune among others included a classic 18th century chanson de Francais - La Rosalie composed by Pierre Jean de Beranger. It has now been established that this is the origin of our national anthem Negaraku.The story here.

Back to Sultan Abdullah. The Sultan travelled to England and certainly, it is not too farfetched to deduce that he visited France. This was in the 1880s. Victor Hugo, himself a political exile during the reign of Napolean III, championed the cause of many and constantly took up cases with the government of Queen Victoria.

And now I come to the matter of the pantoum. The Larousse Encyclopedique says:
Pantoum ou Pantoun, n, m, (mot malais), Poeme a forme fixe, emprunte par les romantiques aa la poesie malaise - Encycl.. Le antoum fut introduit dans notre poesie par V Hugo (Orientaales) et Th Gautier, et epris par Baudelaire(Harmonie du soir), Banvillee, Leconte de Lisle...

In short,it says that the pantun was introduced into the french poetry by Victor Hugo and Theophile Gautier. However, Victor Hugo was already aware of the pantun form in the 1830s. Nevertheless, in the 1880s there was a surge of interest in the pantoum and translations of original Malay pantuns into French.

Sultan Abdullah was a cultured Universal Man of presence and style who appreciated music and poetry. Victor Hugo was the French poet, playwright, novelist, essayist, visual artist, statesman, human rights activist and exponent of the Romantic movement in France. I can imagine HRH and Victor Hugo together with their many friends and associates having political and cultural discussions including exchanging pantun at the end of a chilly winter evening. Such as this...

Les papillons jouent alentour sur leurs ailes;
Ils volent ver la mer, pres de la chaine des rochers
Mon coeur s'est senti malade dans ma poitrine
Depuis mes premiers jours jusqu'a a l'heure presente

I became acquainted with this wondrous history in part during my days at the Royal Lake Club. I would like to acknowledge the extensive research and article written by Jon Azman -Negaraku and its Parisian Roots. More importantly, the first hand information supplied by the great grand daughter of Sultan Abdullah, Raja Teh Zaitun Raja Kamarulzaman, aka Mak Ungku.

However, the tale of the pantoum's origin is my conclusion, albeit with heavily romanticised slant, based on facts and timeline involved.

More references from Wikipedia, from Indonesia, here and here. Also, do refer to Francois Rene Daillie's Alam Pantun Melayu.

My thoughts on Merdeka in 2009 and 2008.


Mak Ungku and I had one of our chit chats yesterday. And as usual, it was precious as ever. Jerusalem and her French classes were on her mind. Oh yes, London in the 1940s too.

Then I told her about my recent endeavours into pantun. Mak Ungku then shared the beautiful Omar Khayyam poetry which she recited off the cuff in English, French and Bahasa. And of Haji Hamilton who translated the Omar Khayyam into Bahasa Melayu. The following summed up our little tête-à-tête

Duduk di sini bernyanyi-nyanyian
Padang terkukur jadi kayangan

15 commentaires:

Cat-in-Sydney a dit…

Aunty Ninot,
TQ for the history lesson. We only get to learn Aussie history here, Mama said one day she'll teach us SEA history. That's d problem with home schooling, up to your tutor on what to teach you...sigh.... purrr...meow!

ninotaziz a dit…

Ilove SEA history,with a dash of myth - Majapahit, Sailendra (see my accompanying blog - A Hikayat A Day), Gangga Nagara, Patani/Langkasuka, Kembayat Nagara etc etc. You teach me Australian history, I tell you lovely SEA stories about exotic queens and dashing warrior princes, okay?

Aishah a dit…

Too beautiful and interesting Ninot. Thank you. Celebrate the song Oh Malaysia tanah air ku.

Merdeka does not mean anything to me. I do feel nostalgic of the Merdeka time, 53 years ago, even though I was not there. There is an aura, a spirit, a pride that I feel is gone.

ninotaziz a dit…

Dear Aishah,
I know what you mean. Really, I do. But as more of us search deep inside to discover the true Merdeka, the spirit and all that it stood for will return.

I believe this fervently. I really do.

Akelamalu a dit…

Such a beautiful place!

I can't seem to find your Microfiction???

Prayer Girl a dit…

Thank you so much for visiting my blog and leaving a comment.


ninotaziz a dit…

Dear Akemalu,
I left you amy MFM link since you could not find it. Cheers for dropping by!

Dear Prayer Girl,
No problem. Love your poetry - don't stop. And thanks for being here.

G-Man a dit…

Tres Bien...
Merci Mon Ami!!

Al-Manar a dit…

On the eve of Merdeka, away from homeland I could not imagine what it would be like for Malaya. Deep inside I felt sorry, for reasons unknown. And 53 years later I wonder what made me feel that way then and wonder whether or not, to day, my thought has or has not been justified.

ninotaziz a dit…

Dear Pakcik,
I too miss Malaya.Somehow, the spirit is different.

Stafford Ray a dit…

SE Asian history must be even older than Austalian Aboriginal history.
As an Australian who has spent some time in Indonesia with its rich culture, clever and friendly people, containing the largest Mulsim population in the world, I am dispmayed at the lack of attention given by official Australia to their culture and the creation of contacts across the narrow Timor Sea. To a lesser degree, the same applies to Malaysia, so to read your informative and inclusive blog is a delight!

ninotaziz a dit…

Thank you Stafford. There is a song in my heart that I am able to share a little bit of our history with those who appreciate this.

ninotaziz a dit…

Merci, G-Man. Merci beucoup pour visite mon blog.

Jingle a dit…

Hello, friend, how are you?

I invite you to our Monday Poetry Potluck Party,
We have other features such as poem of the week, poetry blog of the week, and poet of the week, plus Sunday poetry news dispatch, if you attend our Monday Party, there is a chance that you poetry or you as a promising poet are represented by one of our officials, and your talent will be highlighted or exposed to wider audience,

No specific rules, simply linking in 1 to 3 poems, it could be an old poem, let us read and comment for you. Feel free tasting other poetry treats, all enjoyable experience…


Click on the link, you will see a blue button, click on the blue button, you will see three boxes, your specific poem link to be placed in first, then your name or blog name, then your email connected to your blog….

Happy Belated Monday!
Let the fun begin!

Jingle a dit…

love your talent,
I appreciate your contribution and support.

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