Language, Nation

By Muhammad Yamin, 1921

“What you have inherited from your fathers, earn over again for yourselves or it will not be yours.” Goethe

While still small and tender in years
The little child sleeps in her mother’s arms.
Her mother sings, soft songs and lullabies
Adoring the little one with endless praise;

Rocking lovingly night and day
Rocker hanging in the land of the ancestors.
Born in the country, with its own language

Surrounded by family right and left,
Raised in the customs of the Malay lands
With happiness, and also sadness;
Feelings of union coming together,
In her language, sweet the sound.

Weep and shed tears of great joy
With gladness in adversity and danger;
You and I breathe the incarnation of our life
In the language the extension of our soul,
Wherever Sumatra is, there is the nation,
Wherever the Patchwork cloth is, there is our language.

My beloved Andalas, vase-shaped island,
Since a small young child,
Until death and laid to rest in the earth
Forget our language, we shall never,
Remember young people, oh unhappy Sumatra
Lose our language, and the nation too is lost.

February 1921


First published in Indonesian in the Dutch language journal Jong Sumatra : organ van den Jong Sumatranen Bond, Batavia, February 1921 via Sandjak-sandjak Muda Mr. Muhammad Yamin [The Young Poems of Mr. Muhammad Yamin]  Firma Rada, Djakarta 1954, p. 9 and republished in Jassin, H. B.  Pujangga baru : prosa dan puisi / dikumpulkan dengan disertai kata pengantar oleh H.B. Jassin  [Pujangga Baru : prose and poetry / collected and accompanied by an introduction by H.B. Jassin] Haji Masagung, Jakarta,  1987, p. 322.

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