New from the Asian and African studies blog at the British Library
Most of my blog posts are about manuscripts from maritime Southeast Asia, but the majority of items in the British Library are printed, including perhaps the most important collection in the world of early Malay printing. The Library also holds printed books in languages such as Javanese, Sundanese, Balinese, Batak and Bugis, dating from the earliest printed examples through to contemporary publications, as well as rare imprints in all languages from Southeast Asia. (Read more: Some new old books on and from the Malay world – Asian and African studies blog)
On the border, the Barisan Range,
I gaze out, look down and behold;
A vista of dense jungles and valleys;
And charming rice fields, rivers winding;
And then more, I see too,
The green canopy changing color
With forest crown, palm fronds waving;
That is the country, my homeland
Sumatra is her name, my beloved birth country.
As far as the eye can see, only forest,
Mountainous and hilly, nestling valleys;
Far in the distance, way over there,
Bounded by mountains one by one
There is certainly a heaven,
Without doubt a second paradise on earth
– A Malay Garden of Eden on top of the world!
That is the country I love,
Sumatra is her name, which I honor.
On the border, the Barisan Range,
Gazing down on beautiful beaches and bays;
A vista of water, endless water,
There is the sea, the Indian ocean.
You can see there the waves, so many waves
Breaking onto the sand, then spreading out,
They thunder, as if to proclaim:
“Oh Andalas, island of Sumatra,
Make sweet the name, from north to south!”
Bogor, July 1920
Homeland (Tanah Air) was first published in Indonesian in the Dutch-language journal Jong Sumatra : organ van den Jong Sumatranen Bond, Batavia, 1920 No. 4. It was republished in Pane, Armijn (ed.), Sandjak-Sandjak Muda Mr. Muhammad Yamin [The Young Poems of Mr. Muhammad Yamin], Firma Rada, Djakarta, 1954, p. 5.
Who would not be deeply moved
To see a small child singing
Alone in the middle of a field
No shirt, nothing on his head.
Thus is the fate of the buffalo herder
Shading under, a wooden shelter;
After leaving the stable at dawn
Only heading for home at sunset.
Not far away, softly audible
I can make out the sound of the Minang oboe
Conjuring nature, beautiful and melodious.
Oh herder, in an ocean of green
When it hears your oboe, your buffalo will follow
How I long to follow you too.
Buffalo Herder (Gembala) was first published in Indonesian in the Dutch-language journal Jong Sumatra : organ van den Jong Sumatranen Bond, Batavia April-May, 1921. It was republished in Pane, Armijn (ed), Sandjak-Sandjak Muda Mr. Muhammad Yamin [The Young Poems of Mr. Muhammad Yamin] Firma Rada, Djakarta 1954, p. 10 and again 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. 323.
I often laze about, deep in thought, Watching the sky aglow, Vaguely visible, joyful, Sweeping all away, my contemplative thoughts.
What is there to say, what does the future hold? Weak is my heart, without any strength, Watching the stars shining gloriously, Far atop the mountains.
Oh God of all nature, What is the point of being here, Worrying about my lot, after night has fallen?
The stars are shining now and it is dark, Leaving me sitting here like this Longing for love . . . leave me here to drown in my thoughts.
Based on and adapted from the work of Keith Foulcher (“Perceptions of Modernity and the Sense of the Past: Indonesian Poetry in the 1920s.” Indonesia, no. 23, 1977, pp. 39–58. www.jstor.org/stable/3350884.) First published in Indonesian in the Dutch language journal Jong Sumatra : organ van den Jong Sumatranen Bond, Batavia, June 1921.