Feb 24, 2020 Last Updated 11:37 PM, Feb 23, 2020

Merdeka!

Published: Jul 30, 2007

Waktu jalan. Aku tidak tahu apa nasib waktu? Pemuda-pemuda yang lincah yang tua-tua keras, bermata tajam, Mimpinya kemerdekaan bintang-bintangnya kepastian ada di sisiku selama menjaga daerah yang mati ini Aku suka pada mereka yang berani hidup Aku suka pada mereka yang masuk menemu malam Malam yang berwangi mimpi, terlucut debu ... Waktu jalan. Aku tidak tahu apa nasib waktu!

Soldiers on guard at night

Time passes. I do not know what fate awaits time. Agile young warriors, strong old men, with sharp eyes, Dreaming of freedom, as certain as the stars in the sky, stand beside me, on guard over this dead region I love those who dare to live I love those willing to enter the night The night fragrant with dreams, stripped of dust ... Time passes. I do not know what fate awaits time.

This poem by the major Indonesian poet Chairil Anwar (1922-1949) was probably written late in 1948. It shows Anwar's commitment to the ideal of 'kemerdekaan', the full independence of Indonesia, as well as his characteristic enthusiasm for a life lived with great intensity, despite the ever-present possibility of death.

Merdeka

belum

Freedom!

no, not yet ...

20th May 1998

This poem, written by the contemporary dramatist Ikranegara (born 1943) was dated the night before Suharto resigned as the president of Indonesia. It shows that struggle to realise the dream of national independence has been a long hard one. Conventionally, when a politician shouted 'Merdeka!' at his listeners, the audience would return the cry with great vigour. The refusal to accept the proposition that Indonesia was yet truly liberated was extremely subversive - and a source of great humour for the audience. Ikra and his audiences could play with these two words for a considerable time.

Kita adalah pemilik syah republik ini

Tidak ada pilihan lain. Kita harus
Berjalan terus
Karena berhenti atau mundur
Berarti hancur

Apakah akan kita jual keyakinan kita
Dalam pengabdian tanpa harga
Atau maukah kita duduk satu meja
Dengan para pembunuh tahun yang lalu
Dalam setiap kalimat yang berakhiran
'Duli Tuanku'?

Tidak ada pilihan lain. Kita harus
Berjalan terus
Kita adalah manusia bermata sayu, yang di tepi jalan
Mengacungkan tangan untuk oplet dan bus yang penuh
Kita adalah berpuluh juta yang bertahun hidup sengsara
Dipukul banjir, gunung api, kutuk dan hama
Dan bertanya-tanya diam inikah yang namanya merdeka
Kita yang tak punya kepentingan dengan seribu slogan
Dan seribu pengeras suara yang hampa suara

Tidak ada pilihan lain. Kita harus
Berjalan terus

The republic is ours

There is no other choice. We must
Go on
Because to stop or withdraw
Would mean destruction

Should we sell our certainty
For meaningless slavery,
Or sit at a table
With last year's murderers
Who end each sentence
'As Your Majesty wishes'?

There is no other choice. We must
Go on.
We are the people with sad eyes, at the edge of the road
Waving at vans and crowded buses.
We are the tens of millions who live in misery
Beaten about by flood, volcano, curses and pestilence,
Who silently ask for freedom
But are ignored in a thousand slogans
And meaningless loud-speaker voices.

There is no other choice. We must
Go on.

This poem is by Taufiq Ismail (born 1937), a student writer and activist in 1966.

The poems were selected by Harry Aveling (H.Aveling@latrobe.edu.au), who teaches at La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia. He has translated numerous volumes of Indonesian poetry into English. The last two poems and their translations can be found in Harry Aveling (translator), 'Secrets need words: Indonesian poetry 1966-1998' (Ohio University Press, 2001 - see Bookshop).

Inside Indonesia 68: Oct - Dec 2001

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A selection of stories from the Indonesian classics and modern writers, periodically published free for Inside Indonesia readers, courtesy of Lontar