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The Poetics of the Pantun

by T Wignesan



    The Poïetics of the Pantun



         T. Wignesan

         Ex-Research Fellow,

French National Centre for Scientific Research,                        

         C.N.R.S., Paris, France               




        It would be quite unjust to apply the poetic norms of tropes (essentially paradigmatic relations) and those of schemes (syntagmatic relations) as they are known to us today to the poetics of the pantun. In any case, the Malay littérateur of old did not have to worry/concern himself with the technique of creative composition of the pantun, considering his subordinate literary role vis-à-vis his Arabo-Persian and Indo-Chinese counterparts in the pre-medieval era. Richard Winstedt, the foremost authority on the Malay world, seemed in any case to be convinced of this fact.


 From songs of tribal origin he (the modern Malay) has evolved a number of

 chronicles (hikayat), and he has lapped foreign suggestion to polish village

 quatrains that must have been popular from time immemorial. A hunt through

 half a million pages of Malay manuscripts will find all that is purely indigenous

 in an output of histories (sejarah), the pantun and a few topical verses (sjair



     Winstedt who was unsparing in his criticism of the Malay's lack of originality in many aspects of his cultural heritage was more than dithyrambic when it came to the pantun. He felt that "many of those (pantun(s)) extant today may even antedate the use of the Arabic script."2  [AHOCML: 204]


       But in the pantun Malay literature is almost for the first time original,

       owing no debt to foreign sources, and nowhere else does it reach so

  high a level.3  [AHOCML: 206]                             


     Although Winstedt's assessment of the pantun was not thorough or even penetrating, he intuitively - given his vast and incomparable grasp of classical Malay writing - came to the conclusion - despite his rather inadequate translations of a good many quatrains - that at "its best the pantun does far more than juggle with verbal assonance, (sic) is indeed 'simple, sensuous and passionate' and has the magic of inevitable phrase."4 [AHOCML: 207]        


     To the Malay, the metaphor, the simile, the maxim, the allusion, the proverb, etc., mean practically one and the same thing, that is to say in Malay: persamaan, tamsil, ibarat, kiasan, perumpamaan, peribahasa, pepatah, pematah, etc. 5, whose minimal differences may be put down to non-structural nuances, because at the root of the Malay's rhetorical confusion lies what is very likely a "molecular" structure which assimilates and incorporates into a globally unified structure of  relations all that is rhetorically disparate and which is known as the pantun, a structure that is equally grafted onto the Madagascan hainteny, the German schnadahüpfel, the Russian tchastouchka, the Javanese wangsallan, the Norwegian fornyrjislag, the Italien stornello, the Tunisian gharobiat and so on and so forth. Of course, the Malay distinguishes the pantun from other similar specific models, such as the sha'ir, but there is absolutely no doubt that no other poetic vehicle has afforded him such a collective creative outlet of effervescence, right from the beginnings of his literary history.





     First of all let us note that the pantun is not simply a quatrain. Of course it is the form in which it is most to be found, but there exist other more complex forms of the pantun, such as, the distique, the sextet (in two successive tercets, each tercet replacing the roles of the distiques in the quatrain), the octave and the pantun berkait, the last of which being a series of interwoven quatrains (quatrains crochetés), that is to say, the second and fourth lines of the preceding quatrain are repeated in the succeeding quatrain as the first and the third all along several strophes (the same procedure applies to successive pantun(s) in tercets alternating between the first and the third and the third and the first) while the series of pantun(s) is/are concluded or brought to an end by the repetition of the first and the third line of the first quatrain.


     The pantun is not a lyrical or narrative poem: the sha'ir occupies this place in Malay poetry. The pantun is quite simply on one obvious level a riddle. One cannot but be affected by the detached state of its expressed sentiments, be they on the subject of love, eroticism, moeurs, customs, philosophical declarations or even jokes. Literary historians have been able to distinguish several varieties of the genre: the pantun budak-budak devoted to children, the pantun tua-tua directed to the older generation, the pantun berkaseh sayang involving the young in love, the ancient and modern pantun(s), etc.


As far as we are concerned here, it would suffice to analyse the form in which it appears most habitually. Let us take an example of a simple quatrain put forth by M.B. Lewis and another by A.W. Hamilton, both of which, besides being accessible to all, are typical of the genre:


     Apa guna berkain batek,

            Kalau tidak dengan suchi-ya?

     Apa guna berbini chantek,

            Kalau tidak dengan budi-nya? 6


     What's the use of clothing yourself in batik

          If it's not clean.              

      What's the use of taking to wife a beauty    

          If she hasn't character ?


               (Of what use fine feathers

                    If they are not protective?

               Of what use a pretty wife

                    If she's not steadfast?)



     Anak berok di-kayu rendang

           Turun mandi di-dalam paya.

      Hudoh burok di-mata orang

            Chantek manis di-mata saya. 7


            Baby monkey in a bushy tree

                  Descends to bathe in the swamp.

             Plain, ugly in others' eyes

                  Pretty, sweet in my eyes.

                         [transl. T. Wignesan]


     As far as the prosodic structure8 of the pantun is concerned, each line should normally vary between eight to twelve syllables. Each syllable makes up a foot. The metre therefore is based on the accent:


      In Malay, a syllable of significant unity which is the lexème can be highlighted by

      an accent. This accent is pronounced by a slight augmentation of vocalic duration   

      and generally it concerns the penultimate (syllable). 9


     Besides, the rhythm is not rigidly fixed, since in the Malay language the accent falls variously on the penultimate syllable and on the antepenultimate when the last syllable ends in -kan, and/or the final syllable when the penultimate syllable is composed of "ë".


     The most frequent rhyme scheme is as follows:


         ABAB 10, but it could also be - as for the sha'ir - AAAA.


      Most often each line of the pantun is made up of four plérèmes (substantive, verb, adjective, adverb), with or without the cénèmes (words of syntactic function). And as the majority of the words in Malay do not exceed two or three syllables, it devolves that each line of the pantun is normally limited to a dozen syllables.


     Further, the Malay language formes its syntactic relations by means of morphemes: prefixes and suffixes, or derivative affixes, that is to say, me-, pe-, ter-, di-, ke-, se-, -kan, -an, -i, -lah, -kah, etc. (me- and pe- modify themselves when juxtaposed with radicals). The agglutinative nature of the language therefore permits us to find quite often initial rhymes or alliterations, and internal rhymes, or even frequent instances of assonance and consonance. The final rhymes also may be affected in the same way. It is also in conformity with the enigmatic nature of the pantun that the morphemes sometimes are suppressed better to maintain the prosodic structure, as it is the case with the role of "ellipses" in the poetry of the classical Tamil poetry, that is, the Cankam and the immediate post-Cankam  periods. Again, as it is to be found in some forms of ancient Chinese poetry12, the pantun as a quatrain-strophe is made up of lines of two separate distiques, but unlike the Chinese prosodic practice, the distiques are not organically related. There is no real cesura and therefore no distinct segments in the lines. Enjambement is possible in the pantun's distiques, but only in a syntactic sense.


      What really distinguishes the pantun from all other similar forms, such as the hainteny13, the schnadahüpfl14, the tchastouchka15, the sloka16, (and many other related forms, such as the wangsallan, the copla, the fornyrjislag, the krakowiak, the kolomyjka, the daina, etc.) is the role of the first distique (or tercet) vis-à-vis the following second. The first is the "clothesline" containing the allusion (sampiran and kiasan) on which the second distique or tercet may be overlaid or hung.  The relationship is one of interdependence. In other words, the first distique or tercet hints or presages, by the use of poetic artifices of parallelism, either symmetric or de-symmetric, the sense, the meaning or message (maksud) , if there were any, in the following second group of lines. The sense of the pantun may generally be conceived, given the anonymity of authorship in most pantun(s), as something impersonal.


     On the other hand, if we applied Samuel R. Levin's concept of "couplings" both in a phonological as well as in a semantic sense17, we may see how the first distique or tercet is intrinsically joined to the second group. This characteristic of the pantun is easily visible in the above two quatrains.


     In the first of the quatrains given above, the couplings are much more evident, i.e., between berkain (to dress oneself) and berbini /kan (marry or take to wife), between batek (specially hand-printed cloth or fine clothes) and chantek (pretty), between suchi (pure in a religious sense) and budi (character in the sense of good conduct or chastity). The message is clear: to be married to an unfaithful wife or to one who misbehaves (or even one who lacks intelligence) would be like donning fine feathers, ostentatious but insufficient to hide the shame or the emptiness within.


     As for the second quatrain, we can see that the morpheme di is the only cénème while all the other lexèmes are plérèmes. Even if the morpheme di serves as a cesura, it is not necessary to discern segments in the lines. All the lexemes are made up of two syllables each as it is the case with the first strophe; therefore, each line is made up of eight syllables, though not counting the cénèmes di and -nya. The symmetry and parallelism of the alternate lines are overtly present. Besides, in both cases, the rhyme scheme is: ABAB, with a perfect rhyme which alternates between masculine and feminine ones.


     In the second quatrain-pantun, we may note that the semantic couplings are berok and burok , mandi and manis, while the phonological couplings appear in the di, the end rhymes and internal rhymes: berok  and burok. Let's note also the perfect symmetry of di arising at the fifth syllable of each line. Consequently, both from the point of view phonologic as well as semantic, the word berok (pigtailed monkey) presages burok (ugly), and in the same fashion, mandi (to bathe) affects manis (sweet or to smell good). The enjambement between the first and the second lines is altogether syntactic, that is to say, between the subject and the predicate.  The foreshadowing of the second distique by the first is reinforced by the symmetry between the first line and the third, and between the second line and the fourth. The image of a monkey in a bushy tree (with innumerable leaves) resembles an ugly girl (in the eyes of many), while a monkey which descends into the swamps to take a bath contrasts with the image of a young ugly girl transformed (in the eyes of the persona of the poem).  A pantun which fulfils these structural euphonic and semantic qualities is known as: pantun mulia or noble pantun.


     Another characteristic of the pantun is that it is often at one and the same time an anonymous and collective creation and lends itself quite often to melodic chanting and musical accompaniment. It is in any case the choice means of repartee during the few minutes that the traditionally popular Malay dance: ronggeng lasts, a dance that is performed by the opposite sexes without effecting any form of bodily contact whatsoever while they sway forth and back to the accompaniment of the rebab (a violin with three chords) and the gendang (a two-faced drum).20 


      One can't insist enough by restating that the pantun generally belongs to the populace being a product of a collective effort. It also becomes during festive occasions an excuse for playfulness. On this point what Jean Paulhan has to say on the hainteny, which by the way like the Madagascan language and the Mérina people hails from the Malay world, applies in some ways to the pantun with the difference that the sentiments which predominate in the pantun are weighted more on the side of love.



       If the hain-teny is therefore a game, it remains that such a game,

       by the hostile sentiments it promotes and affects can at any moment

 skid into real life itself without our being able to distinguish at which moment

       the game ended and at which moment it had begun.21


     Finally, it is necessary to emphasise that the most ingenious pantun(s) remain the creations of the anonymous masses, and the final touches to the most popular pantun(s) are administered through several versions on the same theme in their long melodious voyage from ear to mouth all up and down the Malayan peninsula.





     Since the pantun does not appear in its written form earlier than the beginning of the seventeenth century, we must in order to locate its origins follow one of three roads of research open to us. In the present state of research in the field, we have to either accept the local antecedents of the pantun mentioned by several research authorities, or try to discover the influences coming from overseas, or else, which would be far more useful, attempt to bring together all the more important elements which could have in the best of circumstances produced such a poetical structure and such a genre.


     The scholars of the Malay world are agreed on one point at least, that is, that the origins of the word pantun rest uncertain. Nevertheless, two uses of the word in the Indonesian language deserve to be singled out. According to Omardin Asha'ari21, pantun means in the language of the ancient Minankabaus22 "as" or "equal to", or even "for example", although Richard Winstedt thinks23 that this meaning is derivative and secondary, like the utilisation of the sanskrit "umpama" and the arab "ibarat" as synonyms for the pantun. By contrast, Winstedt cites Brandstelter who had found in an old Javanese root word "tun" a whole series of related words, such as, "tuntun" (string), "atuntun" "in lines), "tonton" (in Tagalog: to speak in a certain order), and cites as a source a Kelantanese manuscript, the Hikayat Bakhtiar, in which figures a phrase: "di-tuntunkan-nya oleh perempuan muda itu pantun...". 


     The origin(s) of the pantun as it is created today is/are most likely to be found as much within as outside the Malay world, although one may never be wholly certain of its source(s), since, even before it made its first appearance in the Sejarah Melayu24 -- given its finished form -- it is more than probable that the pantun had gone through a period of gestation for a number of centuries. On the other hand, if one takes into account the arrival of the Chinese emissaries in the sultanate of Malacca: the admirals Yin Ching (1405) and Cheng Ho (1411), of the emperor Chu Ti (1403-24) of the Ming Dynasty, one is constrained to pose the question whether or not the Chinese shih had not weighed heavily on the composition of the pantun right from its first known appearance:


       Chau Pandan, anak Bubunya,

            Hendak menyeram ka-Melaka.

        Ada chinchin berisi bunga,

            Bunga berladong si-ayer mata. 26


                         (Chau Pandan, son of the King of Siam,

                   Wishes to drive terror through Malacca.

 Thering embossed with flowers,           

                   The flowers laden with tears.) [Transl. T.Wignesan]



      At this juncture, it is useful to recall that even before the arrival in force of the Chinese in the Malay world, the most persistent influence the Malays have had to be subjected to  was that of the Indians, above all that of the Dravidians who spoke both Tamil and Sanskrit and were either Hindus, Jains or Buddhists, followed since the twelfth century by Indian Muslim converts. The Tamil Dravidians kept coming to the Malay archipelago from the first century A.D., mainly as "colonising-traders" as the regional indigenous kingdoms such as Takuapa and Langkasuka (in the north of the Malay peninsula), the maritime kingdom of Sri Vijaya (probably centred at one time in Palembang, Sumatra), and the kingdoms of Majapahit and Sailendra (founded in the island of Java), etc., bear witness. Among the innumerable quatrains of classical Tamil literature of the cankam period, most probably of the second to the fifth century A.D., let's cite the following quatrain as an example of the concise epigrammatic structure which is similar to the pantun:


       nilattinum perite vaninum uyarntanru

       nirinum arala vinre carar

       karunkor kurincip pukkontu

       perunte nilaikkum natanotu natpe

                         (Tevakulattar: Kuruntokai, 3)



          (Bigger than the earth, higher than the sky

                  Deeper than the oceans, on the mountain slopes

          The kurunci of the dark stems blooms - honey like

                  Even greater is my love for this lord of the land) [Transl. T.Wignesan]


     What we should note in this quatrain of the celebrated anthology on love, Kuruntokai 27 is first of all the utilisation of ellipse as a poetic device, then the approximate number of syllables to each line, and finally the separation of images in the two distiques. Of course, one may not be in a position to fully appreciate the poem without a knowledge of the poetics of the "five landscapes"28, but one cannot help noting the pantun's resemblance to it.


     Khalid M.Hussain provides in a rather succinct manner the opinion of several experts on Malaysian studies, such as those of Van Ophuysen, Crawfurd, Pijnappel, Hoesein, Djajadiningrat, Gonda and C.Hooykaas. In their view, the origin of the pantun emerges from the use of "phonic suggestion" (suggestie bunyi) and the parallelism of enigmatic forms (teka-teki and the wangsallan). On the other hand, Winstedt had compared the pantun, by citing the explanations of Cranmer-Byng29, to the Chinese ode, while he attributed its origins to the folkloric enigmatic compositions of Malay medieval literature.


       The most elementary forms of Malay literary effort are these tales

       of his civilisation's nursery, supplemented by riddles and proverbs,

       forms that call not only for imagination but for artistry in words.]4[What

       plant is it that has a leaf like a sword and fruit like a gong-bearer?

       Answer: the pineapple. This plain straightforward riddle can hardly be

       called a literary type, but there is another kind of Malay riddle that

       depends for its solution on jingle and assonance, that is on literary style(...)

       While often, if his hearers were defeated, the propounder would jeer

       at them in a patter (...) This practice in assonance led to the most

       pleasing form in Malay poetry, the pantun.30



     Another example that Winstedt cites is even more appropriate to his claims, which besides rejoins those of the authorities Khalid M. Hussain mentions above.


       Every girl knows that if her mother reels off the name [sic] of four fishes:


              siakap senohong gulama ikan diri,

       she is saying politely

              berchakap pun bohong, lama-lama menchuri

       'If you start by lying, you'll end by stealingt.'31


     Theodore G.Th. Pigeaud, on the other hand, attributes to a quatrain called parikans32 to be found in ancient popular Javanese literature the characteristics of the pantun, a genre above all which was in use in the north-east of the island of Java.


     Hans Overbeck, perhaps the most informed scholar on the origins of the pantun, draws our attention to a type of "pantun" in vogue among the Sundanese.


        But besides the written literature there is the pantun,

        which in Sundanese means a tale taken from legends or from the

        history of old times, half sung, half recited by the bard, the

        tukang pantun, to the accompaniment of a sort of violin

        (tarawangsa) or lute (kachapi).33


      Closer still to the poetic of suggestie bunyi is the usage by a people in Sumatra, which, according to Van Ophuijsen, has recourse to the language of "leaves". Example:


         sitarak                   =     marsarak       (divorce, take leave)

         ladung dung          =    dung              (after)

         sitata                     =     tita                 (we)

         sitanggis               =     tanggis           (cry, weep)

         padom-padom      =     modum          (sleep)

         pahu                     =      au                  (me, I)34


     All the above phonic jingling sounds to say: "Since our separation, I cannot sleep anymore, and I weep."


     It is to be noted that almost all the similar poetic forms that one finds scattered around the world made their appearance in relatively modern times, and therefore may not shed much light on the veritable origins of the pantun as it was handed down to us in the Sejarah Melayu. We are therefore constrained to look elsewhere, especially in the ancient Asiatic literatures for which the peoples of the Malay world have more or less always shown a predilection.



 IV – INFLUENCES       First of all, Overbeck alludes to a collection of forty Chinese novels from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 A.D.) where he says he found a similar form35.Then, he cites V.von Strauss who, in his preface to the Anthology of Odes, one of the four classics of classical Chinese literature, mentions the hsing (metaphor or image), a rhetorical device by which the Chinese poet - even before he expresses the object of his poem - describes under the guise of an introduction a strange phenomenon or important event in one or two lines, in order to be able to prepare in the reader the right measure of receptivity for the successive lines. Overbeck cites the following quatrain as an example:


       ying ying ching ying

       chih yü chen

       t'san jen wang chi

       kou wo er jen36


                     (The clumsy blue flies buzzing around

                       Upon the hazels blunder;

                       O cursed tongue that knows no bound

                       And sets us two asunder.)


     What we should bear in mind here, contrary to the structural poetics of the tz'u (ch'u), the general rule as is the case with the shih (fu) requires uniformity in the length of each line, while in addition permitting the tonal symmetry or de-symmetry. 


     Secondly, Overbeck draws our attention, by referring to what Marsden emphasised earlier on37, to the Buddhist quatrains, in Pali, of the Dhammapada, in which, according to Overbeck,  one finds several quatrains where "the first distique contains an image of which the sense is applied in the second." Example:


       As into a house, which is badly thatched,

              The rain will enter.

       Thus into an untrained mind

               The craving will enter.38


     By contrast, in the pantun(s) one does not find the two key words of the above quatrain: "as" and "thus". In other words, there is no logical working out of the structure of a syllogism.


     In any case, it would serve to remember that the pilgrim, Yi Jing (635-713) who while undertaking a maritime voyage (671-675) to the Buddhist university at Nalanda (in the state of Bihar, India), stopped at Sri Vijaya in Sumatra and found that the official language in use was Sanskrit and that the largest Buddhist monastery of the times was situated there.39 Furthermore, the epic poems: Mahabharata and Ramayana was known all over Southeast Asia as the wayang kulit (shadow play) of today bears witness, despite the indefatigable influence of Islam during six centuries.


     Thirdly, in order to circumscribe our investigation of the pantun's probable antecedents, it would be necessary to seek in A.L.Basham's knowledge of India what Overbeck had already less expertly hinted at in his essay on the pantun. In the following quotation, Basham describes a system of versification which could very well be at the source of the composition of the pantun in its written form.


       The commonest Vedic stanza is Tristubh, consisting of four quarters

       of eleven syllables each. The quarter normally has a caesura after the

       fourth or fifth, and is prevailingly iambic. (...) Similar to this, but with an

       extra syllable in each quarter, was the twelve-syllabled Jagati... In the

       later hymns of the Rg Veda a stanza of four eight-syllable quarters,

       called Anustubh, became popular. (...) From the Anustubh of the Vedas

       developed the Sloka, the chief epic metre of later times. This consisted

       of four quarters of eight syllables each... (...). The sloka metre was widely

       used for poetry of all kinds, especially for didactic and narrative verse. (...)

       Textbooks describe over 100 metres of this kind, many with fanciful names,

       but only some twenty or thirty were popular.40






    All in all, it would seem that, given the rhetorical role structure of the pantun in Malay, the pantun may be reduced to the bare elements constituting the metaphor. Applying I.A.Richards'41 terminology to the pantun, we see that the isi or maksud can be substituted by the tenor and the sampiran by the vehicle, that is, the image in the first distique (or tercet) of the pantun is clarified or explained in the second distique (or tercet); in other words, structurally the pantun constitutes a metaphor in inverse order. On the other hand, Henri Fauconnier thinks that the structure of the pantun excels that of the metaphor itself.


      The first two lines of a pantun…are just the preparation of an idea

      which is going to blossom out in the following lines. This creates an

      atmosphere by avoiding the crudeness of a metaphor.42


      Further, the anonymous nature of the pantun elevates the form into a genre where the essence of the sentiments expressed in it remain at an impersonal communicative level, without in any way requiring the intervention of the receptor at the subjective level: one need feel neither empathy or sympathy for the personae in the oeuvre, nor for the author. T.S.Eliot's theory of the "objective correlative"43, taking into consideration Susan Langer's critique of it, explains quite well the fundamental nature of the pantun. Here, the anonymous author is solely concerned about interposing between him and his receptor "...a set of objects, a situation, a chain of events...", in order to best retain his art in the realm of objectivity.


     If we take into account the fact that the pantun in all its variegated forms was most likely perfected before the seventeenth century, during which period its creative "processes" were anonymous, collective and oral, we should admit right away that, failing the discovery of a manuscript containing a pantun earlier than the composition of the Sejarah Melayu, all the argument about the origin of the pantun must fall within the domain of academic conjecture.


     Excluding the strictly indigenous elements, such as, the semantic and phonological couplings, assonance and rhyme, the enigmatic style and variety of the genre, it is quite probable that the antecedents of the pantun are likely to be found in the Chinese ode shih, the Sanskrit sloka of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, the Pali quatrains of the Dhammapada, and, of course, the elliptical poetry of the Tamil Cankam period. Given this conclusion, it would be most hazardous to talk of a direct or immediate influence. Besides, the Malays have never used the vehicle of the pantun to serve their religious didactic purposes (excepting, of course, the numerous ethically edifying pantun(s) on Malay customary mores), nor as a narrative or lyrical genre, for which they reserve other models, such as, the sha'ir, seloka, gurindam, etc.


      Given the above poetical characteristics of the pantun, it wouldn't be too difficult to claim for this unique literary genre the stamp of an original creative endeavour, endemic to the Malay world, a genre whose poetics distinguishes itself by its breadth and variety of invention in modern times, winning for itself a choice place in World literature. The ingenuity of its own creation by an entire people, transcending class and birthright, and its continued use and appreciation at all levels of society make the genre a unique vehicle of communication even among the illiterate: witness the ronggeng.


     Finally, it would be fair to acknowledge that for the Malay the pantun is both an enigma, made up of innumerable customary, legendary and historical allusions and a challenge, a challenge to his ingenuity as a creator, a challenge to an entire race of pantunists (aficionados of the pantun) lost by name among the anonymous masses over the centuries, poets such as a mother feigning anger at her lethargically inclined daughters; an old man desiring to win the favours of a prince; a young suitor for the hand of his neighbour’s daughter, or the pining dilemma of a faithful but abandoned wife - poets for whom poetry means the pantun and the pantun an entirely unique way of life.    







1. R.O.Winstedt, A History of Classical Malay Literature, répr. From the 2nd edn., 1961, London-N.Y.: Oxford University Press,1969, p. vi.


2. Arena Wati, Asas Pengetahuan Puisi, Kuala Lumpur: Pustaka Antara, 1971, pp.


Cf.T.Wignesan, Etude comparée des littératures nationales et/ou officielles de la Malaisie et de Singapour depuis 1941, Lille: Université de Lille III, 1988, vol.II, pp.13-16.


3. Ram Dass (pseudonym of Richard Alpert), The Only Dance There Is, N-Y: Anchor Books, 1974, p.115:


   "...this kind of discipline of being able to move awareness

    behind thought and observe sequences of your own thoughts,

    and be able to be calm enough and detached enough from

    your own thought to witness thoughts."


4. T.Wignesan, Op.Cit., vol.II, pp.19-22.


5. A.W.Hamilton, Malay Pantuns, Singapore-K.L.: Times Books International, 1987, p.47.


6. M.B.Lewis, Malay, London: English Universities Press, 1959, p.318.


7. Arena Wati, Op.Cit., pp.85-96.


8. Joseph Verguin, Le Malais: Essai d'analyse fonctionnelle et structurale, Paris-La Haye: Mouton (Cahiers de l'homme), 1967, p.38.


9. Arena Wati, Op.Cit., p.94.


10. James J.Y.Liu, The Art of Chinese Poetry, Chicago-London: The University of Chicago Press, 1974, xii-164p.


    Cf.François Cheng, L'Ecriture poétique chinoise, suivi d'une anthologie des poèmes des T'ang, Paris: Seuil, 1977, 268p.


11. Bakoly Domenichini-Ramiaramanana, Hainteny d'autrefois (Poèmes traditionnels malgaches recueillis au début du règne de Ranavalona I, 1828-1861), Paris: pub. avec le concours du CNRS,1971, p.269:


     Pi-boanjo pi-boanemba

     Tandany tanana te-hiaro

     Pi-boanjo pi-boanemba

     Raha mety hoahy tsy harovako?




   Il claquait une cacahuète il claquait une casse

   Tout près d'une main qui se voulait protectrice

   Il claquait une cacahuète il claquait une casse

   Si elle accepte d'être à moi ne l'irai-je pas protéger?


12. P.Merker et W.Stammler, Reallexikon der Deutschen Literatur-geschichte, t.III, Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1928/29, p.193:


     Dass der Wald finster is,

      Dös machen die Bam.

     Dass mei Schatz untreu is,

      Dös glab i kam.


13. Revue de littérature comparée, Paris, 1958, p.220:


      Quelle scie bien affilée

      Qui entra dans le sapin.

      Quelle idiote étais-je

      Pour tomber amoureuse d'un garçon.


14. A.L.Basham, The Wonder that was India, London: Fontana-Collins, 1971, p.511:



        vodha muhuh kampita-devadaruh

      yad vayur anvistamrgaih kiratair

        asevyate bhinna-sikhandi-barhah


15. Samuel R.Levin, Linguistic Structures in Poetry, La Haye: Mouton, 1973, pp.30-41.


16. This is a traditional Malaysian Malay dance which prohibits the partners (during which time they – the opposite sexes – engage in a bout of using the pantun as a challenge and repartee) from touching one another. [C'est une dance traditionnelle de Malaisie où il est strictement interdit aux partenaires (qui se livrent à un défi de répartie par moyen des pantouns) de se toucher.]


17. The complete Malay orchestra is made up of (in addition) : the tawak-tawak ( a series of gongs) ; the geduk (drums) ; and the kesi (two pairs of very small-sized cymbals. [Le grand orchestre malais comprend en plus: le tawak-tawak (une série des gongs), le geduk (la battérie) et le kesi (deux paires des cymbales de très petites tailles).


18. Jean Paulhan, Les Haintenys merinas, Paris: Librairie Orientaliste Geuthner, 1913, p.12.


19. O.H.Asha'ari, Kajian Pantun Melayu, Singapore: Malaya Publishing House, 1961, 76p.


20. Ibid., p.6.


21. R.J.Wilkinson et R.O.Winstedt, Pantun Melayu, Singapore: Malaya Publishing House, 1957, pp.3-23.


22. C.C.Brown (trad.), Sejarah Melayu, (The Malay Annals), London-Singapore-N.Y.: Oxford University Press, 1970, 273p.


23. Ibid., p.59.


24. Puliyurk Kesikan (ed. with commentary), Kuruntokai, Madras: Parinilaiyam,19


  Cf. A.K.Ramanujan (trad.), The Interior Landscape: Love Poems from a Classical Tamil Anthology, Bloomington and London: Indiana University Press (UNESCO: Indian Series), 1967,p.19.


25. K.M.Hussain, "Pantun, Teka-Teki dan Peribahasa", in Dewan Bahasa, Vol.23, n°12 (Kuala Lumpur), December 1979, pp. 50-55.


26. R.O.Winstedt, The Malays: A Cultural History, London: Routledge, Kegan & Paul, 1961, p.157.


27. R.O.Winstedt, A History of Classical Malay Literature, ibid., pp. 3-4.


28. Ibid., p.197.


29. T.G.Th. Pigeaud, Synopsis of Javanese Literature: 900-1900 A.D., Vol.I, Leide: Bibliotheca Universitatis Leidensis, 1967, p.19, A-B.


30. H. Overbeck, "The Malay Pantun" in The Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, Straits Branch, N°85 (Singapore), March 1922, pp.4-5.


31.Wilkinson & Winstedt, Op. Cit.


32. H.Overbeck, Op. Cit., p.12.


   Cf.Hoong Ah Kong, "Pantun Melayu dan Puisi China", Vol.II, n°9 (Kuala Lumpur), 1963, pp. 402-406.


33. Overbeck, Op.Cit., p.14.


34. Ibid., p.8.


35. Ibid.


36. George W.Spencer, The Politics of Expansion: The Chola Conquest of Sri Lanka and Srivijaya, Madras: New Era Publications,1983, pp.107-115.


40. A.L.Basham, Op.Cit., p.511.


41. I.A.Richards, The Philosophy of Rhetoric, Oxford: 1936, p.100.


42. Henri Fauconnier, Malaisie, Paris: Librairie Stock, 1930, p.110.


           Les deux premiers vers d'un sont qu'une préparation

       à l'idée qui va s'épanouir dans les suivants. Cela crée l'atmosphère

       sans avoir la crudité d'une métaphore.


43. T.S.Eliot, "Hamlet and his Problems", in Selected Essays, New York: 1932, pp.124-125.


44. The use of ellipses makes for the suppression of morphemes, such as, prefixes and suffixes in order to enhance the syllabic structure. [L'utilisation d'ellipse permet la suppression des morphèmes tels que les préfixes et les suffixes pour avantager la structure syllabique.]


[Article published in the Journal of the Institute of Asian Studies, Vol. XII, n° 2        (Chennai), March 1995, pp. 1-15 and in French in The Journal of Comparative Poïetics/Revue de Poïétique Comparée, Vol. II, No. 1 (Paris) 1992, pp. 50-61. Re-published in T. Wignesan. Sporadic Striving amid Echoed Voices, Mirrored Images and Stereotypic Posturing in Malaysian-Singaporean Literatures. Allahabad:, 2008.]


© T.Wignesan 1987 – 2008, Paris, France