The Linked Pantun

A serious poet is always in search of the prefect form. While the four-line pattern is perfect as a short form, yet in its space it is obviously limited, not able to narrate a sequence of events. It is a form to catch the moment or a singular fleeting experience. A successful way out is the linked pantun or the pantun berkait, composed of a sequence of quatrains that repeat two lines from the preceeding quatrain. The second and fourth lines of the first verse become the first and third lines of the second verse and so on, always keeping to the rhymes and the syllable count. Thus the poem progresses to the end until the story is satisfactorily completed. The following is excerpt is chosen by Za`ba from Hikayat Indera Mengindera. Note the repetition of the lines,

Lebah terbebar terbang sekawan,
Hinggap di celah kayu berduri,
Alangkah cabar rupanya tuan!
Dagangan indah tidak terbeli!

Hinggap di celah kayu berduri,
Kepayang tumbuh di dalam dulang,
Dagangan indah tidak terbeli,
Sayang sungguh nyawanya hilang.

Kepayang tumbuh di dalam dulang,
Burung merpati terbang ke awan,
Sayang sungguh nyawanya hilang,
Tidak seperti Raja Pahlawan.

Again there are variations when not the whole line is repeated, only some allusion is made to the preceeding lines.
There is yet another form, the berbalas pantun, where on an occasion like the dondang sayang or the dikir barat, a man or a woman will sell’ his pantun to his partner. The partner must answer him or her within the rhythm of the song.
Variety and popularity are evidence of age. The pantun has achieved such popularity to such a point that most anybody knows and can compose it. The more adventurous poets find new forms and variation to add to its repertoire. An interesting example is the pantun alif ba ta. In this form each first word of the verse is begun consecutively with letters of the alphabet. In the following excerpt the old Malay alphabet is used, and therefore dubbed pantun alif ba ta. Here are three verses from a manuscript of the Royal Asiatic Society, (Maxwell 48),

Alif berdiri seperti tiang
Tempat raja membuat rumah,
Tuan dipandang seperi wayang
Wujud anggota habislah lemah.

Bahil emas cibu suasa
Tempat minuman raja Kelantan,
Duka nestapa senantiasa
Memandang warna cahaya intan,

Tentang burung Si Rajawali
Singgah menyambar anak ketam,
Angkat sembah menyanjung duli
Mohonkan nilam puspa ragam.

There is still yet another variety but not too different from the alif ba ta pattern. This is the Si Bungsu Babilang Malam sequence, in which each night is enumerated and the happening filled in,

Si Bunsu Babilang Malam
Malamnyo malam ka oso

Anak anso parang jo anso
Parang jo anak nan sabuah,
Manga Si Bonsu tagak di siko
Mananti tanun nan balun sudah.

Si Bonsu babilang malam
Malamnyo malam nan kaduo

Uo-uo di kayu anak
Mari den adang jo sumpitan,
Badan baduo badunsanak
Surang lah lare dilawitan.

Si Bonsu babilang malam
Malamnyo malam katigo

Rigo-rigo ka Padang Panjang
Sutan Amaik pulang di jao,
Urang mambia den mamulang
Kok tak ameh sabuangkan nyawo.

It is a very dynamic form indeed. Tested over the centuries, experimented with, accepted and opened again for new forms and expression, the pantun is perhaps the only traditional form that is still alive and still growing. It is found in modern poetry, in the mass media etc. 
The pantun has not only been absorbed into the life of the society as a literary form but also play a very important social role . These role interestinglly not only cross all social borders but also age demarcations. Yet essentially it is found to be used as a tool of entertainment, among children in their songs and games, and among adults as a lightener of the burden of work, a social tool of advice, and a repository of rules and regulation and governance, and finally, and not least important, the wisdom of the race.

The pantun, as we have tried to show, began with children’s word play and jingles. These poems are sung to accompany certain games, sung by adults while playing with them while caring for them, or spoken by the children themselves. For example among the Serawai of Sumatra (Mardan Waib, Sofyan, Zufiyardi 1994/1995: 25-32) there is a game that is called cuit-cuitan (touching), where a baby is let down to touch ground and the following lines are said,

Cuit-cuit pandai 
Elalang jungkit-jungkit, 
Ecuit dengan pandai 
Agak dengan kuungkit-ungkit, 

or at another game called rendai adults clap their hands while rhythmically singing these lines:

Pok pok andai 
Belalang kupu-kupu, 
Bepuk dengan pandai 
Kaagi kaupah aih susu. 

Aih susu lemak manis 
Bersantan kelapa muda, 
Oi ading jangan nanges Kuagik kuupah susu. 

The following pantun is spoken by and among children, older ones than those in the above cases. Among the Serawai children sing these line while bathing in the river,

Gong pak degong 
Perahu kelipas jantung, 
Berjalan ke Bundang Banding Ngambek pisang raje talun 
Minte neng jarum.

The poems are either of two or four lines, as they are more suitable for simpler words and meaning, usually taken from everyday language.
A very famous one to be found in many places of the Archipelago is this poem, 

Timang tinggi-tinggi
Sampai cucur atap,
Belum tumbuh gigi 
Dah pandai baca kitab.

It is not only a lullaby, but one that encourges the child to quickly master the alphabet and read the kitabs - the religious books.

The pantun is fortunate that it is taught in schools unlike the syair or the seloka. Being in the system helps to continue the tradition.
Another form of `entertainment’ is the work pantun, sung while at work. (Our forefathers really knew how to live and enjoy themselves!)
The Archipelago society was essentially a peasant community, except for fishermen and traders who formed a small protion of this farming community. They planted rice, tubers and vegetables, cut trees and searched for forest products, caught fish in the rivers and sea, and sometimes herd animals. Most of it was backbracking and monotonous work that had been lightened by sharing of the burden and by singing. Sometimes the members of the community gathered together. The occasions might be at rice or sugar-cane harvesting times. Food was often contributed by the host and it might turn into a feast, as in many areas planting, reaping, winnowing of padi were communally. 
However, communal work was also a place where boys might be allowed to meet girls and given a chance to exchange words, often enough through the pantun, in song or in spoken replies. On days like these social constraints were relaxed to allow possible romance and marriage. Poems like these are to be found in Riau while villagers sow hill padi, 

Balibi tobang saatui 
Mati dikubik sapu tangan, 
Umpan la abi kaye laputui 
Tingge juaghan di tapak tangan. 

Elok elok manyingkok belek 
Belek baisi kue loyang, 
Elok-elok mambukak sughek 
Sughek baisi kasih sayang.

When work is done alone, the pantun is a friend in need. It became a companion through monotonous and lonely periods. While cutting wood or tapping rubber the workers would sing to themselves, letting the pantun carry their emotions.

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Laman web ini disedia dan diselenggarakan oleh :
Sekretariat Pantun Antarabangsa, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Pulau Pinang.