Home » Essay » Revisiting Chairil Anwar part 2

Revisiting Chairil Anwar part 2

Chairil Anwar and His Cold Gaze (Credit: en.wikipedia.org)

Chairil Anwar and His Cold Gaze (Credit: en.wikipedia.org)

If I had to choose four best poems of Chairil Anwar, I would pick these four poems: Nisan, Aku, Derai-derai Cemara, and Yang Terempas dan Yang Putus. The reasons are quite obvious as I will expose them below:

1. These poems depict the psychological stance of Anwar before  death.

Let’s compare these four Anwar’s poems with Donne’s Death, Be Not Proud. From the reading over Anwar’s four poems and Donne’s Holy Sonnet, we may depict the same issue here; human vs death. However, Anwar was different from Donne in contemplating death. Donne made death as something that “not so mighty and dreadful” and “nor yet canst thou kill me” while Anwar took unstable opposition facing death. For Anwar, he called death as “bukan kematian benar menusuk kalbu; something that didn’t really make him sad”, “keridlaanmu menerima segala tiba; death itself was a test from God for him”, “tak kutahu setinggi itu atas debu/ dan duka; he didn’t understand why God gave debu (death) and duka (sorrow) to show His Greatness (maha tuan bertahta)” as in Nisan, later he put himself in a paradoxical statement: death as “something that he wasn’t afraid of  when it came to him kalau sampai waktuku, ku mau tak seorang kan merayu” but it was also something he didn’t care about “Dan aku akan lebih tidak peduli”. Death was something he believed could not come in the near future because of his vitality as he wanted to live for another thousand years “Aku mau hidup seribu tahun lagi” as in Aku.

The tension between Anwar and death then continued. In his last two poems, Derai-derai Cemara and Yang Terempas dan Yang Putus, Anwar realized that he could not run. He knew that death would come, and it did. He, ironically, could not escape. In Derai-derai Cemara he said:

Aku sekarang orangnya bisa tahan Me myself now can see
sudah berapa waktu bukan kanak lagi It’s been so long, I am now a child not
tapi dulu memang ada suatu bahan Though I had some objection
yang bukan dasar perhitungan kini but now I have to accept it
Hidup hanya menunda kekalahan Life is just a game to hold defeat
tambah terasing dari cinta sekolah rendah by time we comprehend can’t no longer play hide and seek
dan tahu, ada yang tetap tidak terucapkan and do understand, some things are still left unspoken
sebelum pada akhirnya kita menyerah ’till we finally surrender.

While in Yang Terempas dan Yang Putus he added:

aku berbenah dalam kamar, dalam diriku jika kau datang I’m tidying my room, making myself ready in case you visit
dan aku bisa lagi lepaskan kisah baru padamu; that I will tell you another story;
tapi kini hanya tangan yang bergerak lantang but now I have only a fist of pure emotion
tubuhku diam dan sendiri, cerita dan peristiwa berlalu beku motionless and I’m alone, the stories and events seem rigid.

Though he was waiting for a friend to come “I’m tidying my room, making myself ready in case you visit/ that I will tell you another story”, but death made the visit instead. He realized this time not a friend but death was coming “motionless and I’m alone, the stories and events seem rigid”.

2. The unique composition of these four poems at that time in Indonesia.

When we talk Nisan and compare it to other poems at the same period in Indonesian literary world, we will find this poem as different and difficult. It was different because it talked about sorrow and death but also asked an explanation why God had to show His Greatness through them. Previous poems in Indonesian literary world had never come into this kind of question. For instance, Amir Hamzah made some poems about God’s Greatness and His punishment, but Hamzah would never ask  “why” upon God’s decision in a bold manner. This poem can be called as an introduction for other Anwar’s poems. It was also difficult because the composition of the poem took pantun rhyme (a-b-a-b) while proposing an enjambement to catch the rhyme “tak kutahu setinggi itu atas debu/dan duka, something which was odd for pantun, within it.

Aku was a poem that skyrocketed Anwar beyond other poets. The poem itself had its moment. Around 40’s in Indonesia was war time. Though some said that Aku (or Semangat) was not intended as motivational poem but a rather a protest addressed to his father, but actually It did boost the spirit of Indonesians to gain their independence. Some points can be drawn from Aku are:

  1. It uses bold words like: aku (me; a word which now still sounds impolite to use in Sumatera [Anwar was born in Medan] and Indonesia for some people if one’s using it to address himself in front of older or respectful one) and binatang jalang (bitch; bastard). This was the poem that broke the culture of Indonesian literary world. it opened the new horizon of Indonesian literary world regarding diction.
  2. It has some sentences which may imply a portray of a “near death moment” in a battle: kalau sampai waktuku (when my time comes)/ku mau tak seorang kan merayu (I want no one weeps) …/ Biar peluru menembus kulitku (I care not even if bullet finds a way into my skin) /Aku tetap meradang menerjang (I will strike still, I won’t stop). This is why this poem made such an impact upon Indonesian at that time who fight for their independence.
  3. The arrangement of this poem was not familiar to that time. This poem consists of some verses which have a single sentence.

When we talk about Derai-derai Cemara, we talk about existentialism. This poem states clearly the reason for life based upon Anwar reading on Marsman, Nietzche, and Slauerhoff.

Hidup hanya menunda kekalahan

Life is just a game to hold defeat

dan tahu, ada yang tetap tidak terucapkan

and do understand, some things are still left unspoken

sebelum pada akhirnya kita menyerah

’till we finally surrender

What most noted from Yang Terempas dan Yang Putus is actually Anwar’s vision on his coming death; a lonely and sorrowful death. This is a poem where the coming death is described beautifully. In the first verse, it tells about Anwar’s expectation on his friend to accompany him. The second verse gives a shock to the readers, Anwart wrote: di Karet (daerahku y.a.d.) “in Karet (the place where I will be)”. This man felt that it was coming to him; the death. In the third verse, he said: tapi kini hanya tangan yang bergerak lantang “but now I have only a fist of pure emotion”. Does this mean that Anwar was angry to his not coming friend so he raised his fist of pure emotion or Anwar was running out of time  because death came first before his friend so raising his hand was his last movement? Then it ends with this line:
Tubuhku diam dan sendiri, cerita dan peristiwa berlalu beku

motionless and I’m alone, the stories and events seem rigid.

motionless and I’m alone = my dead body; alone

He was truly a genius poet. This poem, the death of a man in a room, is so touching yet beautiful. This poem gave different atmosphere into Indonesian literary world. As I recall, there was no poem that pictured a fragment of one’s death so beautiful as this poem.

By these four poems Anwar gave Indonesian literary world some recognizable impacts. He gave Indonesian poems a new direction. He showed others how to put “impolite” words within their appropriate context (a rebellion and or a never give-up spirit context, for examples as in Aku), modify the old style (as in Nisan), show contemplations and critical thoughts (existentialism and religiosity as in Nisan and Derai-derai Cemara), or just art-for-art [and a vision] (as in Yang Terempas dan Yang Putus).

Hidup hanya menunda kekalahan

Life is just a game to hold defeat

dan tahu, ada yang tetap tidak terucapkan

and do understand, some things are still left unspoken

sebelum pada akhirnya kita menyerah

sebelum pada akhirnya kita menyerah

Creative Commons License
Revisiting Chairil Anwar part 2 by Dipa Nugraha is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at dipanugraha.blog.com.

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