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Difficult Lines from Best Two Indonesian Poems

When we talk about Indonesian best poems, there are several we may put in our list. But, this writing does not talk about the list of Indonesian best poems. This writing wants to share some difficult lines from two Indonesian best poems. The meaning of “difficult” here refers to elusiveness of meaning. You may skip these lines in overall context when reading the poems but later on you may demand yourself for clear meanings which ironically you cannot get that quite easily. You are being detained by them so the best action to interpret is to make some improper guesses. The problems of getting the “correct meaning” come ahead because these difficult lines, if I may say, are “illogical” (?).

Poem # 1, Aku Ingin from Sapardi Djoko Damono

Aku ingin mencintaimu dengan sederhana I want to love you in a simple way
dengan kata yang tak sempat diucapkan just like words unmashed
kayu kepada api yang menjadikannya abu from wood to the fire making him become ash
Aku ingin mencintaimu dengan sederhana I want to love you in a simple manner
dengan isyarat yang tak sempat disampaikan just like undelivered signs
awan kepada hujan yang menjadikannya tiada from the cloud to the rain tho’ death assigned

Credit: gramediapustakautama.com

Sapardi Djoko Damono (Credit: gramediapustakautama.com)

The problem of meaning we get from this poem comes from the last line; “awan kepada hujan yang menjadikannya tiada”. If, we consider this verse is indeed a metaphoric way to say that A will give even its own life to make B exist as in the previous verse, so in this last verse we will come into this kind of confusion:


transforms into






If I were a cloud (A1) that transformed into rain (A2), I needed not to say anything since it were still me. It is different from the metaphor coming from the previous verse:


gives all to

A deceased


B survives

provides itself to revive


Saying that Sapardi Djoko Damono did not know about the water cycle would be inappropriate or to say that the last verse was made in a trance condition would also be something blasphemous, or we can be an ignorant reader: just enjoy this poem without any complaint and let the meaning of the last verse be unknown?

Poem #2, Di Beranda ini Angin tak Kedengaran Lagi from Goenawan Mohamad

Di Beranda Ini Angin Tak Kedengaran Lagi In This Patio the Wind Has Stopped Blowing
Di beranda ini angin tak kedengaran lagi In this patio, the wind has stopped blowing
Langit terlepas. Ruang menunggu malam hari The sky is getting dark. This room’s waiting for the night
Kau berkata: pergilah sebelum malam tiba You say to me: just go before the night comes
Kudengar angin mendesak ke arah kita As the wind goes howlin, I hear it mockin’ us
Di piano bernyanyi baris dari Rubayyat On the piano, someone is playing Rubayyat
Di luar detik dan kereta telah berangkat Outside, time has passed and the train has left
Sebelum bait pertama. Sebelum selesai kata Before the first verse. Before all the words are said
Sebelum hari tahu ke mana lagi akan tiba Before the day knows what will come ahead
Aku pun tahu: sepi kita semula I realize it also: we are departed
bersiap kecewa, bersedih tanpa kata-kata and the feeling of defeated, sad but words only for babbler
Pohon-pohon pun berbagi dingin di luar jendela and the trees outside the window share the cold
mengekalkan yang esok mungkin tak ada as we realize the sense of the sulky future

This poem portrays separation of a couple. It starts with the depiction of a gloomy patio where both make goodbye and ends with “I” who is alone on the train. What is awry from this poem? Let’s read the first verse from this poem.

Di beranda ini angin tak kedengaran lagi
Langit terlepas. Ruang menunggu malam hari
Kau berkata: pergilah sebelum malam tiba
Kudengar angin mendesak ke arah kita

If the first verse takes patio as its setting and involves two persons who are going to make goodbye, so the first line from the first verse creates a problem regarding the congruence to the real world. Let’s imagine this:

  1. The wind has stopped blowing in the patio of a train station.
  2. The sky is getting dark; the night is going to blacken the sky.
  3. We see X and Y. They are lovers.
  4. X and Y are going to say goodbye.
  5. X breaks the silence by saying: “pergilah sebelum malam tiba”.
  6. Y feels the wind starts to blow after it has stopped a few moment before.

The first line says: Di beranda ini angin tak kedengaran lagi

Taking the assumption that there are only X and Y in the patio and going to make goodbye, thus a reader should realize that this first line at the first place gives a scene of silence before X breaks the silence by saying: “pergilah sebelum malam tiba”.

Goenawan Mohamad (Credit: thejakartapost.com)

Goenawan Mohamad (Credit: thejakartapost.com)

In the real world, even the slightest movement of air will “be heard or felt” by those who are going to separate.  People will notice any single thing when they face “the moment” in their lives. You may say that the first line of this poem is correct or normal, but you read the translation of the line in English. If you read the line in its original language, Bahasa, you will understand that the first line “Di beranda ini angin tak kedengaran lagi” is a confusion. Unless if the first line is really intended to “add” the silence as if the wind were also waiting for someone to say something in such kind of dreariness or giving a pause to this couple to manifest their parts in this “drama” which is to say goodbye.

However, those two poems are beautiful regardless of the fact that they may ask you to think whether their authors had put the wrong lines (or we read those poems wrong?).


The poem from Goenawan Mohamad simply reminds me of Toto Sudarto’s Rumah and Chairil’s Senja di Pelabuhan Kecil.

You will find “a gloomy patio” in Toto Sudarto’s when comes to a contemplation.

You will hear “the sound of eagle’s wings” in Chairil’s when comes to a silence.

Creative Commons License
Difficult Lines from Best Two Indonesian Poems by Dipa Nugraha is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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