Home » Article » Lir-Ilir, A Folk-song from Java

Lir-Ilir, A Folk-song from Java

Lir-ilir, lir-ilir, tandure wis sumilir
Tak ijo royo-royo tak sengguh temanten anyar
Cah angon, cah angon, penekna blimbing kuwi
Lunyu-lunyu penekna kanggo mbasuh dodot ira
Dodot ira, dodot ira kumitir bedhah ing pinggir
Dondomana jlumatana kanggo seba mengko sore
Mumpung padhang rembulane, mumpung jembar kalangane
Yo surak a… surak hore…

What we have above is a [folk-]song lyric from Java; Lir-Ilir. No solid evidence about who wrote this song but most Javanese believe that this song was written by Sunan Kalijaga. Sunan Kalijaga was an Islam teacher who preached Islam in Java. Whoever wrote this song is not the aim of this writing. This writing is not intended to declare or argue for the correct name.

What we are going to ‘explore’ is the meaning of this song. This song provides us a thorough contemplation about life. It gives a lesson that we always have the time to correct our mistakes. ‘No regret’ means that you learn from your mistakes and you keep improving yourselves for something righteous. ‘No regret’ means that you cannot turn back the time so that you look forward for a better tomorrow. Yes, we still have “the time” to perfect our meeting with The King. This song itself contains metaphors to describe the stages of life such as:

  • green (a point where to start the life. In Javanese the word ilirsumilir may transform into nglilir which means awake from sleep before planned time to wake up. From this, the first line may imply “a wake up call”)
  • mature (married or taking a serious oath; the word temanten – manten may mean both being married and being attached to a serious oath)
  • struggling (climb the slippery tree OR we may interpret that the tree itself is not slippery but the soles and feet of cah angon [the shepherd]covered with mud and dirt makes it hard to climb the tree OR it means that the obstacles are from ourselves) – redefining oneself (wash the clothes AND let’s not forget that when one wants to wash his clothes, he must wash his hands and feet) – making amends (do some needlework) [continuously while we still have lots of time]
  • perfect evening (died – a meeting with The King).

Needless to say more, let’s take a look on the lyric:

Lir-ilir, tandure wis sumilir  

The wind breezes so gentle on the rice fields

Tak ijo royo-royo tak sengguh temanten anyar  

So green, that theyll make you proud if you present them to a newly weds

Cah angon, cah angon, penekna blimbing kuwi

O you, you shepherd boy, climb that star-fruit,

Lunyu-lunyu penekna kanggo mbasuh dodot ira

even if it’s hard to climb, climb it you shall not give up

since we need the star-fruit to wash our clothes

Dodot ira, dodot ira kumitir bedhah ing pinggir

Our clothes, yes our clothes have some defects. They were torn on some parts,

Dondomana jlumatana kanggo seba mengko sore

We have to sew them, stitch them, do some needlework on them

Do you remember that this evening we will meet our King?

Mumpung padhang rembulane, mumpung jembar kalangane

Don’t hold it up, don’t waste our time!

While likely the moon will be full this eve,

While the sky is bright and we still have lots of time.

Yo surak a… surak hore…

So, let’s celebrate this!

Let’s celebrate our chance to make a perfect meeting!

Now, after reading the translation of the lyric, what would you do? Do you want to forgive yourself and start to mend your past-mistakes? Did you get the message that we still have lots of time to recuperate ourselves. We do still have time to make ourselves better and make positive changes. If you were dead right now, you couldn’t read my writing, right? 🙂

Creative Commons License
Lir-Ilir, A Folk-song from Java by Dipa Nugraha is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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