Als mijn tijd gekomen is
wil ik van niemand rouw
Ook niet van jou
Niks geen gesnik en gesnotter
Ik ben een eenling geworden
Uitgestoten uit de horde
Laat kogels mijn huid doorboren
Ik blijf tekeergaan en schoppen
Wonden en gif voer ik mee op mijn vlucht
Tot de schrijnende pijn zal verdwijnen
En ik zal er nog minder om geven
Ik wil nog duizend jaar leven
Vertaling: A. Teeuw
Listen to this poem in Malay.
Voice: Nurenzia Yannuar
The Dutch, the Japanese, the nationalists in Indonesia: as the war raged in 1943, they all emphasized the importance of unity. That same year, Chairil Anwar wrote a poem in which he expressed the importance of freedom and individualism. The title still needed to be changed in order to be publishable, but soon the poem turned out to appeal to many people. The fighting spirit and indomitability in this poem still fires one’s imagination. Aku is a universal poem: everyone can recognize themselves in this plea for indomitability.
Want to know more? On this website you can listen to the poem, discover its origins and its author and find out what the poem means to the people of Leiden.
Medan 1922 – Jakarta 1949
Chairil Anwar was the son of a former regent of Indragiri Hulu, Sumatra. His family was well off and he could enroll in many study programs, but finished none. In 1941, when he was 19 years old, his parents separated and together with his mother, he moved to Batavia (Jakarta), Java. There, he developed into a writer and a poet.
In March 1942, Japan occupied the then Dutch East Indies. The Dutch were confined; the Indonesian nationalism was spurred on. Intellectuals who had earlier enjoyed European education, now sought to support their own culture. Chairil Anwar was one of the poets of this movement, but he also went his own way. He was known to be a lone wolf, a womanizer and a bohemian.
Chairil Anwar wrote over 90 stories and poems in total. During the occupation, a part was published on cheap paper and reappeared after 1945. He married one year later, but divorced again in 1948. Within a year after his divorce, he passed away in a hospital in Jakarta. He was honored as a cultural flagship in the young Indonesian Republic: he was depicted on a stamp and the date of his death was later declared to be the National Literature day.
What's this poem about?
Anwar’s poems are known as being open to interpretation. When he wrote this poem in 1943, some people saw the resistance against Dutch colonialism in it, others that against Japanese imperialism. Later, it has also been interpreted as a protest against oppression in general.
What meaning did the poem have to Anwar himself? His life was that of a stubborn rebel who expressly wanted to choose his own way. From that perspective, individualism attracts attention: it is about an ‘I’, a ‘wild animal’ that chooses his own path, even if it goes hand in hand with struggle and confrontation. Even now, readers are impressed by the energy, power and vitality the poem expresses.
After Indonesia became independent between 1945 and 1949, this poem grew to be Anwar’s best-known work. It became an icon of the fight for independence, because of its subject matter and fighting spirit and because it was not written in standard Malay, but in Indonesian.
Chairil Anwar wrote this poem when he was 21 years old. He had only lived in Batavia (Jakarta) for a short period of time. After centuries of Dutch colonialism, suddenly the Japanese were in charge. They justified their presence by pointing out the importance of Asian unity. Indonesian nationalists, who had been actively suppressed by the Dutch, now enjoyed more freedom. They were the ones that valued Indonesian unity so much. What is striking about this poem is that everyone could recognize their own opinion in it, and at the same time it was radical because of the individualism it expressed.
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Does this poem hold a special place in your heart? For example, do you remember when you first read the poem? Or did you come across it someplace unexpected? Let us know at email@example.com! We would love to add your story to our website.
Chairil Anwar in Leiden
Foto Inge Harsten
This wall poem was unveiled on 17 August 1995, on the 50st birthday of Indonesian independence. The poem was proposed by the Instituut Indonesische Cursussen (‘Institution for Indonesian Courses’). The Dutch translation of this poem is by the hand of Hans Teeuw (1921 - 2012), who was affiliated with Leiden University as professor of language and literature in Malay and Bahasa Indonesia.
The way in which the poem is painted is strongly related to the content: the bamboo sticks look like prison bars. At the time of the unveiling, the fence in front of the poem still had barbed wire, which added to the image of war and imprisonment. Back then, the wall poem could be seen from the Burggravenlaan, but apartments have now been built on the intermediate pieces of land.
Anwar was lean, pale and seems disheveled. His eyes were red, somewhat wild, but always as if deep in thought. He moved as someone who does not care
Literary star HB Yassin remembered how Anwar handed in his poems in 1943
So you want to be a big person???
Poet Bung Usman thought Anwar exaggerated with this poem
- In 1943, this poem appeared with the title Semangat (‘spirit, passion’). More than the individualistic Aku (I), this title fitted in with the rise of the Indonesian nationalism and had a better chance of getting through the Japanese censorship.
- According to Hans Teeuw, Anwar’s early work was influenced by work of Hendrik Marsman and Jan Slauerhoff. Both these poets have poems featured on the walls of Leiden: Val (fall) and ‘t Zwerk ligt terneergeslagen.
- After his death, Anwar was accused of plagiarism. In only one case this was proven. He would have turned to this because he needed money quickly in order to pay for a vaccination.
- The Instituut Indonesische Cursussen (‘Institution for Indonesian Courses’) was also responsible for the choice of the Javanese wall poem Serat Kalatidha (‘A dark time’) by Ranggawarsita.
- The date of Chairil Anwar’s death has been declared to be the National Literature day in Indonesia.
Kalau sampai waktuku
'Ku mau tak seorang 'kan merayu
Tidak juga kau
Tak perlu sedu sedan itu
Aku ini binatang jalang
Dari kumpulannya terbuang
Biar peluru menembus kulitku
Aku tetap meradang menerjang
Luka dan bisa kubawa berlari
Hingga hilang pedih peri
Dan aku akan lebih tidak perduli
Aku mau hidup seribu tahun lagi
Oleh Chairil Anwar, Maret 1943
If my time should come
I'd like no one to entice me
Not even you
No need for those sobs and cries
I am but a wild animal
Cut from its kind
Though bullets should pierce my skin
I shall still strike and march forth
Wounds and poison shall I take aflee
'Til the pain and pang should dissapear
And I should care even less
I want to live for another thousand years
Translation: Urip Hudiono
This entry was written by Het Taalmuseum in collaboration with Cindy Smits. The translation into English is by Jasmijn van Dongen. The following sources were consulted: