Malayan Literature

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Title: Malayan Literature
Author: Various Authors
Release Date: December, 2004 [EBook #7095]
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than one year ahead of schedule]
[This file was first posted on March
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Edition: 10
Language: English
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Romantic Tales, Epic Poetry
Royal Chronicles
Translated Into English For The First Time
With A Special Introduction By
Easily the most charming poem of Malayan Literature is the Epic of
Bidasari. It has all the absorbing fascination of a fairy tale. We are led
into the dreamy atmosphere of haunted palace and beauteous plaisance:
we glide in the picturesque imaginings of the oriental poet from the
charm of all that is languorously seductive in nature into the shadowy
realms of the supernatural. At one moment the sturdy bowman or lithe
and agile lancer is before us in hurrying column, and at another we are
told of mystic sentinels from another world, of Djinns and demons and
spirit-princes. All seems shadowy, vague, mysterious, entrancing.
In this tale there is a wealth of imagery, a luxury of picturesqueness,
together with that straightforward simplicity so alluring in the
storyteller. Not only is our attention so captivated that we seem under a
spell, but our sympathy is invoked and retained. We actually wince
before the cruel blows of the wicked queen. And the hot tears of

Bidasari move us to living pity. In the poetic justice that punishes the
queen and rewards the heroine we take a childish delight. In other
words, the oriental poet is simple, sensuous, passionate, thus achieving
Milton's ideal of poetic excellence. We hope that no philosopher,
philologist, or ethnologist will persist in demonstrating the sun-myth or
any other allegory from this beautiful poem. It is a story, a charming
tale, to while away an idle hour, and nothing more. All lovers of the
simple, the beautiful, the picturesque should say to such learned
peepers and botanizers, "Hands off!" Let no learned theories rule here.
Leave this beautiful tale for artists and lovers of the story pure and
simple. Seek no more moral here than you would in a rose or a lily or a
graceful palm. Light, love, color, beauty, sympathy, engaging
fascination--these may be found alike by philosopher and winsome
youth. The story is no more immoral than a drop of dew or a lotus
bloom; and, as to interest, in the land of the improviser and the
story-teller one is obliged to be interesting. For there the audience is
either spellbound, or quickly fades away and leaves the poet to realize
that he must attempt better things.
We think that these folk-stories have, indeed, a common origin, but that
it is in the human heart. We do not look for a Sigurd or Siegfried on
every page. Imagine a nation springing from an ignorant couple on a
sea-girt isle, in a few generations they would have evolved their
Sleeping Beauty and their Prince Charming, their enchanted castles,
and their Djinns and fairies. These are as indigenous to the human heart
as the cradle-song or the battle-cry. We do not find ourselves siding
with those who would trace everything to a first exemplar. Children
have played, and men have loved, and poets have sung from the
beginning, and we need not run to Asia for the source of everything.
Universal human nature has a certain spontaneity.
The translator has tried to reproduce the faithfulness and, in some
measure, to indicate the graceful phrases of the original poem. The
author of Bidasari is unknown, and the date of the poem is a matter of
the utmost uncertainty. Some have attributed to it a Javanese origin, but
upon very slight evidence. The best authorities place its scene in
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