Malay Literature


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Author: RO Winstedt, RJ Wilkinson
The rhapsodist--the penglipur lara or "soother of cares" as he is prettily called--chants his story or poem or romance to a circle of appreciative listeners who do not trouble to enquire whether the plot or the poet is original but who revel in the pleasure afforded them by the sweet voice of the singer, by the courtly grace of his diction, and by the references that he continually makes to "the tender grace of the day that is dead," the ideal age, the golden past that can never come back to the Malay except in the dreamy imaginations evoked by melody and song.


The ancient literature of the Malays was created by conditions that are passing away. Now that the spread of learning has enabled the printer to replace the rhapsodist, the Malay peasant reads stories for himself and refuses to pay others to recite them. "Why," argues he, "should a man waste money listening to singers, when he can so easily possess a gramophone of his own?" The tale that is intended to be read is replacing the romance that was intended to be sung. This change has helped to perpetuate many of the old classical books that hitherto existed only in manuscript form, but it is putting an end to the rhythmical beauty of Malay style and also to much of the best work of the old Malays--the unwritten rhapsodist-tales, the legends about local heroes, the proverbial poetry, the folklore, the fables, and the anecdotes about humorous characters like Pa' Musang and Pa' Belalang. In place of this old oral literature, we are getting a mass of printed books, often translated from the English and (in almost every case) the work of men partly trained on European lines... 

RJ Wilkinson 
on Malay Poetry

Format: Small PB
Year published: 2021
Pages: 222
Sub-genre: History
Imprint: Silverfish Books
Product weight: 305g

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