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LOVER'S GRIEF OR HOROSCOPE?

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P. VOORHOEVE
LOVER'S GRIEF OR HOROSCOPE?

The late Mervyn Jaspan, professor of South-East Asian sociology at Huil University, did his main fieldwork among the Rejang people in South Sumatra. His doctoral thesis From Patriliny to Matriliny. Structural Change among the Redjang of Southwest Sumatra, Canberra 1964, was unfortunately never published. Only about 50 copies were distributed. It testifies to the author's many-sided interest in all aspects of Rejang culture and to his keen gift of observation. Though not a professional linguist, he had a preference for the study of language, of literature and of the literary documents preserved in the South- Sumatran script. He collected a mass of Rejang oral texts and a considerable amount of material for a dictionary. But at the time when
Jaspan was in Rejang (1961-63) documents in the old script were already scarce, and he only managed to collect a few specimens. Most of these he published in Redjang Ka-Ga-Nga Texts (1964). In a short review in this journal (BKI 124, 1968, p. 303f.) I pointed out some difficulties in die ka^ga-nga script which I thought had not been quite satisfactorily solved by the author. I did not go into the problems of transcriptión and translation, because we were then working tögether in collecting additional South-Sumatran written texts and I feit confident that the author would in the long run share some of my doübts as to the correctness of his interpretations and review these in due time.

Two of Jaspan's Ka-Ga-Nga texts are included in Indonesian traditional poetry, collected and introduced by Philip Ward, 1975, in Jaspan's transcription and "with Jaspan's English versions slightly altered". It seems appropriate now to warn against such a premature popularisation. I shall restrict my remarks to Ward's second poem, entitled "A Lover's Grief". The text and translation are:

Barat lawut
just like the sea

tunggu maring gunung
on the mountaintop.

meteri keilangan
The princess is lost

sumeui maring gunung
to the tiger on the mountaintop.

meteri kekasi
The princess, my loved one.

ruma ketunun
A house of weaving.

bulan purna(ma)
A full moon.

According to Ward, in this poem, "a youth sorrows at rejection by the girl he loves". With a brevity worthy of a Japanese haiku master, the unknown poet compares his chances of attaining her to the likelihood of the sea's reaching the mountaintop. His rival is mystically strong and powerful, like the ancestral tiger {sumeui). The poem ends as it began with a haunting image in few words: 'a house of weaving' refers to his beloved's industry; 'a full moon' is her face." Jaspan found this text written on a bamboo tile. A photograph of the original is published in Ka-Ga-Nga Texts, plate 5b (p. 24). It is clearly visible in the reproduction that the word tunggu should be tungga', and the transcription sumeui seems doubtful. Jaspan had hesitated between sumur and sumeui, but decided for the latter. He says that it is a Rejang word with no Malay or Javanese equivalent. It is not in his Rejang dictionary. It is not clear what exacdy he meant by 'ancestral tiger'. Above the seven lines of the text there are two more lines, containing the ka-ga-nga syllabary with varying numbers of dots above each syllable. In our search for more ka-ga-nga texts we found three other copies of this same text. All of diem have the syllabary with dots or small dashes. There is a great deal of congruence in the number of dots among the copies. Two of the texts are in manuals of divination written on tree bark, one on a bamboo cylinder together with a drawing of a human figure accompanied by disconnected syllables. This is also found in one of die bark books. In Batak divination books too one finds syllabaries with die numerical value of the letters, and human figures with separate syllables. In addition there is a jingle called tabas ni ari na pitu, incantation of the seven days, used as a mnemonic device and widely known in oral tradition. Might the South-Sumatran text of seven short lines also have some connexion widi the days of the week? And might it have been used in
divination? Both questions can be answered in the affirmative. One copy of our text mentions the days of die week, and another one has the word rasiyanya, 'its secret', after each line. Perhaps this is meant as rasiannya, derived from rasi = raksi, sign of the zodiac.

The other texts are:
Leiden, University.Library Or. 12276, on bamboo, with a copy on paper made in Bencoolen, 1860.

barat di lawut
west at sea

tungga' maring gunung
tree stump towards mountain

beteri keilangan
princess suffering loss

sumui maring gunung
sumui(?) towards mountain

beteri kekasih
princess beloved

rumah ketunun
house burnt

bulan parename
full moon.


Mission Museum, Tilburg, ET 48-2-119, p. 34 of a tree bark book.


jemahat bare lahut
Friday, bare(?) sea

saptu tunggak maring gunung
Saturday, tree stump towards mountain

ha'at menteri kasih
Suhday, minister loving

senin menteri kilangan
Monday, minister suffering loss

selase sumur atas gunung
Tuesday, water well on mountain

rebu rumah ketunun
Wednesday, house burnt

keinis bulan parename
Thursday, full moon.


Mission Museum, Tilburg, ET 48-2-120, p. 17 of a tree bark book.


garang ketunun rasiyenye
things burnt is its rasiye

tunggak maring gunung rasiyenye
tree stump towards mountain is its r.

menteri suke same kasih rasiyenye
minister glad and loving is its r.

menteri kehilangan rasiyenye
minister suffering loss is its r.

rumur maring gunung rasiyenye
water well towards mountain is its r.

rumah ketunun rasiyenye
house burnt is its rasiye

bulan parename rasiyenye
full moon is its rasiye

bangka' rasiyenye
old betel nut(?) is its rasiye.

(I guess that garang should be barang and I am sure that rumur is a
scribal error for sumur.)


In this last version one line has been added, possibly to make the number of lines fit a divination table in the shape of the eight points of the compass. The orthography of the three additional versions is not Rejang but Middle-Malay. We may conclüde that Jaspan's 'Lover's Grief was once widely known in South Sumatra as a jingle used for divination in connexion with the seven days of the week and the numerical value of letters. Jaspan has remarked that an 'almost identical' text is used as an incantation in the ceremonies accompanying the garnering of wild bees' honey (BKI 123, 1967, p. 499). In the divinatory jingle there is no apparent connexion between the seven lines. There may be, or may have been, such a connexion, which remains hidden to an outsider not iniriated in Malay divination. Is it possible that this hidden, or lost, original meaning was correctly ascertained by Jaspan with the help of his Rejang informants? Was it
originally a love poem? I think that the comparison of the four versions makes this extremely
improbable. In the first line barat is doubtful; if it is correct the obvious meaning of barat laut would be north-west, not 'as (ibarat) the sea'. In the second line tunggu was a slip of Jaspan's pen, which he corrected in BKI 123 to tungga', fout he did not adapt his translation to this
change. Tungga' or tunggak is in all the versions; it means tree stump. In the third and fifth lines the Rejang princess (meteri, Rej. pronunciation meterai) is confirmed by one Middle-Malay beteri, but two versions have a minister (menteri). In the fourth line the word sumeui or sumui remains suspect. In Jaspan's text and in the Leiden MS. the diphthong is expressed in writing by a combination of the u and ai signs. This is very uncommon in rènchong script. It seems much more probable that in these two MSS. the sign above the syllable means -r, not ai, just as the slightly different sign in the two Tilburg copies. Thus sumur, a well, would be meant in all the versions. In the sixth and seventh lines all the versions agree. Jaspan's translation 'a house of
weaving' is out of the question, because ketunun (from Jav. tunu) means 'burnt' and has nothing to do with tenun (weaving). The full moon in the last line fits astrology as well as poetry. I am afraid that Ward's 'unknown poet' was born in 1961 during Jaspan's consultations with his Rejang informants and did not inspire the dukuns who wrote divination manuals a hundred years earlier.



http://www.kitlv-journals.nl/files/pdf/art_BKI_1098.pdf

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