In Praise of The Village Blacksmith


May 25, 2015

Phnom Penh

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: In Praise of The  Village Blacksmith

After a long day at the University, I feel the urge to read another poem; this time I have chosen The Village Blacksmith by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. I learned this when I was in Form Two and liked the poem because it was about a working man who toiled from morning to night to make an honest living.

LongfellowThe Village Blacksmith is presented as an ordinary man and a role model who balances his commitments to work, the community, and his family The character is presented as an iconic tradesman who is embedded in the history of the town and its defining institutions because he is a longtime resident with deeply rooted strength, as symbolized by the “spreading chestnut tree”.Longfellow uses the poem to glorify and celebrate a humble, plain person.He is praising the craftsman in a time of industrialization.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s

The Village Blacksmith

Under a spreading chestnut-tree
The village smithy stands;
The smith, a mighty man is he,
With large and sinewy hands;
And the muscles of his brawny arms
Are strong as iron bands,
His hair is crisp, and black, and long.

His face is like the tan;
His brow is wet with honest sweat,
He earns whate’er he can,
And looks the whole world in the face
For he owes not any man.

Week in, week out, from morn to night,
You can hear his bellows blow;
You can hear him swing his heavy sledge,
With measured beat and slow,
Like a sexton ringing the village bell,
When the evening sun is low.

And children coming home from school
Look in at the open door;
They love to see the flaming forge
And hear the bellows roar,
And catch the burning sparks that fly
Like chaff from a threshing floor.

He goes on Sunday to the church,
And sits among his boys;
He hears the parson pray and preach,
He hears his daughter’s voice,
Singing in the village choir,
And it makes his heart rejoice.
It sounds to him like her mother’s voice,
Singing in paradise!

He needs must think of her once more,
How in the grave she lies;
And with his hard, rough hand he wipes
A tear out of his eyes.
Toiling,rejoicing, sorrowing,
Onward through life he goes;
Each morning sees some task begin,
Each evening sees it close;
Something attempted, something done,
Has earned a night’s repose.

Thanks, thanks to thee my worthy friend,
For the lesson thou hast taught!
Thus at the flaming forge of life
Our fortunes must be wrought;
Thus on its sounding anvil shaped.
Each burning deed and thought.

Alfred Lord Tennyson–Ulyssses


May 24, 2015

Phnom Penh

Alfred Lord Tennyson–Ulysses

This epic poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson has been one of my favorites because it is inspirational, especially the last few stanzas (below). It seems appropriate that I should to read this poem again, given time and circumstance.I believe in destiny. –Din Merican

Ulysses

By Alfred, Lord Tennyson

It little profits that an idle king,
By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
Match’d with an aged wife, I mete and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race,
That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.
I cannot rest from travel: I will drink
Life to the lees: All times I have enjoy’d
Greatly, have suffer’d greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone, on shore, and when
Thro’ scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vext the dim sea: I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known; cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honour’d of them all;
And drunk delight of battle with my peers,
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.
I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro’
Gleams that untravell’d world whose margin fades
For ever and forever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnish’d, not to shine in use!
As tho’ to breathe were life! Life piled on life
Were all too little, and of one to me
Little remains: but every hour is saved
From that eternal silence, something more,
A bringer of new things; and vile it were
For some three suns to store and hoard myself,
And this gray spirit yearning in desire
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.

This is my son, mine own Telemachus,

To whom I leave the sceptre and the isle,—
Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfil
This labour, by slow prudence to make mild
A rugged people, and thro’ soft degrees
Subdue them to the useful and the good.
Most blameless is he, centred in the sphere
Of common duties, decent not to fail
In offices of tenderness, and pay
Meet adoration to my household gods,
When I am gone. He works his work, I mine.

There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail:

There gloom the dark, broad seas. My mariners,
Souls that have toil’d, and wrought, and thought with me—
That ever with a frolic welcome took
The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed
Free hearts, free foreheads—you and I are old;
Old age hath yet his honour and his toil;
Death closes all: but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.
The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks:
The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,
‘T is not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
Ulysess

Remembering Indonesia’s Chairil Anwar– The Poet for All Times


April 26, 2015

Remembering Indonesia’s Chairil Anwar– The Poet for All Times

AkuDuring his lifetime, Chairil Anwar born in Medan, North Sumatra wrote approximately 94 works, including seventy-one poems. Most of those were unpublished at the time of his death, but were later collected in several collections of his work published posthumously. Of these, Anwar considered only 13 to be truly good poems. The first published was Deru Tjampur Debu (Roar Mixed with Dust), which was followed by Kerikil Tadjam dan Jang Terampas dan Terputus (Sharp Pebbles and the Seized and The Broken). Although several poems in those collections had the same title, they were slightly different.The most celebrated of his works is “AKU”  (“Me”/I)–Wikipedia

The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost


October 23, 2014

The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost

How about a poem today? It has been quite while since I posted a poem. Suddenly, I Robert Frostfelt the urge to listen to poem. For that I have chosen American poet, Robert Frost to remind us that in our lives we face crossroads and have to decide the road we must take.

Do we want to take safe road, one commonly chosen because others have taken or do we wish to venture into the unknown, untested and uncertain. I have somehow chosen the latter, that is, the one less traveled.

Has it made difference ? An unqualified yes. The road not taken has allowed me to break social barriers, challenge taboos, speak my mind, discover my humanity and love my country. It was scary at first, but I do not think I will ever turn back.–Din Merican

The Road Not Taken

TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler,long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same.

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and-I
I took the one less traveled by
And that has made all the difference.

Birthday Greetings from my friend Terence Netto


May 22, 2014

Din and KamsiahI am deeply  moved by an e-mail message I received a few moments ago from a soulmate in literature, Terence Netto and thank him  warmly for his very kind wishes to mark my 75th Birthday, which falls tomorrow, May 23.

It is indeed a great honour to share the same date as his late father, Christie Netto, whose centenary it will be tomorrow. Two Germinians, a quarter of century apart, Christie and I share a common passion which is the love of reading and literature.

Terence had an excellent role model in his father, and I had an equally wonderful one in my late mother, Hajjah Fatimah Merican. Both he and I were indeed fortunate to have  such unselfish mentors.

Our parents –my mother and his father– did not leave behind great wealth.  But in their separate ways, they exposed us to great literature and taught us the value of reading.

Yes, I love to read history and literary works of antiquity through which I began to appreciate the nobility of a Hamlet and the idealism of a Brutus and despise  the toxic qualities of Iago, the greed of a Shylock and the machinations and temptations of a Lady Macbeth.

So my friend, Terence, allow me to post a poem by William Wordsworth in honour of the long departed Christie Netto. He did his duty for our country. And so did my beloved mother.You and I will now go on, never to quit because we still have plenty to do before we sleep.

My Heart Leaps Up When I Behold (Rainbow)

My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began;
So is it now I am a man;
So be it when I shall grow old,
Or let me die!
The Child is father of the Man;
And I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.

Let also us celebrate this auspicious day with this tune by Sammy Davies Jr.–Din Merican

Birthday Greetings from my friend, Terence Netto

Dear Din,

My fond greetings to you on attaining the milestone of three score and 15 years.Ever since I came to know you seven years ago and got to know that your birthday falls on May 23, I have felt a special kinship for you. It is because the date is also the birthday of my father whose centenary is today which makes this day extra special to me.

It is apposite that I should greet you on this day when I feel a deep sense of gratitude to my dad. For without his urging me to read from a young age I doubt I could have forged a friendship with you that I am certain would last for the duration of our remaining years, you being a ripe 75 and I, a mere 14 years to the rear.

You and I have had many occasions when we shared our delight in the stuff we had read in our days of youth and maturity. That reading may not have covered the compendium of what Matthew Arnold meant by the “best that has been said and thought” in this world, but any range that has within its compass a dollop of Shakespeare, a draught of Tolstoy and a distillate of Gibbon would suffice for  the delights that we have shared whenever we met.

 From my father, Christie Netto, I acquired the sheer joy of felicitous statement which led me to devour literary and political stuff, especially when these have been singingly rendered. Combined with the fortune of having a good English teacher in the late Bernard Khoo Teng Swee (whom your website commemorated last week) and the fortuitous friendship of (also departed) fellow journalist, Shaik Osman Majid (who like you had Penang Free School as his alma mater), I learned to read, remember and store my mind with the stuff that will always be a joy forever.

 So on this day when you mark your 75th birthday, I take a special delight in greeting you and in remembering my father to whom I owe such a lot. If in the “brief candle” of our life the knowledge of how this world works and of how human beings are constituted could be available to us, it is almost certain such powers would only be acquired through comprehension of the great works of literary and philosophic merit.

It has been no small pleasure that through the mentoring of Christie, a humble accounts clerk who knew Shakespeare, Tolstoy and Marx, Netto junior acquired some of the wherewithal that must have made him, I figure, a companion of some value to Din Merican to whom the Latin greeting – Ad multos annos – is most appropriate on this auspicious day.

 

 

 

On Chin Peng: Who is Lying?


September 21, 2013

Side Views

@ http://www.themalaysianinsider.com

Chin Peng deserves a place in his country – Kee Thuan Chye

Kee TCThe pettiness of the Government has not been so clearly exposed as it is now over the issue of whether the former Communist leader Chin Peng’s ashes should be allowed into Malaysia to be buried in the land he loved and fought for. Even the police – who should have better things to look out for like the increasing incidences of crime – are putting out alerts to prevent the ashes from being brought back from Thailand, where he died. As if these ashes were lethal and could, by some preternatural means, maim the Malaysian populace.

Imagine this. Police personnel stationed at every entry point into Malaysia from Thailand, including at airports, going through the bags of everyone coming in. As if they have nothing better to do. But then, for all we know, the ashes might have been sent to someone in, say, Indonesia instead, and this person comes into Malaysia with it, unchecked. How stupid can it get?

Meanwhile, the authorities still quibble over the trivia that Chin Peng was not Malaysian because he could not produce the necessary documents to prove he was so, but it seems more likely that they did not want to let him return, full stop.

He first applied, under the guarantees of the peace agreement, to resettle in Malaysia in 1990, but his application was rejected the following year. In 2004, he wrote to then Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi, but got no reply. That year, he received instead a letter from the Home Ministry’s secretary-general saying that his request to enter Malaysia had been rejected. No explanation was given.

He took the matter to the courts. But in 2005, the High Court rejected his application to enter Malaysia on the grounds that he had to show identification papers to prove his citizenship. Chin Peng, however, said he could not do so because his birth certificate was seized by the Police in 1948. In 2008, the Court of Appeal upheld the ruling.

Just a few days ago, Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Khalid Abu Bakar reiterated that Chin Peng was never a Malaysian citizen and, as such, the question of his being buried in Malaysia should not arise.

Hours after former Communist Party of Malaya leader Chin Peng died in Bangkok, police are on alert to prevent his remains from entering Malaysia.But documents are only stuff on paper. They are no match for what a person feels for his country and the things he does in respect of that feeling. Whatever you call that feeling – patriotism if you like – it is far and above more meaningful than a piece of paper.

The fact is, Chin Peng fought against the Japanese when they invaded Malaya and the British retreated. If this alone does not automatically qualify him to be Malaysian, what will? Entering the country illegally and agreeing to vote for Barisan Nasional, like the immigrants in Sabah who have been given identity cards for doing just that? In the latter case, in fact, having documents doesn’t mean diddly squat.

More tangible than this, the Malaysian Government signed a peace treaty in 1989 with the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM), of which Chin Peng was its head. And in that agreement, the CPM agreed to disband and cease all armed activities while the Government agreed to allow the CPM’s members to settle down in Malaysia. Since then, many have been allowed home, including leaders like Rashid Maidin and Shamsiah Fakeh. But why not Chin Peng? Why was he discriminated against?

The other favourite argument of the Government’s against Chin Peng’s return to Malaysia is that he was a terrorist and the head of a terrorist organisation that had caused the deaths of thousands. But when you hold this up against the terms of the agreement, you can straight away see that the argument is unfair. The man and his comrades had given up the fight, they would no longer “terrorise”. It was time for both sides to put the past aside and move on. For the sake of peace. That’s what an agreement is about. So how could the Government sign an agreement and still call the other signatory a villain? Might as well not sign the agreement in the first place!

Why does the Government want to behave in such bad form over this? Because it thinks maintaining Chin Peng as a bogeyman is worth its tarnishing its honour?

But even on the issue of Chin Peng being a terrorist, the lines are not clear-cut. To some, he was one, but to others, he was a freedom fighter. When he served the British cause in fighting against the Japanese, he was awarded the OBE (Order of the British Empire), but when he consequently fought against the British to gain independence for Malaya, he was a terrorist.

True, his Communist ideology was not everyone’s cup of tea and the CPM did kill many people to fulfil its mission, for which it should be condemned, but Chin Peng has also taken responsibility for the CPM’s taking of thousands of lives. In an interview with History Professor Cheah Boon Kheng in 1998, he said, “This was inevitable. It was a war for national independence.”

That this was so is affirmed by our first Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, in his book Lest We Forget: “Just as Indonesia was fighting a bloody battle, so were the Communists of Malaya, who, too, fought for independence.”

The Japanese, on the other hand, were invaders, and they tortured and killed thousands more of our countrymen during their invasion, and yet we have forgiven them their atrocities. In fact, the Japanese are now our friends, and they are a people we look up to, thanks to ex-premiere Mahathir Mohamad’s Look East Policy. So why is it that we cut them slacker?

Is the Government hard on Chin Peng because it feels embarrassed that UMNO, the party that it has heaped so much credit on for winning independence, did not fight any bloody battles for it, like Chin Peng and the CPM did? And that, also, one of UMNO’s revered leaders of the past, Abdul Razak Hussein, actually worked for the Japanese?

Well, in the book Tun Abdul Razak: Potret dalam Kenangan, a collection of reminiscences by people who knew the country’s second Prime Minister, there is a mention of his having been an administrative officer for the Japanese. It is in the chapter entitled ‘Saya Mendayung, Dia Mengemudi’ (I Rowed, He Held the Helm), written by former Cabinet Minister Ghazali Shafie.

And in a study called ‘Sejarah Penubuhan Universiti Teknologi Mara UITM’, there is a photograph of Razak with three others dressed in Japanese uniform with the rising sun insignia pinned on their shirt pockets. This apparently depicts the time he was being trained by the Japanese.

To be sure, Ghazali also mentions in his chapter that he and Razak were actually nationalists. “We felt that since we had known the British much longer … it was easier to stand up to them than the Japanese, whom we had not got a full measure of yet … Therefore, we felt we had to master [the] Japanese [language] and at the same time, we had to look for channels to contact the British … so as to obtain their assistance in fighting the Japanese.”

From his account, it looks like the strategy adopted by him and Razak was a pragmatic play-both-sides one that is different from the direct warfare approach opted for by Chin Peng.

In view of this, do we still say that Chin Peng doesn’t deserve to even have his ashes brought home to the country he wanted to return to and die in?

Well, I would say that he has more right to be buried in Malaysia than many people I could name. For example, those who have been behind the giving of illegal identity cards to illegal immigrants in Sabah are certainly not as worthy as Chin Peng in claiming this country as their home. He never sold out his country; in fact, he wanted it to be free. His problem was, his ideology was not accepted. And he was on the wrong side of history.

I think it’s time to set the history right. – September 21, 2013.

*  Kee Thuan Chye is the author of the new book The Elections Bullshit, now available in bookstores.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.

On Chin Peng: Who is Lying?

by Aidila Razak and Tan Juin Wuu@ http://www.malaysiakini.com

Najib PMContrary to Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s claim, Chin Peng’s former comrades and family members have insisted that the late Communist Party of Malaya (CPM) leader had applied to return home following the 1989 Hatyai Peace Accord.

“The lawyers requested three documents from the Home Ministry when Chin Peng first filed the case (to return home) in the Penang High Court. The first was a list provided by CPM of those who have applied to go back (to Malaysia), the second a list of those rejected by the government and third, a list of those approved.

“Chin Peng’s name was in the first document, proving he had applied,” his ex-comrade Nan Jin told the media at the sidelines of the second day of Chin Peng’s wake in Bangkok today.

Chin Peng’s nephew, Lee Chung, added that a news article in 1991 also quoted then Inspector- General of Police Haniff Omar that his uncle had applied towards the end of the one-year stipulated application period.

He also pointed out that then Police Special Branch Chief Zulkifli Abdul Rahman was quoted in the same year as claiming that Chin Peng’s application was being processed.

“So what (Prime Minister) Najib Abdul Razak said is not the truth because logically, the 1991 statements show that an application was made,” he said.

Najib said the remains of Chin Peng – or his real name Ong Boon Hua – would not be allowed on Malaysian soil as he did not apply within the one-year period after the Peace Accord and that the family can sue the government if it disagrees.

Chin Peng lost his case in 2008 when he could not produce identification documents to prove his citizenship to the Court of Appeal.

‘We’ll bring him home with dignity’

Meanwhile, Lee Chung’s brother Lee Suvit said the family would “do their best” to fulfill his wish to have his remains returned to his hometown of Sitiawan, Perak.

“We will try to bring him back with dignity,” said Suvit, whose sister cared for Chin Peng until he died of cancer on September 16.

Chin Peng at 1955 Baling TalksThe Thai national said that despite dying in exile, Chin Peng died “calm and happy”, having spent his twilight years with family, writing and taking walks, “just like any other old man”.

While the rest of the world may focus on Chin Peng’s political role, for the family, it would be his jokes and kindness which would be missed the most.

Painting a picture of a much-loved patriarch, he said that Chin Peng would play his harmonica at family gatherings and his favourite tune was the song “Red Flag”.

chinpeng01Suvit said that even Chin Peng’s absence in his children’s life was an act of sacrifice to “protect them”. Both children are Malaysians and shy away from the public eye to avoid possible reprisals.

Suvit said that his daughter, now only a year younger than Chin Peng when he became CPM secretary-general at 23, grew very close to him.

Yet, he said, Chin Peng’s grandnieces and grandnephews, who were seen at the wake, do not know much about their granduncle’s political significance.

Born and bred in modern Thailand, their lives are a far cry compared to Chin Peng’s who joined the resistance at 15.

“Mine, too, is very different. He used to say ‘times were tough in my days’ and we’d brush him off. Maybe (his grandnephews and grandnieces) know some stories about him from us, but I think they just know that their granduncle is a good man, and whatever his struggle was, it was for a good cause,” he said.

Suvit, who now owns a factory in Shanghai, said his own grandchildren would know even less about Chin Peng.  “There is no need to pass down stories about his struggle to the coming generations. They can read about his role in Malaysia’s Independence and Southeast Asia in books. He is part of history,” he said.