Monday, November 02, 2009

A poem by Munshi Abdullah

Taken from his great memoir, the Hikayat Abdullah, and translated by AH Hill. Was thinking of using this on my library night tour; in the end I used his Raffles pantun.

Oh, and in case you don't know who the Munshi Abdullah bin Abdul Kadir is, click
here. This piece describes an actual fire which destroyed his possessions in the early 1800s.

A vision of billowing flames meets my eyes,
This sudden disaster my reason defies,
The fire grips the houses in greedy embrace
And devours like the vulture the spoils of its chase.

Proud walls fall to ashes in the heat of the blaze,
Whose radiant brightness dazzles the gaze.
With the roar of the tempest the flames leap and start.
Bringing fear and dismay to my fluttering heart.

Like bundles of paper my clothing was caught,
The oranges burst like a cracker’s report,
My possessions all lost, worked they never so fast.
To grab what they might ere the fire had passed.

Like a river of flame from the crucible flowed
The dollars I saved, and poured down the road.
Who can reckon the cost of the things which they stole,
When robbers had entered and taken their toll?

The trinkets for home which I meant to take back,
The cups and the plates, had been ready to pack.
I sighed for the havoc destruction had wrought,
My heart weighed with sadness, where turn for support?

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