Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Poem: Are You Still Playing Your Flute? (original Malay version)

Dear Readers,

Below I have included the original Malay version by the poet, Zurinah Hassan.

A controversy has been brewing recently. The final 4th verse with 3 lines of the English version was NOT included in the school textbook edition. Why this was left out is unknown. 

Another controversy is the gross discrepancy between the English and Malay version in Stanza 3 Line 4. The poet herself says that it was not her fault. It was a typo error by the publisher.

For more details of this second controversy, go to: http://engoasis.blogspot.com/2010/12/are-you-still-playing-your-flute.html?showComment=1294966417455#comment-c7365098025520691004

and also the poet's own comments about this latest controversy: http://zahuren.wordpress.com/poems/are-you-still-playing-flute/
in the hazard of you   (stanza 3 line 4)

should be

in the hazard of this city
(di kota yang semakin kusut dan tenat)

Teachers, please correct and add this to the poem.

For an interpretation and comments about this poem by the poet herself, please go to the poet's blog at http://zurinahhassan.blogspot.com/ and look for the topic blogged on Monday17th May 2010.


Masihkah kau bermain seruling
walau waktu telah terlewat untuk kita bercinta
aku semakin terasa bersalah
melayani godaan irama
lagu yang tersimpan pada lorong halus buluh
dikeluarkan oleh nafas seniman
diukir oleh bibir
diatur oleh jari
dilayangkan oleh alun angin
menolak ke dasar rasa.

Masihkah kau bermain seruling
ketika kampung semakin sunyi
sawah telah uzur
waktu jadi terlalu mahal
untuk memerhatikan hujan turun
merenung jalur senja
mengutip manik embun
menghidu harum bunga.

Masihkah kau bermain seruling
ketika aku terasa mata bersalah
untuk melayani rasa rindu padamu
di kota yang semakin kusut dan tenat
adik-adikku menganggur dan sakit jiwa
bangsaku dipecahkan oleh politik
saudara diserang bom-bom ganas
dunia sudah terlalu tua dan parah.

Di sinilah berakhirnya percintaan kita
kerana zaman sedang menuntut para seniman
hidup di luar dirinya.

(Zurinah Hassan)

English Version (4th verse that was left out)

Is this the end of our love
time is forcing us, as artists
to live outside ourselves
Note that this poem is NOT a romantic poem but it is a poem about poets and writers being social activists.


  1. Dear Mr Tan, Recently i attended a course conducted by the nation's experts who had instructed us to ignore the last 2 lines, not to compare with the original poem in Malay and to to keep the 'hazard of you' (which really distorts the meaning/or hardly conveys a logical meaning). And this is what we as English teachers have to do so that the whole nation is teaching the same thing - pls comment

  2. Dear Shanti,

    Thank you for the latest updates on the controversy. Below are my personal views:

    1) In studying a poetry text, one can interpret the meaning(s) of the text in a number of ways; depending on the school of thought that one is looking from. A poetry text could also be appreciated by just studying the text directly without referring to its background, author's background or the original translation.

    2) But in the case of Zurinah Hassan's poem, the MOE has somehow "modified" the original text by changing a word and dropping two lines. Whether this has been done on purpose or unintentionally, we do not know. I believe as a teacher, we should stay true; at least to the whole English translation and not to selectively drop lines or change a word or two. That's not being fair to any work of literature.
    The MOE should correct any errors if there are any. That would not cause confusion as we would remain true to the actual text.

  3. I believe that MOE should let go some of their egoistic attitude and just admit their mistakes; there's nothing wrong with being humble. The original poem should not be a victim; the same goes with our students too. MOE should show some level of respect to everyone involve here. In the name of education, they should.

  4. just wondering. what does the line 'in the hazards of you' symbolize?

  5. for me this poem is too broad to be defined...it can be looked from many angles...cud b frm a couple, a family and a govern's rule.make teachers feelin super confused...haihzzz

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