Poetry of the Indonesian Revolution (Translation)

A Series of Poems Give a Glimpse of Semangat Revolusi Indonesia (The Spirit of Indonesian Revolution)

There are a series of Indonesian newspapers and pamphlets from the 1930s and 1940s made available on the site of NIOD, the (Dutch) Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies. One of the pamphlets is an August 1946 edition of Soeara Pesindo (Voice of Pesindo) a publication of the leftist nationalist paramilitary organisation Pesindo (Pemuda Sosialis Indonesia, Indonesian Socialist Youth). It contains, amongst other things, a series of poems. Below I translate these. They give a glimpse of the martial fervour of the Pesindo and also highlight some intriguing cultural links. The religious language of The Martyr’s Call (Panggilan Sjahid) is interesting given that Pesindo sometimes came into conflict with pious/santri Muslim groups (see, for example, p. 21 of Anderson, ‘Military Aspects of the Madiun Affair’ Indonesia, April 1976). Another of the poems is attributed to Putera  (Pusat Tenaga Rakjat, Concentration of the People’s Power), a Japanese Sponsored organisation designed to co-opt an elite of Indonesian political activists, hinting at some of the complex interplay between fascism, nationalism and socialism in Indonesian revolutionary politics.

My Weapon (Sabarjati)

It’s not a rifle I always carry
Not a sharp shining sword
Not a pistol bound to the waste
But something
Tightly enclosed in the chest

Not bullets to supply me
Not a grenade in the hand
Not a knife in the pocket
But something
Ready to annihilate the enemy

My heart brave, totally prepared
A weapon within I always bring
Always my friend in battle
With my soul it will be fused

My Weapon

The Martyr’s Call (Fauzi H.)
Trumpets resound in uproar
blown by mother’s martial heroes
Near and far young men and women
in every village, quarter and inlet
They are aligned, united in feeling
With one sole conviction-
freedom to the end of days
Or destroyed and turned to dust–

Heroes of the motherland
Beside you upholding truth–
Onward attacking the traitors
Your death upon God’s surety
A spirit beautiful and sweet
Whilst your name sparkles
Remembered down the ages—

The Martyr's Call


White hot the belly of the mountain!
Now and then an earthquake is felt
A thundering sound answers the lightning!
A tongue of fire flickers
in a cloud of black smoke
going up into the sky
like a giant’s incense!

If the mountain erupts
Splitting the earth, a terrifying flow?
If the mountain erupts?
spewing flaming rocks
burning the Phoenix, Bird of the Gods
so it transforms gloriously
in the Indonesian Fatherland?
A flood of lava may overflow
Bloody lava burning red!


Flowers of the Revolution

Ah multi-coloured flowers
Fresh flowers
Flowers of the heavens
Flowers of the sky
don’t be dispersed,
scattered, don’t drift,
Don’t you suppose
more distinct, more radiant,
more fragrant, softer,
Because oh flowers
If you’re rent asunder,
You will be picked by the scoundrel
Be made waste flowers
Because of that, oh flowers
Don’t consider the colours
Don’t regard the fragrance
All become
Flowers of the revolution
Flowers of the nation
Flowers of independence

Flowers of the Revolution