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Javanese Genres and Stanzaic Forms


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Southeast Asian Verse

Javanese poetry was originally meant to be sung for an audience, not read in private. The poetry was written with religious and political themes. Early in the 9st century, many of the meters used were borrowed from the Sanskrit Indian meters although some Javanese meters developed on their own. Each meter had it own musical tune and a long epic could be written in as many as 81 meters.

  • Kakawin is 9th thru 16th century Javanese court poetry in stanzaic form. It was written in Old Javanese, a dead language which at least by the 13th century was reserved for literary endeavors. These epic poems carried historical and religious themes and were sung at royal marriages, funerals and victories of war. The earliest poems were written by Brahman priests and included Indian myths and Hindu themes. The later poems reflected a Buddhist influence and the Indian myths were changed to compliment the Javanese patrons for which they were performed. The Kakawin like most Javanese forms was written to be sung before an audience, not for private reading and is language specific.

    There are several meters with matching melodies that were used. Each meter has a specific number of syllables per line with a pattern of long/short vowel sounds following the rules of Sanskrit prosody. The meter used for example in the NPOPP as well as at Wikipedia is the 19 syllable, Śardūlawikrīd ita meter which also appears to be mono-rhymed.
    LLL | ssL | sLs |ssL | LLs | LLs | s

    Kakawin Arjunawiwaha, opening stanza
    ambĕk sang paramārthapaṇḍita huwus limpad sakêng śūnyatā
    tan sangkêng wi ṣaya prayojñananira lwir sanggrahêng lokika
    siddhāning yaśawīrya donira sukhāning rāt kininkinira
    santoâhĕlĕtan kĕlir sira sakêng sang hyang Jagatkāraa

    An English translation found at Wikipedia:
    The thought of the one who knows the Highest Knowledge has leapt from the emptiness.
    It is not because he wishes to fulfill his senses, as if he only wants to have the worldly things.
    The success of his virtuous and good deeds are his goals. He endeavors for the happiness the world.
    He is steadfast and just a wayang* screen away from the "Mover of the World".
                  *wayang is a type of puppet theater in which the puppets appear in sillouette from behind a screen.

    The elements of the Kakawin are:

    1. stanzaic, composed in several quatrains; the poems are long.
    2. metric, several syllabic Sanskrit meters could be used, however each stanza uses the same meter and the lines are therefore the same length.
    3. the stanzas appear to be mono-rhymed.
    • Note:I've not actually found the form fully described, this description is from my own attempt to discern features from a few poems I've been able to find that are said to be Kakawin and written in a language I do not understand.
  • The Kidung(songs) developed in Java in the 13th century and this genre primarily differed from the Kakawin using indigenous Javanese meters rather than Sanskrit. However, the Kidung like the Kakawin was also written to be performed before an audience. The narratives told historical tales as well as tales of romance and triumphs of good over evil.

    Two distinct "meters" framed this genre of poetry, the tengahan and the macapat. These "meters" dictate the number of lines, line length and vowel sounds ending the line and should probably be referred to stanzaic forms rather than meters. I could find no example or description of the factors of the macapat, the tengahan appears to be more popular. The meters are language specific.
  • Tengahan Wukir meter is a form of Kidung (songs) that marries the stanza length with the meter used. They were written for all occasions up until the mid 1500s. A form for Javanese Occasional Verse.

    The elements of Tengahan Wukir are:

    1. stanzaic, can be written in any number of 9 line stanzas.
    2. syllabic, 10-6-8-7-8-8-8-8-8 syllables per line.
    3. composed in a pattern of vowel sounds in the end syllable, not necessarily rhyme. Vowel sounds pattern, u-e-i-u-u-e-u-a-a.
  • Sarlula Vikridita Meter is a Javanese meter used for funeral rites or formal court poems .

    The elements of the Sarlula Vikridita Meter are:

    1. syllabic, written in 19 syllable lines measuring long, short syllables, which could also be translated as Quantitatve Verse
    2. commonly written in any number of Kakawin Stanzas or 4 line units or stanzas, with lines the same length.

      LLL ssL LsL ssL LLL LLs s - L = long, s = short

      Wait, Wait, Wait,/ do not leave, / time will heal / pain, dark thoughts,/ time heals so much.

~~ © ~~ Poems by Judi Van Gorder ~~

For permission to use this work you can write to Tinker1111@icloud.com

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