This poem was written by Marzuki Ali in the Malay Language and later translated. Marzuki Ali was born in 1945 in Terengganu. He is actively involved in Malaysian and Indonesian theatres. He began to involve in poetry writing in the 1970s. His poems mainly centred on patriotism, the changing environment and the wonders of his hometown.

Let’s study the poem.

A Fighter’s Lines

 

I am old and worn

and have lost all my strength

sufferings

and the history of the fight for independence

have forced sacrifices

that know no name

or life

 

from the wheelchair of the rest of my days

I, body and energy crushed

see and cannot do much

these times are too big a challenge

for the remnants of my crippled years

the net of deceit spread everywhere

disturbs me

 

In the name of justice

Wake up and form ranks sons of our ancestor

Be brave

And erect a wall of people

Stand up heirs of our freedom

 

I have no more voice

It is you now who should speak!

                                                 Marzuki Ali

This poem talks about the feeling of a retired soldier who had fought for the country’s independence. This poem is looking from the first person point of view who is a retired soldier as the poem uses the pronoun I , as seen in the stanza 1. In this stanza, the persona says that he is old and worn and has no energy. From this Stanza, we know that the persona once had become a soldier and he had suffered a lot to free the country from invaders. Many lives had been sacrificed to fight for our independence.  At that time, they fought with all of their will.

Consequently, he is wheelchair bound. Due to the loss of energy and the fact that he is now old, he has enough energy to only be able to sit on the wheelchair. This is portrayed in Stanza 2. After years of independence, the persona sees that the people are trying to destroy themselves by indulging into the world full of lies. Now, there is nothing much he can do as how he did before- protect the country. This is shown in the lines:

 see and cannot do much

 these times are too big a challenge

 for the remnants of my crippled years

 the net of deceit spread everywhere

 disturb me

In stanza 3, the persona calls out to the younger generation to stand up and protect the country. Due to the spreading of lies, he now urges new generation to speak out their opinions and fight for their freedom. He tells us in order to fight for our freedom, first we have to be united, ‘erect a wall of people’ and fight for the sake of our nation’s harmony.

Synopsis

Our ancestors worked very hard for independence. Many died for the country. In the midst of struggling for independence, he was injured and now he is wheelchair bound. He was strong then. However, the challenges facing the country are far greater than before. He is unable to fight it now. He has no more power to control or change anything although he has a strong will. Due to his strong will and in the spirit of patriotism, he urges the youngsters to see the truth and not drown in sea of lies. He stresses here that if we, as the younger generation cannot find the way to stop the dishonesties and lies we are putting our country’s fate in danger as this dishonesties can actually shake the stability of our country. As the persona feels helpless, he wants the younger generation to come forward and fight in the name of justice.

Setting

In this poem, there are two settings. First is in an independent country- independent of colonial rule and any foreign control. This is shown by the line, ‘and the history of the fight for independence have forced sacrifices that know no name or life.’ The word ‘history’ tells us that the persona is reflecting the past. The second setting is an old man sitting on a wheelchair inside his abode- home where he sits and ponders on the day’s problems. This is shown in Stanza 2 (Line 1), ‘from the wheelchair of the rest of my days’.

Theme

The important theme in this poem is patriotism. The persona’s experience of being a soldier; fighting with the enemies and going through hardships has made him a person who loves his country. But now he is old and disabled and cannot do much to free his country from current challenges. Due to his patriotism he cannot bear to see the country sink in the sea of lies, he urges the young to fight for it. He urges the younger generation to unite in spite of their differences and speak out the inequalities and dishonesties in the community so much so that the freedom retains.

Tones

The persona voices out his hopes through various tones. There are three different tones in the poem. In Stanzas 1 and 2, the persona enhances the tone of frustration as he shares his disabilities and weariness of not being able to fight for the country anymore. They are shown through the line, ‘I am old and worn’. Apart from that, the line ‘from the wheelchair of the rest of my days ‘, stresses his disability and leads him to feel frustrated. He shows the tone of disappointment as he talks about the deceits that have spread everywhere as what he says in the line, ‘the net of deceit spread everywhere disturbs me’. He also feels disappointed as he and his friends have fought so hard but now people themselves are creating problems due to greed and deceit. His tone changes dramatically as in Stanzas 3 and 4, he goes from frustration and disappointment to hopefulness.  He eagerly urges the new generation to stand up and rid of their fear of voicing out their opinions as stated in the line, ‘In the name of justice wake up and form ranks sons of our ancestor’ and ‘Be brave’. At the same time, he also stresses on the needs for the younger generation to be united and seek for their freedom as he clearly states in his lines, ‘And erect a wall of people’ and ‘Stand up heirs of our freedom’.

Symbols

A few symbols are highlighted in the poem. First is the ‘wheelchair’ that connotes disability. The wheelchair symbolises the sacrifices for the country-the hardships he went through for the sake of achieving the country’s independence. Although, he is now wheelchair bound, he still has the will and determination to awaken the younger generation from their long sleep on how important it is to retain the independence achieved from the sacrifices made by the older generation like him. Another symbol in the poem is ‘a wall of people’. It symbolises unity of the people. In this poem, it refers to a need for the younger generation to unite themselves regardless of race, skin colour or background to speak and not to be influenced by the deceits being spread. It is also important for the younger generation to erect a wall of people to retain the independence achieved.

Metaphor

One major literary device used in this poem is metaphor.  A metaphor is comparison made between two things without the use of words such as ‘like’ or ‘as’. In this poem, we can see there are two examples of metaphor. In Stanza 2 (Line 6), the persona uses ‘the net of deceit’ where he voices out problems encountered by the younger generation. The modern generation deceives each other and how the deceit is being spread- it is widespread just like a fishing net that spreads out when cast into the sea. The next metaphor is as in the Stanza 3 (Line 4), ‘a wall of people’ where the persona feels that the people need to be united and become like the concrete wall to counter any challenges met.

 

Moral Values

Whether we are young or old, we must fight for our country. We may be physically handicapped but we can still contribute as we can be alert mentally. We must value the issues of human rights that our ancestors have fought for.

Discussion

The poem implied that our country Malaysia comprises a variety of races, religions and beliefs. Dishonesties and lies can be the viruses that could destroy our unity and peace. The new generation is urged to form a wall of unity regardless of our differences and stand together as a family to retain our freedom. Apart from that, to retain our country’s independence, we must be brave to uphold justice. We must be brave to seek the truth and only then we can make a path to a better future.