Poetical Traits of Aing-chin Poems


Maung Phyo (WYU)

The term “Aing” stands for “chanting a song in a lavish and rhythmic manner’ and “chin” for “song” itself. Dr Hla Pe categorized “Aing-chin” into the genre of folk songs or songs of lament. Again, Saya Zawgyi in his “A Note of Ancient Aing-chins” said, “Aing-chins should be termed as good poems as they can soften the hearts of the village folks if Yadus are called good poems because they can tenderize those of the palace-bred. For, however distant the two are in terms of life styles and ways of thinking, nothing differs from each other at the fact that both are human beings.”
As regards their thematic preferences, aing-chins are composed of palm-hut, star-fruit yard, farm, bulls, mosquitoes, larva, Gyo tree, Hnaw tree, Htanaung tree, Kyaunggyit tree, grilled beef, Tazet water (water poured down from a roof-gutter when it rains), wizards, goblins, apparitions, harp, gong, black-strip silk, blue turban and Nat-shrines. Most aing-chins are themed with feminine lament or nostalgia for unrequited or parted love. At this point, the two literary genres, yadus and aing-chins, bear resemblance simply because both palace girls and village maidens can fall prey to a human frailty, i.e. being in love.
According to Saya Zawgyi, aing-chins generally possess four characteristics as follows;
Going to a theme through gradual steps
Bringing a theme to the fore with the help of a comparison
Bringing to notice subtleties and minute details of a theme and
Indirect emphasis.
(1) Going to a theme through gradual steps
Aing-chins possess this poetical trait quite distinctively. Aing-chin poets or poetesses help the readers to reach a theme with use of this poetic tool. During his perusal, a reader eventually arrives at a theme of an aing-chin by following the lead of an artistic display of the preceding examples.
For instance, in the aing-chin “When I Miss Him”, the aing-chin poetess disclosed two backgrounds; two waves of nostalgia for her parents, which again brings the reader to the foreground, that is, her longing for her love that outweighs the previous two like,

When I Miss Him
(Taungdwin Shin Nyein Me)
Dear Friends and Sisters!
Thus have I relieved myself,    When I missed my mother,    offering cool drinking water,    a quid of betel and Eugenia leaves,            to the Lord Buddha,        and pouring the cool water,    down on the Bo tree.

Thus have I relieved myself,    When I missed my father,
offering cool drinking water,
a quid of betel and Eugenia leaves,
to the Lord Buddha,
and pouring the cool water,
down on the Bo tree.

But I can’t relieve myself anyhow,
as I miss my man now,
offering cool drinking water,
a quid of betel and Eugenia leaves,
to the Lord Buddha,
and pouring the cool water,
down on the Bo tree.
Moved like a larva in a cool-water jar,
And this is how I feel.
(Translated by the author)

သံုုးေထာင့္အိုုင္ (ေတာင္တြင္းရွင္ၿငိမ္းမယ္
သူငယ္ခ်င္းေကာင္း၊ေယာင္းမတိုု႔ေလ။    မိကိုုလြမ္းလည္း၊
ေသာက္ေတာ္ေရခ်မ္း၊ စားေတာ္
သြန္းတဲ့ေညာင္ေရ၊ ပန္းသေျပႏွင့္၊
ေမာင္ကေလး ေမာင့္ကိုုလြမ္းေတာ့၊
ေသာက္ေတာ္ေရအိုုး   ၊ကၽြမ္းထိုုး
အပ်ိဳျဖဴငယ္ႏွမမွာ၊ ႀကံဳရတယ္ရွင္။

Bringing a theme to the fore with the help of a comparison
This is the second poetical trait of aing-chins in which a theme is brought to the fore with use of a comparison. The poet or poetess attempts to put more emphasis on the theme with such comparison that can help create a better understanding on the part of the readers. For example, in “Who Infected You With Sweat Fungus?” the maiden in the poem hinted at her suspicion towards her lover with two comparisons such as placing the “kin” at the foot of rice seedlings and infector of the sweat fungus as follows;
“Who Infected You With Sweat Fungus?”
Yar Pyae Aing (Taungdwin Shin Nyein Me)
Dear Friends and Sisters!
In the grid of my paddy plantation,
at the foot of rice seedlings,
where do I place a “kin”?

On the clean, straight neck,
of my beloved,
who infected you with sweat fungus?

In the grid of paddy plantation,
at the foot of rice seedlings,
I do place in the center my “kin1”.

On the clean, straight neck,
of my beloved,
I infected you with sweat fungus.

Not in broad daylight, only at night,
my secret fungus,
to you, I spread.
But something still left,
out of my fungus patch,
distinctively spotted,
and here I, Shwe-in-thu2, stay with my parents,
in a house with yard and detached.
O how I miss my childhood love!
(Translated by the author)

ရာျပည့္အိုုင္ (ေတာင္တြင္းရွင္ၿငိမ္းမယ္)

ႏွမႀကီး မယ္သာစိုုက္သည့္၊ ေကာက္ပင္ ရင္းမွာ၊

ေမာင္ကေလး ေမာင့္လည္ပင္းမွာ၊
ညွင္းကိုု ဘယ္ကပြားသလဲေတာ္။

စိုုက္ေရးငယ္မွ က်င္းက်င္း၊
ႏွမေလး မယ္သာစိုုက္တဲ့ ေကာက္ပင္ ရင္းမွာ၊
ကင္းကိုု လယ္က ထားသတဲ့။

ညိဳလဲ့ငယ္မွ ေက်ာ့ရွင္း၊
ညွင္းကိုု မယ္ကပြားသတဲ့။

ေန႔ကိုုမေပး၊ ညွဥ့္ကိုုေပးသည္၊

အပ်ိဳျဖဴငယ္ကကၽြမ္းသည့္၊ လြမ္းတံုု႔ တင္ေလး။
Bring to notice subtleties and minute details of a theme
According to Saya Zawgyi, aing-chin poets and poetesses are very much like good storytellers in this regard. A thoughtful poet or writer tends to be aware of minute details and subtleties of nature in its simplest form. This attribute also belongs to an aing-chin poet or poetess as a good storyteller when he or she composes details of his or her neighborhood that an ordinary person, most possibly, would pass unnoticed. Such detailed composition of the natural environment can be traced in an aing-chin titled “If You Want Me” as follows;

If You Want Me,
(Taungdwin Shin Nyein Me)
Dear Friends and Sisters!
If you want to know where my house exists,
There in the front, a shop and a shrine of Nat-spirit.

There in the south, a bed of onion and a well,
There in the north, a bush of lemon grass and a dan tree,
There in the backyard, a carpet of mikthalin3 and ginger.
Do come and dig yourself,
In that puffy patch,
at the advent of Buddhist Lent,
mithalin and ginger if you want.

But if you want me instead,
The first Tharaphi 4bloom you pluck,
When Tabaung turns into Tagu.

Lo! I meet him,
With a goncho 5garland,
How grandiose he stands.
(Translated by the author)
”ႏွမေထြး မယ့္ကိုုလိုုလ်ွင္”

သူငယ္ခ်င္းေကာင္း ေယာက္မတိုု႔ေလ။

ႏွမေထြး မယ္တိုု႔အိမ္ကိုု၊ သိလိုုခ်င္မူ၊
နတ္ခရိုုင္ႏွင့္ ေစ်းဆိုုင္ႏွင့္။

အိမ့္ေတာင္ကမူ၊ ၾကက္သြန္ခင္းႏွင့္ ေရတြင္းႏွင့္။

အိ္မ့္ေျမာက္ကမူ၊ စပါးလင္ႏွင့္ဒန္းပင္ႏွင့္။

အိမ့္ေနာက္ကမူ၊ မိႆလင္ႏွင့္ ခ်င္းပင္ႏွင့္။

၀ါဆိုုငယ္မွ ၀ါဦး၊ ေျမႏူးႏူးကိုု၊ တူးလွည့္ ပါရွင္။
မိႆလင္ႏွင့္ခ်င္းကိုုမလိုု၊ ႏွမေထြး မယ့္ကိုုလိုုလ်ွင္၊
တေပါင္းငယ္မွ တန္ခူး၊ ေရႊဖီဦးကိုု ခူးလွည့္ပါရွင္။

အလိုု အပ်ိဳျဖဴ  သူႏွင့္ဆံုုသည္၊
ဂံုုခ်ိဳကံုုးငယ္ႏွင့္ ေဆာင္လံုုးညီးေလး။

Again in an aing-chin called “In the shade of greyish bushes”, the maiden is certain about the way her lover dresses and the place she used to await him in order to relieve herself of lovesickness. He customarily puts on his turban top-knotted whereas she, wearing a Yinma flower, tends to await him under a shady plum beside a broad street in the south of letkhoke tree, a banyan tree and a hnaw tree. All of these are subtly and lamentably expressed in the poem like,

In the Shade of Greyish Bushes
Yar Pyae Aing (Letwei Thondra U Myat San)
Dear Friends and Sisters!
Waso and Wakhaung see the southern beck,
brimful and adjoining the western streamlet;
Htanaung6, Kyaungkyit 7and Suyit 8in full bloom,
and rain not heavily getting on.

Overlooking from my grid of seedlings,
that lined the paddy plantation,
no sight of thee,
but I’m not sorry.

Whenever I take a sweeping glance,
over the grid of paddy plantation, standing on an embankment,
I never find my beloved man,
whose tender hair top-knotted with a turban,
to open up our hearts into a romance.

Wearing Yinma9 flower with a transplanting fork in hand,
in the south of Letkhoke 10tree, a beautiful banyan tree,
and a forked Hnaw11 tree beside a straight street,
I momentarily shelter under a shady plum,
and try to relieve my lovesickness,
in the shade of greyish bushes.
(Translated by the author)

”ခ်ံဳညိဳစြန္းမွာတည့္ အလြမ္းေျဖေလး”
ရာျပည့္အိုုင္ (လက္၀ဲသုုႏၵရ ဦးျမတ္စံ)
ခ်စ္တဲ့သူငယ္ေလ၊            သူငယ္ခ်င္းေကာင္း ေယာက္မတိုု႔ေလ။

ရြာ့ေနာက္ေပါင္းလိုု႔၊            ထေနာင္း၊ေၾကာင္က်စ္၊ ဆူးရစ္ပြင့္ကာ     မိုုးမရြာသည္၊            ရြာပါေသာ္လည္း မိုုးမသည္း။

ပ်ိဳ႕ေကာက္ငန္းႏွင့္၊            အလြမ္းငယ္မွေဖ်ာ္ရာ၊
ေကာက္ငန္းတာကိုု၊         မလာကတည္း၊ ႏွမႀကီးငယ္ ၀မ္းမနည္း။

ေကာက္ငန္းငယ္မွ  သြယ္၀ိုုက္၊
ကန္သင္းေပၚက ေမ်ွာ္မိလိုုက္တိုုင္း၊
ပ်ိဳႀကိဳက္တဲ့သူ ပ၀ါထည္
ေဗာင္းေၾကာ့လူကိုု၊            စိတ္တူေႏွာလိုု႔၊ မေျပာရေလ။

ရင္းမာပန္လ်က္၊ ေကာက္စိုုက္တက္ကိုု၊
ဆီးခ်ံဳရိပ္မွာလ၊ တဆိတ္ကယ္ခိုုၿပီးလ်ွင္၊
ခ်ံဳညိဳစြန္းမွာတည့္၊ အလြမ္းေျဖေလး။

Indirect Emphasis

With this poetic tool, the aing-chin poets or poetesses tend to help the readers visualize what is hidden in the poem. Significantly, they have a brilliant command of figurative speeches like personification and simile in composing aing-chins. For example, the aing-chin “When I Miss Him”, the maiden’s insurmountable nostalgia was personified by a larva in the cool-water jar. In the aing-chin titled “If You Want Me”, the village maiden was dropping a subtle hint by urging her lover to try to win her hand in Tabaung and Tagu like he digs up gingers and mithalin in Waso and Wakhaung. The way of presentation she applied in the poem reflected her feminine decorum. It was subtly done and also indirectly direct as in;
“Do come and dig yourself,    In that puffy patch,
at the advent of Buddhist Lent,
Mithalin and ginger if you want.
But if you want me instead,
then pluck the first Thraphi bloom,
When Tabaung turns into Tagu.”
Again in the aing-chin titled “May You Dehydrate Yourself!” the maiden hinted that she could no longer receive her lover’s private visit as her mihtwes (aunts) disfavored him by saying “she has to lean her weaving reed against a corner”. In the olden days, there prevailed a custom of courtship in the villages that the young villagers went courting in the village at night, customarily the maidens had to receive them while rolling up cheroots, cutting the areca nuts, or spinning. In the following aing-chin, the maiden indirectly hinted at her situation like,

“Dear Friends and Sisters!
My Mi Htwes objected,
As they disagree to our love,
Since puberty we fostered,
So have the spin I kept,
Leaning it against a corner”.
In short, all the aing-chin poems are, more or less, endowed with the said characteristics. They help the readers arrive at the theme of a particular aing-chin. In addition, composition and choice of words in aing-chins are also very attractive and effective at the same time. Colloquial usages are reflected in the aing-chins. Therefore, they possibly become indicators of socio-linguistic features of a respective age. Furthermore, aing-chin poets and poetesses used very simple and direct language in that they manipulated simple sentences with nouns and verbs, very few modifiers and clauses. Therefore, aing-chins are forceful and effective languages of the age, and also of the people. Besides, folk elements like rural customs, rituals, superstitions and socio-economic features are recorded in the aing-chins, many of which have already sunken in obscurity nowadays. They are invaluable simply because they mirror the ages.

Hla Pe, Dr. Burmese Poetry. JBRS, LIV, i and ii, Dec, 1971.
Tin, U. Kabyabandathara. Seikku Cho Cho Publishing. 2013
Shwe Thein Min, Ko. Anthology of Ancient Myanmar Poems. Pan Shwe Pyi Publishing. October, 2012.

i    general term for centipede and scorpion, (or) a fork used for transplanting paddy,
ii     a native of Ava (or) a native of Shwe-in
iii    ginger-like herb, the rhizome of which smells like camphor
iv     Calophyllum amoenum
v     leptadenia reticulata
vi     acacia leucophloea
vii     mezoneurum cucullatum
viii     acacia pennata
ix     chukrassia tabularis
x     sterculia foetida
xi     adina codifolia

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