Max Havelaar (Wikisource)/13
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Prologue - Chapter 1 - Chapter 2 - Chapter 3 - Chapter 4 - Chapter 5 - Chapter 6 - Chapter 7 - Chapter 8 - Chapter 9 - Chapter 10 - Chapter 11 - Chapter 12 - Chapter 13 - Chapter 14 - Chapter 15 - Chapter 16 - Chapter 17 - Chapter 18 - Chapter 19 - Chapter 20 - Chapter 21 - Chapter 22 - Chapter 23 - Chapter 24 - Chapter 25 - Chapter 26 - Chapter 27 - Chapter 28 - Chapter 29 - Chapter 30 - Chapter 31 - Chapter 32 - Chapter 33 - Chapter 34 - Chapter 35 - Chapter 36 - Chapter 37 - Chapter 38 - Chapter 39
Havelaar had asked the Controller to invite the chiefs who were in Rangkas-Betoeng, to gather the next day on the sebah, which he wished to organise. Such a meeting was usually organised once a month, but either he wanted to save the chiefs who lived far from the capital the unnecessary travel, or he was in a hurry to speak to them, without waiting for the assigned day. So he had planned that the next sebah would be on the morrow.
To the left in front of his home, on the same garden and opposite to the house that was inhabited by Mrs Slotering, was a building that partly contained the offices of the assistant-residency, which included the treasury, and that partly consisted of a spacious open porch, which was well-suited for a meeting. The next morning the chiefs were assembled there on time. Havelaar entered, greeted them and sat down. He received the monthly reports on agriculture, cattle, police and justice, and put them aside to read them afterwards.
Everyone expected a speech, similar to the one which the Resident had given the previous day, and it is not quite sure whether Havelaar had the intention of saying something else, but at such occasions one must have heard and seen him to be able to imagine how he, at a speech like this, could excite himself and how his peculiar way of speaking gave a new aspect to the best known cases, how his attitude rose, how his glances shot fire, how his voice changed from flattering and soft into strict and sharp, how the movement of his lips flowed as if he scattered something precious around him which cost him nothing and how, when he stopped, everyone stared at him open-mouthed, as if to ask: My God, who are you?
It is a fact that he, who spoke at such occasions like an apostle, like a seer, did not know afterwards how he had spoken, and his eloquence had rather the property to amaze and to hit, rather than to convince with a few words. He would have been able to make the Athenians fight, as soon as the war against Philip had been decided, to drive them mad, and he would perhaps have been less successful if it had been his task to convince them to declare that war. His speech to the chiefs of Lebak was in Malay, of course, and this made it even more peculiar, since the simplicity of Eastern languages gives many expressions a power which is impossible in our idioms, which have too many literary artificialities, while on the other hand the sweet flow of Malay is hard to express in any other language. Remember that most of the audience were simple, but certainly not stupid people, and that they were Javanese, with impressions that differ so much from ours.
Havelaar must have spoken approximately like this:
- Mister Radhen Adhipatti, Regent of Bantan-Kidoel, and you Radhens Dhemang who are chiefs of the districts of this department, and you Radhen Djaksa with the office of justice and you, Radhen Kliwon with authority in the capital, and you Radhens, Mantries and all the other chiefs in the department Bantan-Kidoel, I greet you!
- And I say that I feel joy in my heart, to see you all together, listening to the words of my mouth.
- I know that there are people among you who excel in knowledge and goodness of heart, and I hope that my knowledge will increase through yours, for it is not as great as I might wish. And although I love goodness, often I see that there are errors in my mind, which overshadow goodness and take its growth away. You all know how the big tree casts a shadow upon the little tree and kills it. Therefore I shall pay attention to those who excel in virtue, to try to be better than I am.
- I greet you all.
- When the Governor-General ordered me to come to you and be an Assistant-Resident in this department, my heart rejoiced. You may know that I have never been to Bantan-Kidoel. I asked for information about your department and I saw that there is much good in Bantan-Kidoel. Your people have rice fields in the valleys and there are rice fields on the mountains. And you want to live in peace, you do not want to live in regions which are inhabited by others. Yes I know that there is much good in Bantan-Kidoel!
- But it wasn't only for this reason that my hear rejoiced. In other areas I would also find much good.
- But I noticed that your people are poor, and this made me glad in my inner soul.
- For I know that Allah loves the poor and that He gives wealth to anyone He wants to test. But to the poor He sends one who speaks his word, so that they rise up from misery.
- Doesn't He give rain where the ear is dry, and dewdrops in the thirsty flower?
- And isn't it wonderful to be sent to seek those who are tired, who have remained after their labour and sunk down near the road, because their knees lacked the strength to go and collect the wages? Would I not rejoice if I gave a hand to the one who fell in a valley and a rod to the one who climbs the mountains? Wouldn't my heart jump up if it beholds that it has been chosen among many, to change wailing into prayer and weeping into thanksgiving?
- Yes, it is a joy to be called to Bantan-Kidoel!
- I said to the woman who shares my troubles and enhances my joy: "Rejoice: I see that Allah heaps blessings on the head of our child! He sent me to a place where not all labour is finished, and He found me worthy to be there before the harvest time. For there is no joy in cutting , there is joy in cutting padie that you have planted. And the souls of people do not grow through wages, but through the labour that deserves wages. And I said to her: Allah gave us a child who will one day ask: "do you know that I am his son?" And there will be people in the country who greet him with love, and put his hand on his head, and will say: "Sit down at our meal, dwell in our house, share in what we have, for I knew your father."
- Chiefs of Lebak, there is much to do in your region!
- Tell me, isn't the farmer poor? Doesn't your padie often grow to feed people who did not plant it? Aren't there many injustices in your country? Aren't your children few?
- Is there no shame in your souls, when the people of Bandoeng, there in the North-East, visit your region and ask: "Where are the villages, where are the farmers? Why don't I hear the , which speaks of joy with its copper mouth, nor the thrashing of the padie of your daughters?"
- Isn't it bitter to you, to travel from here to the South shore, and to see the mountains which carry no water on their slopes, or the plains where never a plough was pulled by a water buffalo?
- Yes, yes, I see that your souls and mine are sad about that. And that's why we are thankful to Allah, because he gave us power to work here.
- In this country we have fields for many, although the inhabitants are few. And it is not in want of rain, for the mountain tops suck the clouds down to earth. There are only a few rocks which do not offer purchase to the roots; in many places the soil is soft and fertile, so that it calls for the grain which will be returned in filled ears. And there is no war in this country to destroy the padie when it is still green, nor disease which makes the useless. The sunbeams are not too hot to make the grain grow that should feed you and your children, and there are no which make you cry: "Show me the place where I sowed."
- Where Allah sends streams of water which wash the fields away, where He makes the soil hard, like dry rocks, where He makes the sun glow to burn, where he sends war to overturn the fields, where He strikes with diseases which make the hands weak, or with drought which kills the ears, there, chiefs of Lebak, there we must bend our heads and say "He wanted it so!"
- Not so in Bantan-Kidoel!
- I was sent here to be your friend, your elder brother. Would you not warn your younger brother if you saw a tiger on his way?
- Chiefs of Lebak, we have often made errors, and our land is poor because we made so many errors.
- In Tjikandi and Bolang, and also in Krawang, and in the region around Batavia, there are many who were born in our land and who left it.
- Why do they seek to labour far from the place where they buried their parents? Why do they fly away from the where they have been circumcised? Why do they prefer the protection of yonder tree, rather than the shade of our forests?
- And there, in the North-West, over the sea, are many who should have been our children, but who left Lebak to wander around in a strange area with and shotgun. They die miserably, for the government has power over there and defeats the rebels.
- I ask you, chiefs of Bantan-Kidoel, why are there so many who left, so that they will not be buried where they were born? Why asks the tree where the man has gone who used to be the child playing between its roots?
Havelaar waited a moment. To understand the impression which his speech made, one should have heard and seen him. When he spoke of his child, there was something soft in his voice, something emotional, which cannot be described, and people were tempted to ask: "Where is the little one? Let me kiss the child that makes his father speak like that!" But when he continued, apparently abruptly, and asked why Lebak was so poor and why so many people moved to other places, there was something in his tone that reminded one of the sound of a drill, which is forced into hard wood. And yet he did not speak loudly, and he did not emphasise certain words, there was rather some monotony in his voice, but either by nurture or nature it was this monotony that caused his words to make a deeper impression on those who were particularly sensitive to this language.
His images, which had always been taken from the life around him, were for him really resources to explain what he meant and not, as often happens, cumbersome appendices which make the speaker's text heavier, without adding any clarity to the understanding of the case it is intended to explain. Today we are used to the absurdity of the expression "strong as a lion", but he who said this for the first time in Europe, showed that he did not obtain this comparison from the soul poetry which gives images for reasoning and cannot speak otherwise, he had simply obtained the expression from this or that book – perhaps the Bible – which spoke about a lion's strength. After all, none of the listeners had ever experienced the strength of a lion. And therefore it would have been better to make them realise that strength by comparing the lion to something of which the strength was known by experience, rather than the opposite.
One should recognise that Havelaar was truly a poet. Everyone feels that he, speaking of the rice fields on the mountain, aimed his eyes in that direction through the open side of the hall, and that he actually saw those fields. One should realise that, when he let the tree ask for the child who played between its roots, that he actually saw that tree and that Havelaar's listeners imagined that it looked around, searching for the disappeared inhabitants of Lebak. And he told the truth, he heard the tree speak and only imagined that he repeated what he, in his poetical mood, had clearly understood.
If someone wants to remark that the originality in Havelaar's way of speaking is not so indisputable because his language reminds one of the style of the prophets in the Old testament, I remember that I have already said that he was in some moments almost a seer. Fed by the impressions which life had given him in the forests and on the mountains, surrounded by the poetry-breathing atmosphere of the East, and thus scooping from a source like that of the leaders of ancient times, to whom we sometimes were forced to compare him, we guess that he would not have spoken otherwise, even if he had never read the wonderful poetry in the Old testament. Aren't there notes in the verses of his childhood, lines like these, which were written on the Salak – one of the giants, but not the biggest one, under the mountains of the Preanger Regentships – in which again the beginning shows the softness of his feelings, and suddenly changes to emulate the thunder he hears below:
|'t Is zoeter hier zijn Maker luid te loven...
't Gebed klinkt schoon langs berg- en heuvelrij...
Veel meer dan ginds rijst hier het hart naar boven:
Men is zijn God op bergen meer nabij!
Hier schiep Hijzelf altaar en tempelkoren,
Nog door geen tred van 's menschen voet ontwijd,
Hier doet Hij zich in 't raat'lend onweer hooren...
En rollend roept Zijn donder: Majesteit!
|It is sweeter to praise one's Maker aloud
The prayer sounds fair in a range of mountains and hills.
Our hearts lift far beyond these heights:
On mountains one is nearer to his God!
Here He created altar and temple walls,
Never desecrated by a human foot,
Here he is heard in his cracking thunderstorm..
And his thunder booms forth:
...and doesn't feel that he could not have written the last lines, if he had not really pretended to hear and understand how God's thunder shouted those lines in vibration to the slopes of the mountains?
But he disliked poetry. "It was an ugly straitjacket" he said, and when he happened to read something that he had created, as he said it, he made fun of his own work, either by reading it at a tone which made it ridiculous, or by suddenly interrupting and inserting a joke, which pained the listeners, but which was to him just a bloody satire on the inequality between that straitjacket and his soul which felt so cramped in there.
Only few of the chiefs accepted some of the refreshments on offer. Havelaar had namely indicated that at such a moment the unavoidable tea withshould be served. It appeared that he had planned in advance to wait until after the last sentence of his speech. And there was a reason for it. "How" must the chiefs have thought, "he already knows that so many left this department, with bitterness in their hearts. He already knows how many families moved to other areas to flee the poverty which rules here. He even knows that there are so many Bantammers among the gangs which hoisted the banner of revolt against the Dutch authority. What does he want? What does he mean? Of whom does he ask his questions?
Some looked at Radhen Wiera Koesoema, the chief of the district Parang-Koedjang. But most looked down at the ground.
"Do come here, Max!" called Havelaar, who saw his child playing on the premises, and the Adhipatti took the little one in his lap, but he was too wild to stay there long. He jumped away, ran around the big circle, amusing the chiefs with his chattering and playing with the hilts of their krisses. When he reached the djaksa, who drew the child's attention because his clothing was finer, the djaksa seemed to see something on the head of little Max, which he showed to the kliwon, who appeared to agree with his whispered remark.
"Now go, Max," said Havelaar, "Daddy want to say something to these gentlemen." And the little one walked away, blowing kisses.
Havelaar continued like this:
- Chiefs of Lebak! We are all in service of the King of the Netherlands. But he, who is righteous and want us to do our duty, is far away. Thirty times a thousand times a thousand souls, yes even more, have the obligation to obey his commands, but it is impossible for him to be near those who are subject to his will.
- The big lord in Buitenzorg is righteous and wants everyone to do his duty. But he too, although powerful, and commanding every authority in the cities and all the elders in the villages, possessing the power of an army and ships on the sea, he cannot see what injustice there is, for the injustice is far away from him.
- And the Resident in Serang, who is lord over the country of Bantam, where 500,000 people live, wants justice in his area, and righteousness in the countries which obey him. He dwells far from where the injustice is. And whoso does evil, hides from his face because he fears punishment.
- And the lord Adhipatti, who is the Regent of South Bantam, wants everyone to live and to do good, lest there be shame over the area which is his regentship.
- And I, who yesterday prayed the almighty God to witness that I would be righteous and merciful, that I would do justice without fear and hatred, that I shall be "a good Assistant-Resident", I too wish to do my duty.
- Chiefs of Lebak! We all wish this!
- But if there are among us those who neglect their duties for profit, who sell justice for money, who take the water buffalo away from the poor man, and the fruits which belong to those who are hungry – who shall punish them?
- If one of you knew, he'd prevent it. The Regent would not tolerate such things to happening in his regentship, and I too shall prevent it wherever I can. But if neither you, nor the Adhipatti, nor I knew about it...
- Chiefs of Lebak! Who remains to do justice in Bantan-Kidoel?
- Listen to me, when I say how justice will be done in such cases.
- There will come a time when our women and children will weep as they prepare our shrouds, and the passer-by will say: "a man died". And who comes in the villages, will give a message of the person who had died, and the one who lodges him will ask: "Who is the man that died?" And the reply will be:
- "He was good and righteous. He did justice and did not turn away the complainant from his door. He listened patiently to anyone who came to him and gave stolen properties back. And when someone was unable to drive his plough through the soil because his water buffalo had been taken away from his stables, he'd help to search for the buffalo. And when the daughter had been stolen from the house of the mother, he searched for the thief and restored the girl to her house. Where people had laboured he paid wages, and he did not take the fruits from the man who had planted the tree. He was not clothed with the cloth that was destined to clothe others and he did not eat the food that belonged to a poor man."
- And in the villages they will say: "Allah is good, Allah took him away, His will be done, a good man has died."
- But once more the passer-by will stop in front of a house and ask: "What is this, why is the gamlang silent, why are no girls singing?" And again the reply will be that a man has died."
- And he who travels through the villages, will at dusk sit with his landlord, and around him the sons and daughters of the house, and the children from the village, and he shall say:
- "A man died who promised to be righteous, and he sold righteousness to anyone who gave him money. He fertilised his fields with the sweat of the labourer whom he had called from his own fields. He denied the labourer his wages and ate the poor man's food. He became rich from the poverty of others. He had plenty of gold and silver and precious stones, but the neighbouring farmer could not satisfy his child's hunger. He smiled like a happy man, and there was gnashing of teeth for the man who complained and wanted his right. There was satisfaction in his face, but no milk in the breasts of the mothers."
- And the inhabitants of the villages will say: "Allah is good... we curse nobody!"
- Chiefs of Lebak, one day we will all die!
- What shall be said in the villages where we had authority? What will be said by the passers-by who behold the funeral?
- And what shall we answer, when we have died and a voice speaks to our souls, asking: "Why is there weeping in the fields, and why are the young men hiding? Who took the harvest from the sheds, and from the stables the water buffalo which was supposed to plough the fields? What have you done with the brother whom I expected you to guard? Why is the poor man sad and why does he curse his wife's fertility?"
Havelaar stopped again, and after some silence he simply continued, as if there had been nothing that was impressive. He said:
- I wish to live in good fellowship with you, and therefore I ask you to see me as a friend. Whoever has erred can count on a soft judgement, after all, I have failings too, so I shall not be too strict, not where it comes to common offences or neglect. But when neglect becomes a habit, I shall prevent it. Crimes of a more serious matter, repression, extortion, I don't talk about that. Those things do not happen, do they. Mr Adhipatti?
"Oh no, Mr Assistant-Resident, such things will not happen in Lebak."
- Well, my Lords, Chiefs of Bantan-Kidoel, let us rejoice that our department is so backward and so poor. We have good works to do. As long as Allah saves our lives, whe shall take care that there will be wealth. The soil is fertile, the people are willing. If everyone can have the fruits of his toil, there will be no doubt that the people will soon increase in number, both in number of souls and in possessions and civilisation, for these go hand in hand. Again, I ask you to see me as a friend who can help you where he can, in particular when he must fight against injustice. I count on your cooperation.
- I shall return the received reports on agriculture, cattle breeding, police and justice to you with my decisions.
- Chiefs of Bantan-Kidoel! I have spoken. You can return, each to his home. I greet you all.
He bowed, offered his arm to the old Regent and helped him over the premises to his home, where Tine was waiting on the porch.