The pantun is a Malay poetic form. The pantun originated as a traditional oral form of expression. The first examples to be recorded appear in the 15th century in the Malay Annals and the Hikayat Hang Tuah. The most common theme is love. In its most basic form the pantun consists of a quatrain which employs an abab rhyme scheme. A pantun is traditionally recited according to a fixed rhythm and as a rule of thumb, in order not to deviate from the rhythm, every line should contain between eight and 12 syllables.
"The pantun is a four-lined verse consisting of alternating, roughly rhyming lines. The first and second lines sometimes appear completely disconnected in meaning from the third and fourth, but there is almost invariably a link of some sort. Whether it be a mere association of ideas, or of feeling, expressed through assonance or through the faintest nuance of a thought, it is nearly always traceable".
The pantun is highly allusive and in order to understand it readers generally need to know the traditional meaning of the symbols the poem employs.
A FAMOUS PANTUN
MARSDEN’S MALAYAN GRAMMAR
The Malay Text in the Original Jawi Script:
This text was published in A Grammar of the Malayan Language with an Introduction and
Praxis by William Marsden, London 1812, pp. 208-209. In 1984 Oxford University Press published
a photographic reprint of that work with the title A Dictionary and Grammar of the Malayan
Language by William Marsden with an Introduction by Russell Jones. The original manuscript of
the pantun is probably preserved in the library of the School of Oriental and African Studies of
the University of London. See M.C. Ricklefs and P. Voorhoeve, Indonesian Manuscripts in Great
Britain: a Catalogue of Manuscripts in Indonesian Languages in British Public Collections, Oxford:
Oxford University Press, London, 1977, p. 157, MS12158(4).
Link to this article: http://faculty.washington.edu/heer/apantun.pdf