Karen ancestor poems

Karen poems are very essential for the Karen people because they spoke about the Karen in the past, the Karen at the present and the Karen for the future. The history of the Karen were mostly narrated in poems and vividly showed that the Karens are not a minority. There is still no record of the beginning of the poems (or) Htars in Karen history but the structure and form of the Htar clearly indicate that the Karens have attained civilization many centuries ago. They brought with them the civilization of ancient empires and adapted them accordingly to the development of the modern world. These poems or Htars also described the origin and nature of the universe in relation with God’s creation. The Karen’s belief in monotheism was clearly stated in most of their Htars. Translation of these Htars in English language is not easy because these Htars are recited for many purposes and occasions. They used various forms of figure of speech. Some are prophetic, some are instructive and in the forms of dialogue, some are in the forms of riddle and maxim, some have content of philosophy. The karenvoice will try best to unfold the Karen Htars in English language, gratefully welcoming any expert’s consultation from every corner.

No Htar no Karen, know the Htar and you know the Karen.

Htar Contents


1.See! How were all things afore God

Wonder how all things were wrought

Look! How were all things ere God?

Wonder how chaos turned cosmos

Hay ho and hay ha had been

Afore God when all was nil

Nothing was hay ho and hay ha

The beginning was only void

Note: Hay ho hay ha is a Karen slang which means void, space, formless, nothing.


2.If hay ho hay ha was nothing

Then what would exist after thee

What hay ho hay ha meant was void

How would the beginning looked like

Formless, void and emptiness

The Sea and Wind took over

Nothingness was all it had

The Sea and Wind mustered strength

3. Thru marriage of The Sea and Wind

Who might be the first off-spring?

The Sea and Wind made a trace

What conceived from this, guess who?

The Sea and Wind in wed-lock

What begot of them was God

The Sea and Wind in force arrayed

God manifested in all glories


4. Gases froth brought forth from the Sea

Spirit of God brood on thee

Gases froth and water whirled

Wonder what miracles begun

The Sea whirled with gases froth

Image of God clearly formed

Gases froth whirled with all might

God manifested and God defined  

The above Htar is taken from the book collected by Thra Htoo Hla E. It was in Karen language and the name of the book is “Li Pa Ywa”. It is widely known by the Karen as “The Golden Book”. It was published since 1955 by The Karen Baptist Convention.

Added list for reference:

The Golden Book(Li Pa Ywa),
Collected By Thra Htoo Hla E.

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    Ocean floor, the safest Haven (Prophetic Poem)

  1. Great grandparents told us once,

Never think it can come up;

Great grandparents talked deep things,

We said they were just joking;

Their saying seemed now not fake,

It really becomes our present fate;

Running wild to every corner,

Take cradled kids and sacks on shoulders;

Kids and babes wobbling upon,

Leaving lot of pigs and fowls.


  1. Great grandparents told again,

To “Yoh Kaw” my people will land;

The early birds had enough worms,

Laugh the way with lots of fun;

Daring spirit will first try,

Only tears and sobs for late guys;

About turn when the buttock warm,

To feed again on “three-stone oven”;

What must be the three-stone pod?

Restore our land which once was lost.


  1. Great grandparent said, if true,

Yoh Kaw won’t be in good mood;

When Yoh Kaw is like iron pot,

Babes in cradle missed to be brought;

A day comes when “Yoh Poe” demands,

Back to the land we left behind;

If Yoh Poe command us to leave,

No excuses come to heed;

All day, all night petitions,

Yoh Poe pays no attention.


  1. Great grandparents “said it more”,

Troops from the west needn’t fear;

More formidable one will come,

Form the east marching downward;

What is the army of the east?

Never able to guess a bit;

Just think how fearful if might be,

In sorrow and silence feign to sleep;

If this prophecy seems to be near,

Gird up your loin and run fast.


  1. What great grandparents “spoke of true”,

Heaven explodes with sparkling white;

Lime and brimstone dance on high,

Death rings her toll everywhere;

Stinks of corpses scatter and spread,

Bring the bad smells to every height;

To be spared and to be saved,

Need best advice from the sage;

All that I can counsel you more,

Make your shelter on ocean floor.


By – Pu Mahn Thein


  1. Yoh Kaw (v2) – Thailand
  2. Three-stone oven (v2) – The Karen cook their food on oven made up of three convenient stones.
  3. Yoh Poe (v3) – Thai
  4. Said it more (v4) – including regional nations
  5. spoke of true (v5) – global event  
Translated by Saw Loh Doh

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