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Volume 7, 1874
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– xxviii –

Notes on the Word “Moa,” in the Poetry of the New Zealanders. *

[Read before the Philosophical Institute of Canterbury, 23rd December, 1874.]

In a former paper, which appears in the fourth Vol. of the Transactions of the N.Z. Institute, I stated that it could not be inferred, from the allusions to the Moa in the Poetry of the New Zealanders, that they were familiar with the bird the remains of which are now known by that name. This statement having been questioned, I have again examined the collection of poetry made by Sir George Grey, containing upwards of five hundred different pieces of composition. I met with the word Moa seven times.

First, upon page 9: “Ka ngaro i te ngaro a te Moa.” Lost (or hidden), like the Moa is lost.

Granting that the poem in which this line occurs is an ancient composition, the allusion to the Moa may be accounted for by traditions now lost respecting the Hawaikian Moa. Succeeding generations probably asked—Where is the Moa of which tradition speaks, and of which the feathers are now treasured ? “Lost,” would be the reply, and then the saying would become proverbial,—Lost, like the Moa is lost. But if the phrase, “Ka ngaro i te ngaro a te Moa,” in this lament of Ikaherengatu's, is to be taken as a proof of the acquaintance of the Maori with the Dinornis, it is at least a proof that the aged chiefs, who sang it, admitted that the Moa disappeared long ago, and not, as some think, quite recently.

On page 15, “E moa” is evidently a name.

On page 41, “Moa i roki roki.” Moa is a contraction for moana (calm ocean).

On page 96, “Tu tonu Puhi raki, ko te Moa kaihau.” Here Moa evidently means a bleak spot.

It is a question whether the phrase Moa kai hau ever did refer to the habits of the bird. The interpretation some Maoris now give may be only a gloss.

On page 133 we find the following curious allusion to the Moa:—“Te manu hou nei e, te Moa.” This new bird, the Moa.

The composer of the sonnet in which this line occurs would hardly have called it a new bird if the Maoris had always been familiar with it.

[Footnote] * This paper was received too late for insertion in its proper place in the volume.

[Footnote] † Trans. N.Z. Inst., IV., Art. V.

– xxix –

On page 180—

“Tahuri mai o mata
Te tihi ki Tirau,
Mo wai roki roki
Ko te huna i te Moa
I makere iho ai
Te tara o te marama.”

Moa here is a contraction for moana (ocean).

On page 324—

“Na hikuao te Korohiko
Ko te rakau i tunua ai te Moa.”

(Of Hikuao was the Korohiko, the wood with which the Moa was cooked.)

Koromiko, or Veronica, was used by the Maoris in certain sacred rites and tradition asserts that the twigs of the korohiko alone of all woods in the forest availed to cook the flesh of the Moa. It is difficult to accept this tradition as a plain statement of fact.

I am inclined to look upon the expressions, “Ka ngaro a te Moa, “Te Korohiko te rakau i tunua ai te Moa,"and “ Te Moa kai hau” (if the words refer to the Moa at all) as proverbial, and to be accounted for by the theory proposed in my former paper. * The absence of any reference to the appearance of the Moa, or to its habits, or to the hunting of it, is significant when taken in conjunction with the fact that frequent allusions of the kind are made with reference to other birds, and with reference to hunting and fishing. As, for instance, on page 62, “The owl is hooting near.” On page 98, a charm to be used by rat hunters, also one for fishermen. On page 107, “The notes of the kiwi, weka, etc., sound in the listening ear.” On page 109, enumerating feather ornaments, Moa omitted. On page 381, a charm for use by fishermen. On page 388, a charm for hue cooking.

After careful examination I cannot find any evidence in the Poetry of the New Zealanders, contained in the work to which I have referred, that the composers were familiar with the Dinornis. Though this work does not of course contain all the poetical compositions of the people, it is a fair sample of their productions, and must be more reliable for the purpose of affording evidence upon a disputed point than any subsequent collections made after controversy has arisen about the subject matter of the poems originally collected.

[Footnote] * Trans. N.Z. Inst., IV., Art. V.