Art. III.—Contributions towards a better Knowledge of the Maori Race.
[Read before the Hawke's Bay Philosophical Institute, 8th November, 1880.]
—“For I, too, agree with Solon, that ‘I would fain grow old learning many things.”’—Plato: Laches.
On the Ideality of the Ancient New Zealander.
Part III.—On their Poetical Genius.
It may truly be said that with the New Zealander poetry is, or was, part of their daily life. Whatever differences in taste may have existed among the various ancient tribes (iwi) composing the Maori people, in this matter they were pre-eminently as one,—all used it, all were moved by it, all enjoyed it. Indeed, I have very good reasons for believing that poetry—in one shape or other—was much more commonly used than even their proverbs were,—which formed the subject of my last paper read before you under this head. Is it not true, that under much of poetry, as well as of proverbs, there lies a philosophy? With nursery ditties and jingles they strove to amuse and quiet their young children, and with longer legendary and historical rhythmical recitals the old informed their youth, and dissipated the ennui of wet days and long nights. With smart songs of encouragement, sung alternately and in full chorus, they eased the heavy labour of their most laborious works,—such as dragging the hulls of their large canoes from the forests—often over many miles of the roughest country, without any road—to the sea, and also the large totara timber for their chiefs' houses; and often whole trunks of trees to form the outer wall of fortification around their town (pa). They paddled their war-canoes to suitable inspiring songs, which were regularly chaunted by their chiefs, or fit men,† often two, if not three, in each large canoe, to which song the paddlers kept time, both in paddling and in occasionally slapping the blades
[Footnote] * See “Trans. N.Z. Inst.,” Vol. XI., Art V., p. 77; and Vol. XII., Art VII., p. 108.
[Footnote] † Called kai-tuki, hau-tu, etc., —a kind of vocal marine fuglemen, encouragers, chaunters; who, standing on the thwarts (more like birds than men!) directed, and kept, and gave time, both by voice and gesture, to the paddlers.
of their paddles against the sides of the canoe, accompanying the same, at regular intervals, with their united voices, which arose together more like the voice of one man!*
They broke up and prepared their extensive tribal kumara plantations, working regularly together in a compact body, chief and slave, keeping time with their songs, which they also sang in chorus. When visitors arrived, the open talk was invariably commenced with a suitable song, which was responded to by the visitors in a like manner; which, indeed— and especially whenever the meeting was an important one—often indicated both their feelings and determination. They took up arms and went to war with songs; they sung them before engaging with the enemy; the watchers within a besieged fort kept on announcing the passing hours, and the movements of the stars and planets, with short suitable songs. They taunted and sorely galled their foes with songs; they gave loud utterance to their most deadly and revengeful feelings in songs; they closed their battles and feuds, and made peace with songs; they bitterly mourned over and bewailed, and finally deposited their dead, with parting songs and dirges. Their many and varied spells, charms, counter-charms, invocations, ceremonial calls and demands, and propitiations, mostly took the poetical form. On entering a forest for the first time to fell a tree, they invariably prefaced their operation with a pleasing song of deprecation to the presiding deity, genius loci, or guardian of the place; † on their finishing (or opening for reception) of a chief's large or tribal house, that was done always with a poem or song (kawa); so, also, on their first casting of one of their immense seine nets—originally made in separate pieces (or nets) by each family, and now put together—they used the proper chaunts or songs. Sufferers by calamity,—as by floods, by drought, or by fire,—the sea, and war,—through theft and slander,—each and all expressed their griefs, and consoled them-
[Footnote] * “Their war-dance is always accompanied by a song; it is wild indeed, but not disagreeable; and every strain ends in a loud and deep sigh, which they utter in concert. * * * In their song they keep time with such exactness, that I have often heard above 100 paddles struck against the sides of their boats at once, so as to produce but a single sound at the divisions of their music.”—Cook, First Voyage, Vol. III., p. 468.
[Footnote] † Among their ancient myths and legends are some pleasing and warning stories of some daringly thoughtless persons, who had ventured to hew down trees for canoes without first paying the usual apologetic and deprecatory ceremonies; which have always served to remind me of the story of Erysicthon, who impiously “rushed without shame into the grove of Ceres, and hewed down the trees,” and paid a fearful penalty for his transgression (as told by Callimachus in his hymn to Demeter). But those thoughtless Maoris, in all instances, eventually escaped far better than Erysicthon did; although, in some cases, they often repeated their crime. Was this owing to the milder nature of the Maori wood-nymphs—as conceived by the old Maoris?
selves, with songs. While the young men and women were undergoing the painful and protracted operation of tattooing, the females sang a suitable song of encouragement and hope. The females, also, courted and covertly indicated their tender feelings in songs; the disconsolate lover sought to assuage his melancholy with songs;* and not unfrequently the suicide (especially when a female, and about to throw herself from a precipice) sang her last words, like a dying swan,—or after the example of Sappho—in a song!
Their handsome forest pet, the tuii, or parson-bird, (Prosthemadera novœ-zealandiœ), was taught with much pains a very long song, though they might have more easily taught him to whistle.† Children sang or trolled songs in summer to lessen the power of the sun's rays, also to cause the rain to cease, and to lull the fierce winds, etc. The chiefs sang suitable songs to their pretty paper kites while flying them, and the young women did the same to their light stuffed and ornamented hand-ball while engaged at their pleasing and dexterous game of poi; the women also extemporized their joyous songs over a plentiful haul of fish, or an abundant snaring of birds, and, also, had their semi-humorous songs for their big gourds or pumpkins, in cutting or breaking them up for cooking. The old Maoris even professed to have heard songs, of a highly curious character, sung by the spirits of the dead! and by fancied atuas, supernatural beings, while engaged in fishing far out at sea.‡ These latter they responded to and sang their replies.
[Footnote] * “I think,” observes Burns, “it is one of the greatest pleasures attending a poetic genius, that we can give our woes, cares, joys, and loves, an embodied form in verse, which, to me, is ever immediate ease.” It is said of Fuseli, the painter, that seeing his wife in a passion one day, he said, “Swear, my love, swear heartily; you know not how much it will ease you!
[Footnote] † Vocal whistling, however, was almost wholly unknown, and never practised, being quite foreign to the natural musical genius of this people; indeed they often showed a dislike to it when made by a European (as I have proved). Probably this aversion to vocal whistling was owing to their superstitious views, as (they said) their familiar spirits or demons (atuas) thus made their presence known. Yet they had a peculiar kind of loud whistle in use by their chiefs, made out of hollowed hardwood, though not very common, when Cook visited them.
[Footnote] ‡ There is a singularity here which has frequently reminded me of what is recorded of the Greenlanders, who, however, did not meet their supernatural visitants so bravely as the Maoris. It is said “that their times were often made painful by fancied terrors; sad sounds were often abroad in the air, and there were noises also on the deep and the shore, for which they could not account. In the sublime description in the Apocrypha, they heard the sound of fearful things rushing by, but saw not the form thereof.”’ And again, “Of spectres they stand greatly in dread. The loneliness of their lives, where the sense of hearing is often invaded with the most appalling sounds, conduces to this belief. The spirits of the lost at sea are heard to come on shore in the dead of night, and utter a mournful wailing.” A singular effect of the imagination is also given:—“A Greenlander came from a distant and quite healthy place to visit his sister in the Mission Station; they were deeply attached to each other. Before the boat came to land, he thought he saw her apparition flitting along the shore and beckoning him to come. The Greenlander paused on his oar, and gazed intently on the spot; his companions saw nothing but the rocks and the ice-hills. But there, he said, she was standing, like the dead, and he refused to go near her. They rowed back directly. Overcome with the fright, he fell sick the very day of his return, and infected the people where he dwelt.”—Life of Hans Egede.
When the New Zealanders were first taught to read and write by the missionaries, and for (at least) twenty to thirty years after, they almost invariably in writing a letter or note, began it, after the introduction, with a few words from a song, which also served to indicate (especially to themselves) what was about to follow, or what was particularly meant. As this peculiarity had not been in any wise taught them by Europeans, it is highly characteristic of their strong abiding national taste.
No doubt their common practice of using songs when at their various works and labours, especially the very heavy and continuous ones, originated with them as a means of beguiling their length and wearisomeness, and was wisely and politically used and encouraged by their chiefs.
During the first ten years of my residence in New Zealand I resided in the Bay of Islands, where almost every visit from home had to be made by sea in a boat; and not unfrequently either in going or returning up or down the long tidal arms or rivers (as Waikare, Kawakawa, and Kerikeri), or in visiting the shores of the outer bay (Paroa), I should be many hours at a time in my boat,—sometimes nearly all night,—owing to head wind, or strong adverse tide. At such times, and when my faithful Maori rowers were nearly exhausted, for one of them to strike up a simple canoe- (or boat-) song, would act as a charm upon their spirits, and give them fresh vigour.* I am sure that by such means—the wonderful powers of simple song—we have sometimes overcome, or passed through, no small difficulties and even dangers.
Having already in a former paper† written on their various kinds, or classes, of poetry, I shall not again repeat the same. Such, however, may be easily inferred from what I have just mentioned; as, of course, their poetry and its music ever varied with the subject:—
“From grave to gay, from lively to severe.”
[Footnote] * If I recollect aright, Captain Sir James Ross, Dr. Hooker, and the other officers of the Antarctic Expedition, informed me, in 1841, that when they had to raise the deepsea lead (in this case made up to 75lbs.) from their deepest soundings of 4,600 fathoms, the labour was so great that they were obliged to have recourse to the aid of music! A sailor perched on the capstan played on the violin.
[Footnote] † In “Essay on the Maori Races,” § 46.—“Trans. N.Z. Inst.,” Vol. I., p. 47 of Essay.
Nevertheless, I may here observe that their rude poetry, while mostly dithyrambic and generally destitute of what a European would term rhyme and metre, wonderfully abounded in strong natural sentiment,—in pleasing and suitable utterances,—and in fit, and often beautiful, imagery; proving again, even here at the Antipodes, that mere rhyme is not poetry. Indeed, some of its imagery would compare with that used by the best poets of the Old World. But while it was natural and simple, it was all rough, forcible, telling, convincing, gushing, impassioned, affecting,—highly suited to the Maori character. Very much of it was ancient, handed down orally from the olden times, and often ingeniously altered and extemporized (improvised) to suit the present occasion; a knack in which the Maoris greatly excelled.
Some few pieces, however, have tolerably regular strophes, and many possess both solo and refrain, or chorus. Often one meets with a startling abruptness of transition; very natural in lyric poetry, especially among a rude and warlike people; by the slightest modification the author's skill fixes the strongest contrasts. Sometimes the maker or singer of the song is both subject and object; again, comparison would be implied with the omission of the particle of comparison; while pronouns, apparently pleonastic, and not unfrequently omitted, would be used emphatically. Inanimate objects, as well as abstract subjects, are very commonly and naturally personified in bold and highly figurative language. Many common things also possess mythological names, as in their myths and legends, this alone being a sign of antiquity.
A few of the more striking peculiarities of the composition of their poetry may also be briefly mentioned, as I think them highly characteristic, if not unique: (1) They sometimes have several consecutive lines* (three or more), each line beginning with the same few words; and this may occur three, four, or five times throughout the piece. This reminds one of the alphabetical form of some of the ancient Hebrew poetry. (2) Sometimes they have a single word (often an imperative or a passive verb) forming a line, which is followed by two or three other such words, making so many lines, agreeing in syllables and in emphasis, and almost in measure. (3) Not unfrequently the first two or three sentences, or lines of the piece, are again taken up at the end to form the conclusion. (4) Sometimes each line (distich or hemistich) of the whole song or piece ends with the same word or particle. (5) And sometimes, though not frequently, the short concluding
[Footnote] * Although I have used the words line and lines, yet I should also state that the Maoris, in writing poetry, never confine themselves to the use of artificially written poetical lines, but continue on as if writing prose; seldom, indeed, using either stops or capitals.
and terse ending of every alternate line, containing three to five words, is repeated,* so making that line long and the next one very short.
The Maori bards, in their natural imagery, occupied but a short time in description; often transitional it was generally done too rapidly to allow of any detail. More frequently the particular and suitable natural simile was merely seized, mentioned, or alluded to, together with one or two of its more striking points, to be followed in quick succession by moving, natural appearances in preference to stationary ones: e.g., the setting of the sun, the red evening sky, the twinkling of a star, the rising of the moon, the breaking of the dawn, the glistening of the sunbeams, the sudden darkness, the rising of the evening star, the passing of the night hours, the flashing lightning, the hooting of the owl, the blowing of the summer breezes, the light flying clouds, the flowing and the ebbing tides, the billowy sea, the noisy surges, the falling rain, the flowing tears, the joyous seasons past, the various flying birds, the gliding canoe, the moving branches of the forest, the waving of the long leaves of the kawharawhara,† and of the shining plumy heads of the graceful Arundo reeds, the thistle-down borne away by the winds, the raging fire consuming the forests, the sulphur-burning crater at White Island, the running brooks, the swift currents both of river and of ocean, etc., etc. And I think that it is in their proper and skilful use of those two great poetical means—namely, simile and living moving nature—that they not only excel, but show their fair claim to Ideality, and to rank as poets, for it is to their excelling in those two particulars that our own great British poets owe their justly-earned fame.
We also often meet with this love of familiar natural imagery, and the use of it as similes, in the oldest poets of various nations—as in Homer, Hesiod, and Callimachus; in Virgil and in Ovid; in the Hebrew bards, and also in their prose writers; and, particularly, in the Scotch bard, Ossian. Much of the common natural imagery embraced and used by Ossian is just exactly what an old Maori loved to use, and used in his way too! and some of it we shall yet find in our few examples (infra). It was owing to this in great measure, that the early translation (a.d. 1837–8) into Maori of the Hebrew Psalms, and other Old Testament poetical pieces, found such universal acceptance among the Maoris. There is a beautiful ancient passage by the Son of Sirach, (though, perhaps, but little known,)—Ecclus. 50, 1—21,—abounding in such natural and pleasing metaphors as the Maori poets commonly used, and all, too, applied to one man! as, the morning star,—
[Footnote] * Some old Scotch songs that I have formerly seen are somewhat after this fashion, as, for instance, in Burns'—“Ye Jacobites by name.”
[Footnote] † Astelia banksii,
the sun shining,—the moon at the full,—the rainbow giving light,—the bright clouds,—the flowers,—the branches of trees,—the time of summer, etc.
In the volume of Maori poetry printed and published several years ago by Sir George Grey, while Governor here, there are collected between 500 and 600 songs and other poetical pieces; to which, I suppose, I could add nearly an equal number,—or (say) about 1,000 in all; and there are, or were, many more, unknown to or uncollected by Europeans. Now, all these were only retained by the old Maoris in memory, and from memory dictated to others, or (in a few instances) written down by themselves. Here, of course, as in the case with their proverbs, there could not be much room for variation; and the oldest and best songs, etc., are much the same, whether rehearsed among the northern or the southern tribes. This, together with the collateral fact of their many ancient myths and legends and fables, and their numerous semi-religious and ceremonial chaunts and recitations, also agreeing in the main, as well as their long ancestral genealogies, is a most wonderful instance of the prodigious memory of uncultivated unlettered man! and certainly to the philosophic mind must ever speak strongly in favour of the ancient Maori. This high faculty, together with those of sight and hearing, which they also eminently possessed, always, when prominently exhibited (as I have known striking instances of) struck me with astonishment.*
Their poetry (as far as it is known under the various names of waiata, tangi, haka, ngeri, umere, tau, keka, pana, peruperu, apakura, oriori, to, tuki, whakaaraara, tukeka, pihe, karakia, mata, hari, whakamohio, whakatapatapa, whakaoriori, kawa, etc., etc.) may be conveniently and briefly classified as follows:—(1) lyrical: (2) historical and legendary: (3) ceremonial, or semi-religious. 1. Their lyrical poetry contains martial, vengeful, taunting, satirical, melancholy, wailing, dirge-like, love, humourous, nursery, and inciting songs. 2. Their historical and legendary—though, with them, it was all alike historical, all equally believed!—included much of the prowess and doings of their forefathers; which they also recited in their traditions
[Footnote] * That the Maoris possessed, in an eminent degree, the faculties of both distant and quick sight and hearing has long been known; these natural qualities being generally highly improved and developed among all savage and uncivilized nations. I have often proved their fine and clear sight, in getting them to point out to me the position of Jupiter's satellites by their unaided vision, while I used my telescope. From captains of ships I have often heard of the very great superiority of the Maori seaman in this respect,—in discerning ships, whales, icebergs, etc., at a long distance. Then their fine discrimination of the various shades and hues of colours, particularly of blacks, browns, reds, greens, etc., was truly wonderful. On this subject and its relatives I hope to write a paper.
and legends. 3. Their ceremonial comprised a large and varied amount of strange and yet often simple utterances and recitations (mostly spoken in a whisper or undertone), which we almost want a new English word fully to express; such being neither charm, spell, nor invocation, neither prayer, request, nor supplication; but, as it were, a little of each, with not unfrequently more or less of a command, and sometimes even a threat.
Some slight—yet it may be painful—attempts have been from time to time spasmodically made to render a few of their songs into English; but those who have attempted it, as far as I know, have greatly failed; and that, among others, for two chief reasons:—(1.) They have attempted to do so in the fetters of both rhyme and metre, such too, above all, as the C. M., L. M., etc., of English hymns! or in the equally unsuitable cadenced jingle of Longfellow's “Hiawatha.” (2.) They have thought more of themselves as “poets,” than of their subjects—if indeed they in every case clearly understood them, which I greatly doubt; for in some instances they do not seem to me to have comprehended the Maori, or, at all events, to have caught the leading ideas in the piece before them; for some (and that not a little) of the Maori poetry is as difficult to be understood by a foreigner—even if he be a tolerably good linguist at common colloquial Maori—as parts of the English translations of Homer and of Dante, of Milton and of Shakespeare would be to an uneducated Englishman; while in the Maori language they would also have the very great disadvantage of not having any good lexicon, or historical work of reference, to aid them. Foreign languages may be usually translated in three ways:— (1.) By a literal version; (2.) By a free translation; and (3.) By a paraphrase. But in the poetry of the New Zealanders, in order to give the true meaning of the original, something more than a mere verbal rendering is often absolutely required; for their whole style is exceedingly elliptical, and often abounds in allusions and aposiopesis, and the gaps need to be filled up. Then there is the common want of distinction in gender, both in nouns (proper names) and pronouns, which, where there is so much of personification, often including inanimate things, creates another difficulty; while not unfrequently the song begins and ends with a bold emphatic denial of its true and pregnant meaning. Besides, to translate clearly into English one Maori song or poetical piece, might require a large amount of knowledge of their legendary lore and of historical facts and events, and of their general natural history. Indeed to perform this work well, a person should bring to it not knowledge merely, but sympathetic imagination, and there are few, if any, among us who possess those highly necessary requisites. Moreover the idioms and the whole structure of the two languages are so very dissimilar. But on this head I shall not now dwell, concluding
this part of my subject by observing—that those great difficulties should ever fairly be borne in mind whenever we meet with any of those so-called translations of Maori poetry into English metre; far better it would be to translate it into good English prose, accompanied with notes.
I will now proceed to give a translation of a few examples from their poetry, in support of what I have already stated. The first will be a portion of a justly-celebrated Lament, alluded to by me in my last paper.*
The Lamentation of Te Ikaherengutu for his dead Children; some of whom were killed by the foe, and some died through wasting sickness.
Sitting idly here in misery, the chord of my heart continually throbbing concerning my own dear children. — Behold, how great! Here am I, O, my friends, just like the offspring of the forests inland, bowed down towards the ground; aye, bending low down, even as the long lithe fronds of the black fern-tree, without ever once rising upwards, concerning my own dear children. Where, indeed (is he)? O, the dear child, who was formerly cheerfully welcomed with “Come hither, O my son.” Ah! he is indeed gone, carried off by the strong ebbing tide.
I continue still in one place, sitting idly, O friends, upon the same plot of ground where my dear children formerly assembled in play—where we dwelt together lovingly! Now (it is become) a slippery plot (on which there is no standing for the foot)—a plot clean denuded and desolated, wholly and entirely despoiled, nothing pleasing left! so that I care not to look up at the sun standing above me, neither to the once fondly-remembered home-mountain standing near! nor even think of the sweet native breeze blowing from (our) home! which one is ever wont to dwell on with affection when the bitter blasts of sorrow are blowing and felt, which are verily as keen as the sharp-cutting icy wind from the south.
Here, indeed, I must mope owl-like in the hut, through the work of that evil-minded friend Whiro! My heart is even becoming forgetful of the doings of the many around about me. Was it, indeed, owing to the attempt of my children to steal the moon that they died, or was it, indeed, through (their) attempt to steal on the edge of some cliff that my offspring fell down suddenly, like debris, and perished miserably? If it had been so (then) the hateful demons would have banded together in anger against us all, and we should all have been exterminated, never more to be seen; extinct for ever, as the Moa!†
This fine poem ends with—
Enough! I will not sigh, nor show affection any longer unto you!‡
There are several similes herein used that require both explanation and attention.
“The offspring of the forests:” lit., the begetting of Taane—Taane being considered, in their mythology, as the special maker or begetter of all the vegetable kingdom.
“The fronds of the black fern-tree:” lit., mamaku (Cyathea medullaris).
[Footnote] * See “Trans. N.Z. Inst.,” Vol. XII., p. 88.
[Footnote] † See “Trans. N.Z. Inst.,” Vol. XII., p. 88, etc.
[Footnote] ‡ A version of this poem will be found in Grey's collection of “Poetry of the New Zealanders,” p. 9.
This beautiful figure, taken from the long palm-like fronds of this fine fern (twelve to twenty feet), gracefully curved and drooping towards the earth, is not unlike that used by us in funereal subjects, our own “weeping willow.” Further, this was the solemn attitude always assumed by the old Maoris in weeping and lamenting over their dead, with body and head bowed forwards, and arms extended together and curved downwards towards the corpse or remains.
“Where indeed is he,” etc. Here one is strongly reminded of those pathetic and striking lines by Byron, in the “Bride of Abydos:”—
“Hark to the hurried question of Despair!—
‘Where is my child?’ and Echo answers ‘Where?”’—(Canto II.)
A note appended thereto is also worthy of notice—“I came to the place of my birth and cried,—‘The friends of my youth where are they?’ and an echo answered, ‘Where are they?”’ (Arab. MS.)
“Upon the same plot of ground,” etc., lit. kahuipapa;—i.e. the flats, or small islets and shoals, in or near salt-water lagoons and estuaries, where the small sea-birds, etc., flock and preen and dress themselves in the sun; another beautiful figure.
“The mountain standing near my home,” and “the air, or breezes, of my native place.” These two beautiful similes have ever been in great esteem among the Maoris, and are still very commonly used by them in letters when away from home and writing thither, not unfrequently causing affectionate tears when read. Those tender and natural familiar expressions closely resemble some of our own esteemed European ones—e.g., the song of “Home, sweet home;” the proverbs, “Home is home, be it ever so homely” (Eng.); “East and west, at home the best” (Germ.); “The reek of my own house is better than the fire of another's” (Span.); “Home, my own dear home, tiny though thou be, to me thou seemest an abbey” (Ital.) And so our British poets—Burns, Scott, Byron, and Wordsworth, and particularly Goldsmith. Cotton, who preceded most of them, has a beautiful hemistich, which I cannot help quoting:—
“The world has nothing to bestow;
From our ownselves our joys must flow,
And that dear hut,—our home.”
Not, however, forgetting Burns' beautiful song,—
“Of a' the airts the wind can blaw.”
“That evil-minded fiend Whiro.”—Whiro was, possibly, the worst of all the demon-gods, or supernaturals, of the Maoris; to whose malevolence, death and disaster on land were always attributed.
The Lament for Te Heuhen, a principal Chief of Taupo; who, together with about 60 of his followers, was suddenly swallowed up by a terrible
land-slip near the south end of the lake Taupo in 1846. (A portion only, less than half.)
Behold! there is the red streak of early morning dawn! appearing on the far-off horizon, over the craggy peaks of the mountain Tauhara. That, perhaps, is my dear friend returning hither? Alas! no; alone am I, uttering vain laments among the dwellings of men.
Thou art, indeed, gone for ever! O precious treasure! Go on, then (in thy way, thou) great one; go on, (thou) who wast feared (by the foe); go on (thou who wast as) the fine big raataa trees, protecting those smaller trees behind them from the stormy winds. Let me ask, who was the demon who so evilly overwhelmed you all with sudden death?
Sleep on (with thy face turned) towards us, O (our) father, within the cold miserable house. The string of the prized ear-drop (by which it once hung) is now firmly knotted; that ancient prized heir-loom of greenstone; left behind, among us, to become a loved memento for ever of thee.
* * * *
In vain the stars of the heavens plan (their) schemes: the great star Atutahi is gone, carried off a prey for the cannibal star Rehua. But the fine star shining by the side of the Milky Way, is verily thou thyself! Alas! Alas!
* * * *
(End.) Thou hast fallen! thou art lying dead within the bowels of the earth! Alas! Alas! Still thy fame shall resound (as thunder) far off to the other side of the heavens.*
“Tauhara:”—a conspicuous craggy isolated mountain, 3,000 feet high, about 30 miles north-east from the place where the calamity occurred.
“Fine, big raataa-trees” (Metrosideros robusta):—among the monarchs of the forests.
“The prized ear-drop:”—lit. “Kaukau-te-ika-a-Ngahue.” This was the name of a famous prized ancient ear-pendant; fabulously reported to have been brought from “Hawaiki” [Of this “ika-a-Ngahue,” more anon.] “The string” by which it was suspended to the chief's ear, when alive and worn, being now “knotted,” indicates that it never would be worn again.
“Atutahi” and “Rehua,” two noted stars.; see “Trans. N.Z. Inst., Vol. XII., pp. 145, 146.
The Spell, or Invocation, used by the Hero Whakatau, on his going forth to fight.
“Then the brave warrior, Whakatau, arose, and seized his fighting-belt, and, while girding it on, uttered the following charm, that he and his companions in arms might become bold in battle.”(MS., ined.)
If Tangaroa should enquire,
“Who is that young warrior
So daringly girding-on my war-belt?”
(I reply) Nobody at all; nothing, only me,
[Footnote] * Grey's “Poetry of the New Zealanders,” p. 28.
A man of no rank,
Lo! the favourable wind arises;
I hear it; I feel it.
The strong north wind blows,
I feel it encircling.
My foes are already hiding through fear!
Enclose me around, O Space!
O Space and Air encircle me!
O Sky encircle me!
Who am now here, engaged
In girding-on the war-belt of the warrior
I shall stand—as a rainbow,
Girt with the war-belt of the warrior.
Lo! the lightning flashes—it flashes!
The war-belt is rough as the sharp spines of the sea hedgehog;—
Dreadfully hated it is!
This war-belt, whose fame carries fear and hiding;
Whose great fame is everywhere known.
Do you still ask, “What is this war-belt?”;
A war-belt of wrath!
A war-belt of flaming rage!
A war-belt that destroys and eats up its foes!
Now you know. Hurrah!
“If Tangaroa should enquire, etc.” The great fight in which Whakatau was engaged, and so valiantly slew his foes, was commenced at sea and finished on the sea-side; hence the name of “Tangaroa,”—who was the Maori “god” (=maker and master) of the sea and of fishes; one of the great Polynesian “gods.”
“Space” (or the clear open expanses, or Air,) and “Sky,” are here invoked, as being the most ancient of all their many personifications.
“I shall stand—as a rainbow,”—see Proverbs, “Trans. N.Z. Inst.,” Vol. XII., p. 139, proverb 167. See, also, the closing hemistich of song 13, infra.
“Do you still ask, ‘What is this war-belt?”’—meaning, What the consequences of putting it on?
The ancient Maoris went naked into the fight, the principal chiefs only wearing the war-belt; which was first girt on when actually entering into the battle, and was curiously and very firmly fixed. So that the girding it on, was, to them, quite an event; and, in reality, was just as Hector, or Mars, in Homer, putting on their armour.
This poetical piece is most stirring and spirited in the Maori original; and its effect on Whakatau's followers, when properly chaunted by him, to, doubtless, a most inspiriting and bold tune,* may be guessed. Especially, too, as they had ventured to say to him,—“Don't attempt it; they are many; thou wilt be killed.” The whole prose legend in its entirety is a capital one. A portion of it, much abbreviated and altered, may be found in Grey's “Polynesian Mythology,” p. 102.
A ceremonial Charm, used in divorcing the man from the woman and the woman from the man:—
A pulling off by Space,
A pulling out by Sky,
A great drawing-out from within;
A letting fall,
Of [or by† this great priest,
Of [or by†] this knowing teacher;
There the post stands—the post stands,
The very post of the separation.
It is the Sky that unties;
If untied above here, then untie
That you two may be untied,
Separated here be the bed of you two,
Where you two were intimate,‡
Where you two slept,
That you two may be untied.
The Sky itself separates;
The Earth itself separates.
Be separate in this evening,
Be separate in this night.
Turn away, proceed;
To the full tide,
To the tide flowing by night,
To the tide that resounds in its ebbing.
Henceforth I turn upwards
To the untrodden forests,
Do not thou sigh lovingly;
[Footnote] * Vide infra, near end of this paper.
[Footnote] † By—here in a secondary sense; passive, or politely lessening. Lit., embraced closely.
Do not thou lament.
Untie the string of the garments;
Be rough, be strong, the string of the garments of you two.
Embrace the rimu pine tree,
Embrace the totara pine tree,
Embrace the tangled fern.
There the post stands;
The post indeed of the separation;
The post of the Sky above:—
Be thou made all aglow.
For a version of this see Grey's “Poetry,” p. 296.
(1.) According to the Maori cosmogony the Sky and the Earth were anciently man and wife, and lived conjoined; but they were forcibly separated, and that for ever, for the good of man.
(2.) The last line here (as in that of the first poetical piece, ante) must be taken to mean its direct opposite.
A soothing Charm, to be recited when the young women are having their lips and chins tattooed, —punctured and stained with black figures.
(Part only, as a specimen; the whole containing 13 stanzas.)
Lay thyself quietly down, O daughter!
(Soon it is done!)
That thy lips may be well tattooed;
(“Tis quickly performed!)
For thy going to visit the young men's houses;—
Lest it should be said,—
“Whither, indeed, is this ugly woman going?
Now coming hitherward.”
Keep thyself still, lying down, O young lady!
(Round the tap goes!)
That thy lips may be well tattooed,
Also thy chin;
That thou mayest be beautiful!
(Thus it goes fast!)
For thy going to visit the houses of courtship;—
Lest it should be said of thee,—
“Whither does this woman think of going with her red lips,
Who is walking this way?”
(Still it is revolving!)
Give thyself willingly here to be tattooed
(Briefly ‘tis over!)
For thy going to the houses of amusement;
(Or) thou wilt be spoken of,—
“Whither goes this woman with her bare* lips;
Hastening hither indeed (in that state).”
[Footnote] * Lit.—plain, unadorned, without ornament or covering; applied sneeringly.
(Round it revolves!)
It is done! it is tattooed!
(Soon it is ended!)
Give hither quietly thy chin to be imprinted;
(Nimbly the hand moves!)
For thy going to the houses of the single men;
Lest these ill words should be said;—
“Whither goes this woman with her red chin;
Who is coming this way?”*
Note.—All those separate lines within parentheses, run thus in the original, “Pirori e” and the great difficulty is, to know what was really meant by that word or phrase. Pirori (as I showed in a recent paper)† is the name of the curious wimble or drill, of the old Maoris, with which they perforated the hard greenstone; and is used, as a verb, of the making of the drill revolve quickly; also, of the setting a hoop, or a ball, rolling, with a quick jumping or hopping motion; and also (formerly by old Maoris), of a European writing quickly, or shading with black-lead pencil, as in drawing. I am inclined to believe that the word was used here partly in a semi-humourous and partly in a cheering sense; to divert their attention, and to assure them the puncturing operation, always painful, would be soon over. And in this view of it I am also borne out by several old Maoris with whom I have conversed on this subject. Nevertheless I cannot help thinking there is still something more (after their fashion) concealed in the short pithy phrase. In their beautiful and expressive language, so full of natural and truthful metaphor, especially in all matters referring to a young female,‡—there is a proverbial comparison for a woman's lips when well tattooed; such are said to resemble a rori (Parmophorus australis); the plump black smooth and glossy mantle of this shell-fish appearing, when living, its whole length on both sides from under its narrow back shell, and turning up and enveloping its sides, no doubt originated the proverb; and pi being the general name for the young of birds and small animals,—the whole sentence may have been intended to remind the person operated on of that (in their estimation) pleasing natural simile—“Pirori!”=Beautiful as the black young rori! (by keeping quiet).
The Cry of the little green Parrot.G. P. “O, thou big brown parrot, flying away there!
Give me back here my own red feathers!”
[Footnote] * See Grey's “Poetry,” p. 58.
[Footnote] † “Trans. N.Z. Inst.,” Vol. XII., p. 93.
[Footnote] ‡ See “Trans. N.Z. Inst.,” Vol. XII., p. 142, for a few terse proverbs of this kind, referring to females.
B. P.—“My red feathers are my own indeed; I fetched them from the
sacred isle, Tinirau* gave them to me.”
G. P.—Torete, kaureke; torete, kaureke.”
“O, thou big brown parrot, still flying away there!
Tell me whither art thou flying?
Art thou flying away to Poutahi?
Art thou flying to Puke whanake?
To carry tidings away to Te Iripa?
B. P.—“Verily, I will not reply (do, or say anything) to thee.”
G. P.—“Here am I standing in the preserve, causing
Aching-legs, made by Tokoahu!
Here am I both listless and tired out. Alas!
The weary doings of the hot summer days!
Torete, kaureke; torete, kaureke!”
(See Grey's “Poetry,” p. 74.)
Notes.—Torete, etc. This is the common cry of the green parrot, according to the Southern Maoris of the North Island, (especially when engaged in quietly talking to itself, as in confinement), hence, too, in some parts it has obtained the name of Torete.
Poutahi, etc. Those proper names may be all figurative, and used by the little bird tauntingly: Poutahi=one pole, or perch, of the big parrot, on which it too will soon be fastened.
Puke whanake=hill, or grove, of cabbage trees, (Cordyline sp.), on the fruit of which it feeds.
Te Iripa=the (one bird) hanging in a village—may mean, the mate or companion bird of the big parrot already caught and made a prisoner, and there being fettered with a cord by its leg to a pole or stick, it sometimes hangs head downwards from its perch in its useless strivings and flutterings.
I suspect this green parrot is itself a prisoner, its own last words facetiously imply as much. Its cage, “made by Tokoahu,”=lit. hot vapour:—scil., a long fellow reaching out or forth, (who hangs me up here in the hot sun), is another figurative play on words. The whole, especially when sung to its own proper tune, is very facetious, especially to a Maori.
A joyous revelling Song, Duet, or Glee, sung by the Wood Rats.First Rat.—O, Rat, O! let us two descend (the tree).
Second Rat.—Why should we two go down below?
First Rat.—To gather up nice baits for us to eat.
Second Rat.—What are those nice baits?
First Rat.—The sweet ripe fruits of the pine trees.
Second, or Third, Rat.—Fudge! I am just come up from below, O my friends!
And down there is the fear and trembling, my friends;
The springbolt of the set snare resounds with a click!
[Footnote] * For Tinirau, see Grey's “Polynesian Mythology,” p. 90, etc.
My neck is caught and held fast;
I can only then squeak, Torete! torete!
Be assured that I will not go down below,
Seeking those nice baits; alas! no, no!
A version of this song is to be found in Grey's “Poetry of New Zealanders,” p. 234.
“The fruits of the pine trees:”—the names are given in the Maori—“miro” and “kahikatea;” Podocarpus ferruginea and Podocarpus dacrydioides; the fruits grow at the extremities of the long, lithe branchlets, so that the rats could not well get at them on the trees.
“Torete!—the same word is here used in mimicry as before by the green parrot.
A Chaunt used by Children for fine Weather.Fly, fly away, O thou kingfisher,
To the thick long-leaved plants* on the tree;
There snugly shelter thy wings,
Or thou wilt suffer much from the rain.
The clouds are breaking—from inland;
The clouds are breaking—from sea;
Behold a clear sky! the rain is ceasing!
The rain is all over! quite cleared is the rain!
(See Grey's “Poetry of New Zealanders,” p. 29.)
Much longer ones for the same purpose were also used by adults, but were just as simple.
A Charm, causing Healing of Wounds, to be recited for the fresh green gourds when about to be broken-up and baked in the earth-oven. Then the woman who is baking them must say:—
The children, like them! are crying
For their nice food of green summer gourds:
The gourds are plentiful:
The seeds of the gourds are sown;
The gourds grow;
The running branches stretch out,
They grow abundantly.
Grow on, abundantly!
Be ye many;
Grow away fast;
Be ye numerous;
Grow on, become good gourds;
Be ye flourishing!
(A version of this is at p. 388, Grey's “Poetry of New Zealanders.”)
[Footnote] * Lit., “Puwharawhara” (Astelia banksii).
A Sentinel's Cry, or Watch-song, at night, within the besieged fortress.Here is the owl hooting away bravely!
He is not moving up and down on his perch;
No, not even once uplifting his head to look about,
The thumping big head of the owl!
Not gliding away on his wings,
But staying and hooting!
Now,—It is night! it is night!
Anon,—It is day! it is day!
Open broad daylight,—Hurrah!
(Grey, loc. cit., p. 62.)
The inference from the natural actions of the undisturbed owl on the neighbouring forest-trees is,—that there is no enemy prowling near; so, sleep on; we (the owl and I) are watching.
Another Watch-song.It is night: it is night:—
It is day: it is day:—
The moon it is breaking;
The bird it is singing;
Broad day-light is coming!
It is day! it is day!
It is broad day-light!
(Grey, loc. cit., p. 40.)
In their watch-songs, used within the fort (of which there are several, as may be supposed), there is always more or less of the coming dawn, and of its harbingers;—the wished for morning dawn,—the stars heralding the approach of the dawn;—expressed in various natural ways. Reminding one of the many not dissimilar bold and beautiful expressions in the Psalms, and in other parts of the Old Testament, re “the waking up of the morning,”—“the dawning of the morning,”—“those that wearily watch for the morning,” etc., etc.—(Psalms 30–5; 57–8; 130–6, etc.); and, also, in Ovid,—“Evocat auroram.”—Met. XI., 597.
Another Watch-song.The moon shines brightly!
The moon shines brightly!
What is to be seen?
(Here) the spears strong and ready!
(There) the spears weak and fearful!
Mine were not quite true to aim;
Yet they shall be.
Thine were not true to aim,
For thine fell to ground.
A long way off! oh!
With us is the god of war—Tu,
Who approves of close fighting.
Ye will not come on!
Ye dare not! Ye say,—
“Just leave the assault till they fear.”
Ha! ha! But know ye,—
The eye of the leaders of war
Never sleeps;* never winks! oh! oh!
A truly fine spirited song in the original. (MS., ined.
A Love-song. By a widow, or a widower, for the partner deceased.
(Part only.)Go on setting, O thou sun!
Descend into thy cave,
To carry tidings thither!
The tears fall plentifully from my eyelids,
Gushing like a flowing tide;—
But thou repliest not!
* * * *
Truly grey hairs are showing
On my dear friends;—
But with me especially,
The flowering plume of the Arundo reed,
Shows prettily, glancing in the sun
In the seventh (moon),—
In the eighth (moon) it is blown away!
The rainbow shows brightly in the dark cloud,
But the lightning is flashing!—
All is over!—
An altered version of this beautiful song is on p. 261, Grey's “Poetry.”
A Love-chaunt. (Part only.)
Rain on, O thou rain! Continue to rain down without, there; here am I, within the hut, deploring my distress, and comparing (this with that), for my eyes are as if supplied with water from a flowing spring. It is the great love I bear to the fond one of my affection that causes these fierce convulsive pains: the dear one who is so greatly desired and hoped for! Now, alas! thou art separated, far off to a distance; who will return thee
[Footnote] * See “Trans. N.Z. Inst.” Vol. XII., p. 139, for this proverb.
hither to me? And you, my hundred friends, who are strenuous to aid me, leave it for a while; just merely for a little (time), while I am sitting-up a bit. Be assured, I shall not wait long, only until the moon rises; then I, also, will go forth, to look at the fleecy clouds sailing hither, coming this way over the mountain.
Alas! the boundary that parts us, dear young lady! is as a great ocean-depth to thee. Notwithstanding, in that one direction towards thee, my eyes are dim with steady gazing. For thou alone art the only one of my deepest affection, etc., etc.
Note.—The great beauty of this song, in its commencement, arises from the poet's making it to rain heavily and unceasingly without, while he is lamenting within a miserable hut, and comparing the flood of waters flowing from his eyes with the falling rain! The imagery is so natural, plaintive and affecting, that it is worked up into many of their love-songs. So, again, where he says—“wait a while,—while I am sitting up a bit;”—meaning, just as a sick person, who is weak when roused to get up. (A version of a part of this song is at p. 396 of “Grey's Poetry.”)
A Love-song. By a Widow for her Dead Husband.
I recline upon my bed,
Thy own spirit-like form
Comes towards me,
Creeping stealthily along!
Alas! I mistake!
Thinking thou art here with me
Enjoying the light of day!
Then the affectionate remembrances
Of the many days of old
Keep on rising within my heart!
This, however, loved one; this
Thou must do,—
Recite the potent call to Rakahua
And the strong cry to Rikiriki,—
That thou mayest return (to me).
For thou wast ever more than a common husband,—
Thou wast my best-beloved,—my chosen;
My treasured possession! alas!
(This, in part, worked up with another song, will be found in Grey's “Poetry of the New Zealanders,” p. 352.)
Note.—The cries, or invocations, to Rakahua, and to Rikiriki, often mentioned in their poetry, etc., were said to be to those beings who had power to restore from the dead.
Rise up quickly, O thou Moon! make haste to get above me, that I may give vent to my sighing, and utter my laments! Now, indeed, for the first time, do I feel the pangs of
love; it is as if a demon, or a lizard, were within me gnawing. If, indeed, my people, you are not willing to dwell with me, and bear me company in my distress,—you had better separate yourselves to a distance; for the love within me is very great; far, indeed, beyond expression.
O ye light, fleecy clouds, flitting above; fly on, fly away, and carry tidings, that my beloved one may hear of me in her anxiety. Here, also, am I, in very great perplexity. I must hide my strong affection for the one I love. Alas! alas! my very eye-sight is fast failing me; when I look at the distant headlands, they quiver and are dim!
If the burning sulphur-crater at White Island were near me,—gladly thither would I go; turning away from all my friends,—never more to return hither; but for ever remain absent in the dreary cold South.—(MS., ined.)
A Love-song, or Lament. By a Wife for her Absent Husband.The eye is strained and wearied with the long looking-out;
Thou art, to me, the peaks of firmly-fixed affection!
If I were but a bird, then I could fly away,
Then, indeed, my wings would quickly become extended.
My own very heart is no longer faithful to me,
Hanging, far away, suspended! I see the fine white clouds
Above me, flying hither, over the far-off mountain tops,
Beyond which is the husband so dearly loved by me.
In the house I am being eaten up with anxiety;
The husband was unwilling to dwell here with me!
But now thou art separated, a long way off from me,
And my remembrances come crowding in hundreds,
Causing the flowing tears to trickle down from my eyelids.
(Grey, loc. cit., p. 62.)
Those few examples of striking natural imagery herein brought forward, are both varied and brief. Among them are,—melancholy, warlike, ceremonial, humourous, and love pieces; some whole, some only in part;—having purposely excepted the long historical, legendary, martial, revengeful, and ceremonial ones (as such would require much explanation for a European reader); also, all of a licentious character,—of which there are many, as might be supposed, among a people where all and everything was open and naked. Yet, no doubt, in the martial and revengeful pieces, so truly characteristic of the people, the Maori poets more fully rise with the occasion; there the poet shows himself as absolutely “dowered with the hate of hate, and scorn of scorn!” I might, also, have shown much more of their numerous natural beauties, had I confined myself to a line or two, here and there, containing a single beautiful image or expression, and so have picked them out from a large number of poetical pieces; and such would also have been easier for me,—but I considered, that in following the plan I had adopted, I have given both longer and more continuous (unbroken) specimens, and done the Maori poets justice. I have mostly
preferred to take them from Sir G. Grey's published collection, or, at all events, to refer to such when found therein (although, in several instances a different version, having been altered, as is frequently the case) as, in my so doing, the published Maori originals could be referred to by those possessing that book.
In conclusion, I would make a, few remarks on their musical talent, this being a natural and necessary part of the subject, seeing that the old Maoris either sung or chaunted all their poetry. And I am the more inclined to do so from the fact of so very little being known about it for this—the music (unlike the words) of their poetry—has nearly become wholly lost both to them (their descendants) and to us.
This I purpose considering briefly under two heads—I., Instrumental; and II., Vocal.
I. Of their Instrumental Music.—Here, however, little can be said, save that they did possess such; and that, rude as it was, they sought to vary it in many ways, showing (1) their musical faculty, and (2) their endeavours after its improvements. But to do them justice, we must never lose sight of this one great fundamental fact, already mentioned by me,* their utter ignorance and want of all and every kind of metal! How, then, it might well be asked could they possibly manufacture a musical instrument? Still they strove to do it, and, to a certain rude extent, succeeded. Their attempts in this direction have always served to remind me strongly of what the ancient Greeks related concerning the early endeavours of Apollo himself in constructing his first lyre, or harp, from the castaway shell of a tortoise and a few strings drawn across it!
First I would observe that their instruments were nearly all wind instruments, which they played or sounded with both mouth and nose, having, however, separate instruments for each service. Of these, fortunately, we have a few accurately drawn and described by their first European visitors; also a few deposited in museums at home. Yet, while the proper names of several of them still remain (though some are for ever lost) an accurate description of all of them is not now to be obtained from the Maoris. I myself, in all my researches during a lengthened residence, have seen but a few—a poor remnant! They were all made of wood, bone, or shell, and may be conveniently classed under three familiar names: (1) trumpets, (2) flutes, and (3) whistles.
(1.) The trumpets were made of wood or shell; for this latter purpose the shell of the large Triton (T. australis) was used, its apex was neatly cut off, its mouth scraped, and the whole shell polished, and a mouth-piece of hard wood, suitably hollowed and carved, was ingeniously and firmly fixed
[Footnote] * See “Trans. N.Z. Inst.,” Vol. XI., p. 80.
on. Here I must notice a most curious plan which the old Maoris seem to have had for increasing, or altering, the power of the sound of their conch shell. An ancient trumpet of this kind (formerly belonging to the old patriotic chief of Table Cape, Ihaka Whanga, but now the property of Mr. Samuel Locke, of Napier,) has a thin piece of dark hard wood, of a broadly elliptic form, and measuring 5 × 3 inches, most dexterously fitted in to fill up a hole in the upper part of the body or large whorl of the shell; which piece of wood is also curved, and ribbed, or scraped to resemble and closely match the transverse ridges of the shell; and additionally carved, of course, with one of their national devices; besides being ornamented with strips of birds' skin and feathers;—the plumage of the kaakaapo or ground parrot, (Strigops habroptilus). At first I had supposed that the said shell, having been somehow broken, had been repaired by having this piece of wood set in; but on further examination, and also comparing it with the figure of a similar New Zealand shell trumpet in Cook's Voyages (Second Voyage, Vol. I., plate 19,) which has, apparently, a precisely similar piece of dark wood let into it! I have concluded as above, that, in both instances, such was done purposely. The old Maoris informed Mr. Locke that only one sort of wood was used by them for such purposes, it being very sonorous, viz. kaiwhiria (also, koporokaiwhiri, and porokaiwhiri)=Hedycarya dentata. Of this wood they anciently made their best loud-sounding drums, or gongs (pahu), which were suspended in their principal forts. They also manufactured several other musical instruments from this wood, for the producing of delicate sounds to accompany their singing; some of which processes being highly curious (and all but wholly lost) may be here briefly described.—1. Two small smooth sticks, each about 18 inches long, were made, one of them was held in the mouth, while the other was used to strike that one at the end; the performer at the same time humming the tune. 2. Another manner of musical performance was by two persons standing about 4 feet apart, each holding a prepared rod of kaiwhiria wood, of the length and size of a walking-stick; these sticks were thrown to and fro alternately, and gently and dexterously caught, but so that they should while passing in the air touch each other, and give out the exact note required; the two performers at the same time chaunting their song. Might this wood not be advantageously used for stethoscopes, etc., etc. Their wooden trumpets were also very peculiar, made of pieces of hard wood, scraped and hollowed and jointed, and very compactly put together, after a highly curious fashion, so that the joinings are scarcely seen! Some long ones have a large hole in the middle of the instrument, whence the sound issued, which was there modified by the hand; and others, four feet in length, have a singular (if not unique) central piece, larynx, or diaphragm,
set a long way (12–14 inches) within its mouth,—the sound of this kind was emitted from its larger aperture at the big dilated end;* to me, this instrument seems a really wonderful work and contrivance! The noise they made with some of their trumpets was very loud and powerful, and must, I think, be justly termed discordant, if not absolutely hideous, to an European ear; yet by their different sounds their several chiefs in travelling were known. And not only so, for those loud-sounding instruments were also used as speaking-trumpets to carry words to a distance.†
(2.) The flutes were made of wood and of bone—when of the latter it was human bone. They were of various lengths, generally six to eight inches long, open at both ends, and having three holes on one side and one on the other. The wooden ones were ornamented with a great amount of carving and inlaying, each being an example of skill, industry and patience, and of the time necessarily taken in its construction. Those for the mouth were differently formed from those for the nose. One of the smaller ones (often made of bone) was not unfrequently worn suspended from the neck of a chief. On these the old Maoris managed to play simple Maori tunes and airs.
(3.) Their whistles were very large; that is, thick, obtuse, peculiarly
[Footnote] * One of these peculiar trumpets (and, as far as I know, the only one remaining in New Zealand) is also in the possession of Mr. Samuel L=ocke, of Napier, who kindly lent them both to me, to exhibit on my reading of this paper.
[Footnote] † Of this we have two notable instances in the historical traditions of the Taupo tribes, which, as they are very rare, I may give here.
[Footnote] (1.) When the tribe of Ngatituwharetoa were returning from the battle and slaughter of the Marangaranga people, and had reached the beaches of Taupo lake, they sounded their big trumpet as a sign by which their approach should be known. On hearing it, a lady named Hinekahuroa, one of the Ngatikurapoto tribe, then living at Rotongaio, deeming it to be an insult, bawled out a bitter curse upon them (Pokokohua ma!—mummified heads); which they hearing immediately retaliated with another fell curse, making their trumpet to say “To roro, To roro,”—thy brains, thy brains. This so irritated that chieftainess, that she followed it up with another, still longer and worse, which, of course, was as promptly repaid back by them in kind, through their trumpet; and the end of this was that two towns (pas) were besieged and taken, and the inhabitants ruthlessly slaughtered, within a month.
[Footnote] (2.) Another instance was that of a chief named Ruawehea, a grandson of Tuwharetoa, who had managed to inveigle Maoris of another tribe (Ngatitama) to become his dependants, and, afterwards, whenever he should visit them in his canoe, he caused his trumpet to proclaim his approach, ordering food to be got ready for him, and ending with insulting language and curses, all spoken through his trumpet. The people of that village bore it for a considerable time, but one day on his landing at their place as usual, he was decoyed into their house of reception and killed—for the insulting words spoken through his trumpet. Of course, that also quickly ended with a fearful revenge and full slaughter.—(Historical Incidents of the Ancient Tribes of Taupo:—MSS. ined., W. C.)
shaped, and something like a short thick tongue, some being a little curved. They were made of hard wood, scraped, polished, and profusely carved, and inlaid with mother-of-pearl; these, also, were worn by the chiefs, hung to their necks. Parkinson (Sir Joseph Banks' draughtsman) has given a drawing of one in plate 26 of his interesting “Journal,” figure 24;—in describing it he says,—“A whistle made of wood having the outside curiously carved; besides the mouth-hole they have several for the fingers to play upon. These, which are worn about the neck, are 3½ inches in length, and yield a shrill sound.” I suspect that these, like their trumpets, were not used for obtaining any proper tune, but only for the purpose of making a loud call,—as from a chief to his followers.
Captain Cook, in his first voyage, when on this subject, briefly says,— “They have sonorous instruments, but they can scarcely be called instruments of music; one is the shell, called the Triton's trumpet, with which they make a noise not unlike that which our boys sometimes make with a cow's horn: the other is a small wooden pipe, resembling a child's nine-pin, only much smaller, and in this there is no more music than in a pea-whistle.”—(Vol. III., p. 468.) Either Cook, then, had not seen them all, or Dr. Hawksworth, in compiling that history of the first voyage, had overlooked it;—I think this latter the more probable.
Forster, who accompanied Cook in his second voyage remarks,—“They also brought some musical instruments, among which was a trumpet, or tube, of wood, about four feet long, and pretty straight; its small mouth was not above two inches, and the other not above five inches in diameter; it made a very uncouth kind of braying, for they always sounded the same note, though a performer on the French horn might perhaps be able to bring some better music out of it. Another trumpet was made of a large whelk (Murex tritonis) mounted with wood curiously carved, and pierced at the point where the mouth was applied; a hideous bellowing was all the sound that could be produced out of this instrument. The third went by the name of a flute among our people, and was a hollow tube, widest about the middle, where it had a large opening, as well as another at each end. This and the first trumpet were both made of two hollow semi-cylinders of wood, exactly fitted and moulded together, so as to form a perfect tube.”—(Forster's Voyage, Vol. I., p. 227.) I think Forster could not have seen their small flute (which is a very differently-formed instrument, and without “a large opening in the middle”), on which alone they played their plaintive airs;—at all events, such is not included in the above.
Second, we have the proof recorded by competent early visitors, of the abilities of the New Zealanders in playing tunes on their flutes; which they could only have attained to through long and persevering practice. And
this, to me, is indicative of both a high musical ear and a love for music,—to find that they could patiently succeed in extracting even a short series of pleasing notes from such wretched instruments.
Captain Cruise (84th Regiment), who was in New Zealand in H.M.S. “Dromedary,” in 1820, and who spent nearly a year here, and therefore had far better opportunities for observation, remarks in his “Journal,”—when in the Thames, and not far from the site of the present town of Auckland,—“Two chiefs came on board; one of them, a very tall handsome man, wore a carved flute or pipe round his neck, upon which he played the simple but plaintive airs of this part of the island, with much correctness.”—(Loc. cit., p. 212.)
I may here mention a few incidents which have in past years come under my own special notice, as further showing their natural ear for music—or melody.
(1.) It is well known that at an early date, say forty years ago, the Maoris showed a great desire to obtain jews-harps, this was common. But to see them—one at a time being quite enough!—critically examine and try a whole score, or more, of those little instruments, before one was found that was “soft” enough (or suitably melodious) in its twang to please their ear! I have known them to leave the store where jews-harps were sold without purchasing one after trying many, though sadly in want of one at the time, rather than bring away a “hard” or unsuitable one. They also often spent much time in endeavouring to alter its tone, by trying all manner of schemes and plans with its tongue. Again: in later years, I have known them to improve on the sound of the jews-harp (for their ear), by fixing a small lump of sealingwax, or kauri-resin, on the projecting end of the tongue of the instrument, for the purpose of playing the same within their mouth and with their tongue, instead of with their finger! This certainly rendered the sounds much softer than when played in the usual way. Young men would sometimes be thus occupied for one or two hours, evidently delighting themselves with the dulcet sounds. Another little-known item in connection with jews-harp playing, or its musical sounds, I may also mention, as it is very peculiar, namely, I have known the Maoris anxiously to beg for old dessert knives when worn out by constant use and scouring, to make with them (the worn thin remnant of a blade) a small instrument resembling a jews-harp, its sound, they said, being so much sweeter.
(2.) A little Maori lad, named Itama, whom I was training, and who lived with me some time, showed at a very early age a most refined ear for music. Seeing that he was always endeavouring to elicit pleasing sounds from threads and twine strained over a bit of board, or a shell, I procured him some catgut of different sizes, which highly delighted him. He then
sought (in his own quiet persevering way) pieces of wood of various sorts and shapes, and cut them and fixed his chords to please himself, making, at length, sweet sounding instruments; and often have I known him to spend hours in quietly listening to those soothing sounds, especially during one long dreary and painful season, when he was in the doctor's hands for his eyes, which ended in his totally losing the sight of one of them. At such times I have been led to think upon Wordsworth's beautiful and appropriate lines:
—.“And she shall lean her ear
In many a secret place,
Where rivulets dance their wayward round,
And beauty born of murmuring sound
Shall pass into her face.”—(Lucy).
But there is much throughout the whole of that poem strictly applicaable to the subject of this paper.
Another lad, whom I had residing with me at a much earlier period, also showed a fine natural ear for music. I bought him a piccolo flute, and he early taught himself to play on it. I have known him after hearing a tune a few times (at church, or elsewhere), to come home, and in a very short time to play it correctly and harmoniously on his little flute. This, too, he did with several of our tunes, of course, all without notes or previously knowing them.
II. Of their Vocal Music.—Under this branch I have very little additional to say; the true old Maori singing differing so widely from our own; although some of it approached pretty nearly to a few of our more simple chaunts. The vocal Maori music, as a whole, has, like their own instrumental, almost become extinct. One remarkable feature, however, concerning their vocal music I would relate, as I am sure it is but little known;—namely, that almost every song or poetical piece had its own proper tune,—and must not be sung or recited to another! Indeed, the words alone of any newly-heard song, however spirited or approved of, were not valued without its tune. When I first discovered this I was astonished, and could hardly believe it, until I had repeatedly proved it. For, in my extensive yearly travelling, some 30–40 years ago, throughout the North Island, always having Maoris travelling with me, I found, in getting to a strange place or people, that my companions could do nothing with a new song they had brought with them, unless they also knew its proper tune. And I myself, when sometimes quoting a line or two from an unknown song, should soon be teased about its tune—“He aha tona rangi?” would be frequently asked. Here, then, is another addition to their amazing powers of memory, already alluded to by me in this paper.
I will conclude with two quotations from their earliest visitors, con-
taining their remarks on this subject. Captain Cook says,—“A song, not altogether unlike their war-song, they sometimes sing without the dance, and as a peaceable amusement. They have also other songs which are sung by the women, whose voices are remarkably mellow and soft, and have a pleasing and tender effect; the time is slow, and the cadence mournful, but it is conducted with more taste than could be expected among the poor ignorant savages of this half-desolate country; especially as it appeared to us, who were none of us much acquainted with music as a science; to be sung in parts; it was at least sung by many voices at the same time.” (First Voyage, Vol. III., p. 468). And Mr. Anderson, who was the surgeon in Cook's ship on his third voyage to New Zealand, thus writes:—“The children are initiated at a very early age into the keeping the strictest time in their song. They likewise sing, with some degree of melody, the traditions of their forefathers, their actions in war, and other indifferent subjects, of all which they are immoderately fond, and spend much of their time in these amusements, and in playing on a sort of flute. Their language is far from being harsh or disagreeable, though the pronunciation is frequently guttural; and whatever qualities are requisite in any other language to make it musical, certainly obtain to a considerable degree here, if we may judge from the melody of some sorts of their songs.” (Anderson, in Cook's Third Voyage, Vol. I., p. 163.) But far beyond all, as I take it, is the scientific testimony of Dr. Forster, who was with Cook in his second voyage to New Zealand,—already, however, given by me in a former paper, with some interesting additions from Sir G. Grey's work.*
[Footnote] * See “Trans, N.Z. Inst.,” Vol. XI., pp. 103–106.