Art. LVII.—The Extinction of the Moa.
[Read before the Wellington Philosophical Society, 24th August, 1892.]
In the lately-issued volume (vol. xxiv.) of the Transactions of the New Zealand Institute appears a paper by Professor Hutton, F.R.S., on the subject of the moa. It is an admirable monograph, evidently prepared with the intention of exhausting the arguments by collating and comparing the views of different writers on the subject. The geological, zoological, and traditionalist writings have been brought together, and leave little to be desired in regard to these branches of inquiry. Professor Hutton's article, however, has the merit or demerit, in my eyes, of not having taken notice that there still remained one line of investigation unexplored. I speak as if in doubt as to the merit or demerit of this course because I feel that it would have been of advantage to us had he used his great powers of observation and scholarship on this as on the other elements of his literary production, while, on the other hand, his not having done so leaves the way open for again discussing the matter. The line of inquiry which I refer to as neglected hitherto has been that of comparative philology. I lay stress upon the word “comparative,” because the matter has been treated in somewhat of a philological manner by reference to place-names, &c., in which the word “moa” occurs. But comparative philology tells us that if we want to find out the meaning of a native word we must not only ask what the New Zealand Maori means by it, but whether his brothers, the Polynesian Maoris, use the word, and what they mean by it. Nay, more, whether the black people spread through the thousand islands of the Pacific know the word, and to what particular objects the word is applied by them.
I have already written on this subject, and that my paper has not been noticed by Professor Hutton is owing to the circumstance that he has sought for his local authorities and traditional evidence in the pages of the Transactions of the New Zealand Institute. My paper was contributed to the Anthropological Society of Great Britain, and the arguments it contained were only brought forward here by me in the course of a discussion which ensued on a paper by Colonel McDonnell as to Kawana Paipai having hunted the moa in recent times on Waimate Plains.* I had not the right of reply on that occasion, so was obliged to allow the arguments of my oppo-
[Footnote] * Trans. N.Z. Inst., p. 438.
nents to remain unanswered. To prevent the comparative-philological line of inquiry being again overlooked, I have resolved to put it on record in the pages of the Transactions, if space is kindly allowed to me. Moreover, some years have elapsed since I wrote the former paper, and I have now more knowledge of the subject than at that time.
To my view, the present position of the argument stands thus: The geologists and zoologists have gathered together certain facts, which they have embodied in their papers on the subject. Those who may be called “the traditionalists” have no possible pretence for attacking these facts; the evidence is unimpeachable, and stands “foursquare to all the winds that blow.” But, if the natural scientists leave the solid standing-ground of facts, and begin to theorize, then they leave their entrenchments, and are open to the attack of many assailants. To exemplify, so long as the geologist states, “I have found the bones of the Dinornis in such-and-such positions; I have found the egg-shells and the feathers thus and thus,” then he is in a safe and impenetrable position. But if he leaves his shelter, and says, “Because the bones are found in quantities on the surface of the ground and in swamps, therefore the Maoris must have known the Dinornis, and they called the Dinornis the ‘moa,”’ then it is open for the traditionalist to answer, “I doubt this very much,” and for the philologist to say, “That is improbable.” When a geologist states, “We have found neolithic weapons and tools, together with Dinornis bones, in native ovens,” he is within his own lines; but if he comes forward and remarks, “Because polishedstone weapons are found in encampments of Dinornis-hunters, therefore the Maoris slew the Dinornis, by them called the ‘moa,”’ then the archæologist or ethnologist is at liberty to say, “You are travelling outside your position, and I shall meet your assertion as to these weapons having belonged to ancient Maoris by the counter-assertion that the weapons belonged to the ancient Irish or the ancient Danes, because little difference can be found between the neolithic implements and weapons of diverse races, and neither assertion can yet be proved.” This, then, is the present position: a waiting in order of battle, with here and there a skirmish, but the fate of the day yet undecided.
I need not rehearse at any length the arguments used by geologists and zoologists; they can be found in references by consulting Professor Hutton's paper, and at full length in easily-procured volumes. Briefly, the record stands thus: The bones of hundreds of specimens of different species of Dinornis have been found both in the North and South Islands. At Hamilton and Glenmark they were found in swamps. In Te Aute Swamp the leg-bones were discovered in a vertical
position, as though the birds had perished standing. At Glenmark and Hamilton they were in all positions, as though washed down by a flood, but they were not waterworn. In some places the bones were discovered where rivers debouch on the plains. Other bones have been found on the sites of encampments, and with these have been found flake-knives of chipped stone and instruments of polished stone; in a few places the instruments are of polished greenstone. Sir James Hector, Dr. Von Hochstetter, and Mr. F. Chapman all testify to the fact of bones being found in large quantities on the surface of the ground; even the cartilage, skin, and tendons have been preserved on leg-bones and vertebræ. Egg-shells, and eggs enclosing the bones of the young chicks, are now in our museums, and it appears natural enough that a number of adherents should be found to the theory which has been set forth, that the evidence is all in favour of recent extinction, and that therefore the Maori, in his allusions to the moa, must refer to the Dinornis. However, two naturalists—viz., Dr. Von Haast and Professor Hutton—demur to consider the theory proven.
On the other hand, I will sum up, also as briefly as possible, the argument of the traditionalists. They say that had the Maori known the Dinornis it would have left an ineradicable record upon their songs, legends, proverbs, &c. That, while in their mythological tales there are accounts of combats with monstrous taniwha (lizards or crocodiles), with cuttlefishes, with ogres, with flying-birds, there is no story telling of battles between any god or hero and the moa. That, whereas in the descriptions of the chiefs taking possession of new country all articles of food are mentioned in full detail—parrots, pigeons, tuis, kiwis, eels, even rats—there is no notice taken of the huge food-producing bird. That, although we have incantations and hunting-charms for killing all manner of creatures,—charms recited from priest to priest and from father to son for centuries,—there are no charms for killing the moa. That, while they mention all kinds of pet animals, even the great man-eating lizard of Tangaroamihi, and the pet whale of Tinirau, there is no mention of the moa being tamed (except in one story by Sir Walter Buller, which is alluded to further on). That, while the Maoris possess many precious garments handed down through generations as heirlooms—mats of kiwi- and albatross-feathers, of dog-skins, &c.—there are no mats of moa-feathers. That in the ancient songs and proverbs the word “moa” is very seldom met with, and then something in this manner: “Lost as the losing of the moa,” without specifying what kind of creature the moa was. I may add to the usual argument here by saying that, if moa meant Dinornis, it would probably
have given birth to some adjective meaning “large”; a proverb would have been formed—“Huge as the moa,” “Lost like the losing of the gigantic moa,” or something of the kind; but, so far as the legendary mention goes, the moa might have been the size of a sparrow. To try to obtain any information from natives at the present day concerning the moa is to court error; but when the old chiefs in the North Island were asked, half a century ago, what they knew of the moa, they replied that neither they nor their forefathers knew the moa, for the last moa was destroyed in “the fire of Tamatea”—i.e., in far-away mythological times. Lest this should be thought only to relate to the North Island, I would point out that the Rev. Mr. Stack, our authority on the South Island Maori, denies that the Maori knew anything of the Dinornis, and shows that the saying “Lost as the moa is lost” is to be found in one of their most ancient songs. The Rev. Mr. Wohlers, also, the South Island missionary, collected forty years ago a great variety of legends, and, although these mention seals, whales, dogs, herons, owls, rats, &c., no word concerning the moa appears in them. Mr. John White, in his “Ancient History of the Maori” (vol. i., p. 181), relates the tradition of the South Island priests, that the moa was destroyed in the days of the Deluge. The Rev. Mr. Colenso was informed, half a century ago, that the last moa was to be found on the top of a certain hill, guarded by two great lizards.
These accounts seem to remove the moa into the land of pure myth, and into the antique times wherein myth has its natural abode. I cannot accept the evidence given by Judge Maning, by John White in his earlier writings,416 by the Rev. R. Taylor, or by Colonel McDonnell, as to the stories told by natives concerning the habits, &c., of moas, when compared with the evidence given to Mr. Colenso and to Mr. Stack as to the traditional extinction of the moa in the days of the Deluge. I must not omit to mention that Sir Walter Buller, being in London when my first paper was read, supplied a note to the paper in the Transactions of the Anthropological Society, in which he stated that he had heard a legend related that a certain chief a long time ago had been lamed by the kick of a pet moa. However, Major Mair, in conversation with me, declared that the chief who was thus lamed was a demi-god, not a man, and that he had split open the earth
[Footnote] * Mr. Colenso disposes (vol. xii., p. 104, of Transactions) of Mr. White's assertion that a moa had been killed in modern times near Waipukurau by stating that he (Mr. Colenso) had been living at Waipukurau for forty years, and had not heard of the circumstance; also, that he had there conversed with Maoris who had known Captain Cook, but knew nothing of the moa. Mr. Colenso adds that he knew Mr. White when the latter came, a boy, to New Zealand.
into a valley with a blow of his heel. By a fortunate coincidence, Sir Walter is now President of this Society, and will be able to give us particulars of the story. The bird spoken of as the gigantic man-eating bird of the South Island was a mythological winged bird—the pouakai, not the moa. I think that we may dismiss as idle tales, told by persons loving notoriety more than truth (whether white men or Maori), those stories in which the narrators relate that they have seen or hunted the moa in our own days. Even of those most ancient words, the names of places, the incident seems to be unknown, for, when reliable chiefs were asked (see Trans., vol. xii., p. 97) the reason why certain place-names contained the word “moa,” they answered, “Our ancestors themselves did not know, and so that want of knowledge has come down to us, and is with us of the present day.”
I have endeavoured to give the main arguments used by the naturalists and by the traditionalists. To turn to the philological view, this has not been utterly neglected. Mr. Colenso long ago called attention to the fact that “moa” was the name of the domestic fowl in Polynesia, and Professor Hutton notices the point in a note (vol. xxiv., p. 157). But the subject calls for a great deal more consideration than a mere reference. The question with which we have to deal is this: When proverbs, place-names, and verses from old songs in which the word “moa” occurs are cited as evidence that the Maoris knew the Dinornis, is it absolutely certain that they were referring to the Dinornis in any way? Not a single quotation describes one peculiarity of the creature named, and we are left to look elsewhere for evidence which may or may not connect the moa with the Dinornis. This evidence must be sought outside New Zealand.
The philological evidence is doubtless very dry and technical, but I must try the patience of those interested in the subject by treating it in an exhaustive manner, even if it exhausts my audience.
If moa means in Polynesia the domestic fowl (Gallus), let us first inquire if it be the general name, or if there is any other. In the dialects of New Guinea we find—in Bula'a, kokoroko; Nada, kokoreko;417 Sinaugolo, kokorogu; Nala, ‘o'oloko—all meaning the domestic fowl. In the Solomon Islands—Guadalcanar, kokoroko; New Georgia, kokorako; Bougainville, kekeleo—all meaning the common fowl. In the Caroline Islands we find, at Eddystone Island, kokeraku, a fowl. It may be that the variants of this word kokoreko, a fowl, may be “sound-words,” similar to the Malay of Macas-
[Footnote] * I may mention that in the Paumotus reko is “the voice,” and equals the Maori reo.
sar, where koko means “to cackle,” and the Tamil of India, in which kokkarikkirathu means “to cackle”; but if we consider the Spanish word cacareo, the crowing of a cook (Portuguese, cacaaraca, the clucking of hens), and that the Spaniards were early discoverers of these islands, it appears probable that the natives may have adopted the Spanish word. As the locality where this word obtains is very circumscribed, and not inhabited by fair Polynesians, the point is only of secondary importance.
The next word for the domestic fowl in Oceania which we will consider is toa. Its meaning and distribution is as follows:—
Toa, the male (of animals). (2.) Victorious. (3.) A brave man, a warrior. (4.) Courage. (5.) Success obtained by courage. (6.) To throw up a stalk. (7.) To romp, to gambol.—Totoa, impetuous; fierce. (2.) Urgent, pressing.
Toa, a warrior. (2.) A cock, the male of the domestic fowl. (3.) The ironwood tree (Casuarina).—Fa'atoatoa, to bear patiently; to endure.
Toa, a warrior, a valiant man. (2.) The ironwood tree. (3.) A stone, a rock.—Faa-toa, to crow together. (2.) To make courageous or warlike. (3.) To stir up mischief.—Faa-toatoa, to be very brave. (2.) To make exertions too soon after sickness.
Koa, a soldier; an army. (2.) Brave, bold, to be courageous. (3.) The horned coral.—Hoo-koa, to be valiant.—Koakoa, brave, daring, impudent.
Toa, courage, courageous. (2.) The name of a tree.—Foka-toa, to show courage.
Marquesas—Toa, a warrior. (2.) A male. (3.) Brave. (4.) The ironwood tree.
Mangaia—Toa, a warrior. (2.) The ironwood tree.
Toa, to be brave, strong. (2.) The ironwood tree. (3.) Female.—Toatoa, valiant. (2.) To work fast.—Aka-toa, vehement in speech. (2.) To be valiant. (3.) To be industrious. (4.) To make an effort.
Easter Island—Matatoa, a victor.
Toa, brave, valiant. (2.) In good health. (3.) To triumph.—Faka-toa, ambitious.—Faka-toatoa, to disdain.
Toa, a fowl.—Doa, the heart of a tree.
Melanesian: Futuna—Toa, to fight. (2.) The ironwood tree.
Efate—Toa, the domestic fowl.
Malo—Toa, the domestic fowl.
S.E. Api—Toa, the domestic fowl.
Sesake—Toa, the domestic fowl.
Pentecost—Toa, the domestic fowl.
Espiritu Santo—Toa, the domestic fowl.
Lepers' Island—Toa, the domestic fowl.
We have here a word of far wider distribution than kokoroko; but it is of peculiar distribution. In Polynesia the wide meanings are—(1) Brave, victorious; and (2) the ironwood tree. I consider that this is a case where the etymology is plain, and, although it is undesirable to give etymologies in the present state of knowledge concerning Polynesian, this word toa is an exception. In making comparison between words in Maori and those in the dialects of Eastern Polynesia, it is an almost invariable rule that when two vowels come together in a word a lost “k” 419 must be “read in.” Thus pio is the Maori piko; ai is the Maori kaki, &c. This being the case, it appears probable from analogy that we should, in reading Maori itself, view with distrust the conjunction of two vowels, and inquire if a lost consonant should not be supplied. If we do this to toa we find that toa should be read toka. Now, toka in Maori means a stone, a rock; (2) to be subdued, stilled: totoka, to become solid; to congeal as ice or fat. This is followed by Tahitian toa, a stone; a rock; coral-rock: Hawaiian koa, the horned coral: Marquesan toka, the white coral; Samoan to'a, to congeal, to coagulate; a rock. But toka in Maori is but a form of tonga, the south; snow; biting cold, &c. Thus we may trace the different forms, tonga, toka, toa, as—Bitter cold; to set, as ice; a rock; white coralrock; hard; the hard ironwood tree; the hardy warrior; the valiant fighter; the fighting-cock; for, as I shall show further on, the fighting-cock was as much the emblem of courage in Polynesia as in Europe. The Polynesians generally, however, have not received toa as the domestic fowl, with the exception of Samoa (which has had much intercourse with Fiji), and we find that it is over a Melanesian area that this word as “the cock” is in use—viz., in Fiji and the New Hebrides.
We now approach our important word moa, the Polynesian for the domestic fowl. To consider this properly it is well to divide the meanings of the word into two classes—viz., those
[Footnote] * Or “ng,” which is a form of “k.” In Rarotongan “h,” or “wh” must be supplied; in Marquesan, a lost “r.”
that apparently have no “bird-meaning” and those that have. Of course some of these apparently unimportant words may hereafter be found to have a vital connection, but it is more easy to keep the words concerning the bird in mind if we strip away into a separate division those meanings which do not appear to have direct relationship.
The meanings of moa not related to the bird-meaning are as follows:—
Moa, a kind of stone or stratum of stone; ironstone. (2.) Petrified wood. (3.) A garden-bed, land having divisions between, small prominences like gardenbeds. (4.) A kind of drill for boring hard stones. (5.) A species of coarse sea-side grass (Spinifex hirsutus). (6.) To jump forward, to jump up, to ascend. (7.) To oscillate, to swing.—Moamoa, small round shining stones, like marbles.—Whaka-moa, to lay in a heap.
Moa the end of a bunch of bananas. (2.) The fleshy part of the alili (a mollusc). (3.) A child's top. (4.) The epigastric region. (5.) The middle, as of a road or river.—Moamoa, full-grown. (2.) The name of a fish. (3.) A piece of cloth used to take hold of a fish with.
Moa, the name of a species of fern. (2.) A whirligig made of the amae seed. (3.) A bunch of miro leaves used in the sacred place.—Momoa, to espouse or contract marriage. (2.) Long and narrow, applied to the face. (3.) The ankle-joint. (4.) The knuckles. (5.) To make sacred, to put under a restriction.—Haa-moa, to make sacred.—Haa-moamoa, to observe the former customs as to sacred places and persons, restrictions regarding food, &c.
Moa, the name of a stick used in play. (2.) The name of a plant. (3.) The name of a piece of wood on which to slide downhill. (4.) A kind of moss. (5.) A variety of banana.
Moa, a priest of the secondary rank.
In regard to one of these meanings in Maori, I have included it in the list of words unrelated to the bird because the form is doubtful. The Hawaiian word is moo, a garden-bed; a division made for irrigation; any planted patch of food, provided it be much longer than it is wide. And this variation brings to notice that both moo and moa in Hawaiian mean to
become dry or cooked. A Tongan meaning of moa is dry or dried, so is Marquesan moa, cooked, and pamoa, cooked on the coals. If we had not the Maori comparative, mamoa, cooked, it would almost appear as if the Polynesian words were not related to Maori moa, but to maoa, cooked. 421 Before I leave these words I beg to draw attention to a compound word in Samoan— viz., samoamoa, “dried up as a fish often cooked, or a skeleton on which the flesh is dried up.” As a mere hypothesis, I venture to suggest that if the Polynesian Maoris ever knew the Dinornis, and called it moa, it was because they saw it as “a skeleton on which the flesh is dried up.”
I now turn to the words in which the meanings probably refer to some sort of bird. I also give the compound words, as they tend to show distinctly the character of the creature.
Moa, the domestic fowl; moa'aivao, a wild fowl.
Moa, the domestic fowl, (2) long and narrow, applied to the face. Moafaatito, a fighting-cock; moahururau, a fowl of many qualities, (fig.) an unsteady or fickle person; moaopapa, a fowl without a tail; moapateatoto, a courageous cock, a stern warrior; moaparuhi, a cowardly cock, a cowardly warrior; hihimoa, the feathers on the back of a fowl's neck; moataratua, a cock with a long spur, (fig.) a bold warrior; moaraupia, a peculiarly-coloured fowl; moataavac, a fowl tied by the leg; moatautini, a cock that beats all opponents; moavari, a cock; fauparamoa, a head-ornament of feathers; huamoa, an unfledged chicken; maimoa, a toy, a pet, favourite; matamoamoa, a thin, narrow face; moarima, one finger hooked into another finger; raemoamoa, a prominent sharp forehead.
Moa, the domestic fowl; moamoa, to be or act as the cock among fowls, (2) the sharp point at the stern of the canoe; hoo-moamoa, to go in company with, as a cock goes with hens to give warning in case of danger, to be intimate with; moaoua, a young cock before his spurs are grown; moakakala, a cock with sharp spurs; moakinana, a hen that has laid eggs; moamahi, a cock that conquers, a conqueror of any kind; moawi, a poor fowl; ahamoa, the name of the assembly met together at a cock-fight; hakamoa, cock-fighting; huamoa, a
[Footnote] * Hawaiian and Tahitian have also the word maoa, meaning “dry, hard, ripe,” while Maori has the form maoka, with same meaning as maoa.
hen's egg, the round bone that enters the socket of the hip; koomoa, the long feathers in a cock's tail.
Moa, the domestic fowl; moatane, a cock.
Mangaia and Rarotonga—
Moa, the domestic fowl; atamoa, a ladder.
Moa, the domestic fowl; aka-moa, to preserve, to take care of; tomoa, encouragement to fight given by two spectators.
Mangareva (Gambier Islands)—
Moa, the domestic fowl, (2) to make a hole in the ground, to dig up; moaga, a red beard.
Moa, the domestic fowl; maimoa, a plaything, a pet.
Moa, the domestic fowl.
Moa, the domestic fowl.
Now, in these words we have not only a plain proof that moa, was the common word in Polynesia for the domestic fowl, but in its very wide geographical distribution (from the New Hebrides to Easter Island) we may feel sure that the word is not newly introduced, but is an ancient name probably known to all Polynesians before their dispersion. Moreover, it is a fact in regard to language that words taken in bodily from a foreign tongue seldom “make growth” like the native words. Of course, I do not allude to wholesale interpolations like the Norman-French forced on the Saxons at the time of the Conquest, but to odd words brought in “to fill a long-felt want.” Thus, the English tongue may adopt words like “chaperon,” or “tattoo,” but they remain as single words, and do not readily form compounds; while a genuine English word like “hair” forms “hairy,” “hairless,” “hair-breadth,” hairspring,” &c. As I have shown above, the word “moa” has made an enormous quantity of compounds in some dialects, and these compounds show unmistakably the character of the animal. Can we dream that when the Tahitians or Hawaiians are using words which mean “a fighting-cock” or “a long-spurred cock,” as figures of speech for a valiant warrior, they are alluding to the Dinornis, which certainly did not fight with its spurs?
It may be objected that, although the Maoris are Polynesians, and may be expected to know the word moa as all other Polynesians did, the compounds showing it to relate to the domestic fowl only were constructed after their separation from other tribes. Let us, then, examine some of
the compound words in Maori, and see what evidence they produce. We have a word, maimoa, which means a decoybird, and a pet or fondling. As “a pet” the word is thus found also in Tahiti, Tonga, and the Paumotus. Mr. Colenso says that mai-moa is a good name for a decoy, as it means “come hither, moa,” which is undoubtedly the right translation, if we shut out the notion of it being the Dinornis which was coaxed to come and be a pet. Mai, which in Maori, Tongan, and other pure Polynesian dialects, means “hither,” is used as the verb “to come” in Aniwa, Motu, Pellew Islands, Sula, and other Malay and Melanesian localities. But when combined with moa, it will be well to consider the example given in Lorrin Andrews's Dictionary of Hawaiian. He says that mai mai means to call one to come; to invite towards one; to call, as one calling chickens; and the example is, e kolokolo aku i ka moa, to call fowls. So that mai-moa is to call fowls, not to call the Dinornis.
Our next Maori compound-word is taramoa, or tatara-moa, the bramble or “bush-lawyer” (Rubus australis). This is a plant armed along the under-sides of the leaves and stems with sharp recurved spines. Now, tra means a point, as a spear-point; taratara, a spine, a spike, a thorn. In Tahiti tataramoa is the name of a prickly shrub; in Tonga, talatala-amoa is the name of a prickly shrub, and also in Samoa; tara, or tala, meaning a spike, a thorn. But in Tahiti tara means more: it means a cock's spur; and, while tataramoa means a prickly shrub, tarataramoa means the spurs of a cock. So also in Hawaii, where kakala (“k” for “t”—kakala is tatara) means sharp, sharp-pointed; it also means the spur of a cock; and moakakala, a cock with sharp spurs. To add to this, we find in Hawaii that moamoa means the sharp point at the stern of the canoe. Thus, then, these compounds plainly state two facts: First, that the Polynesians had a common name for prickly shrubs before they separated—a name known to the Tongan and Tahitian, as to the New-Zealander—and that this name was given to such plants as had spines like the spurs of a cock. Consequently, the Maori once knew the cock as moa.
The third compound word is tautauamoa, defined in Williams's New Zealand Dictionary as being a quarrel in which few take part. Taua, here evidently means “to attack,’ as in taua, a war-party. Mr. John White says (Trans. vol. viii., p. 80) that a battle in which there are a number of single combats going on is called he whawhai tautau a moa, a fight, two and two, like the moa. If we try to find this word in other dialects we may turn to Mangaian, wherein taumoamoa, to contend for a prize, is only used in the dual; and to Samoon, where we find fa'a-moataulia, “to provoke
a quarrel of two, as of two cocks.” Our “quarrel in which few take part” turns out to be a cock-fight, and to have nothing to do with the Dinornis.
The last word necessary to mention is the Maori word whaka-toamoa, “an insulting dance used to incite warriors to deeds of bloodshed.” We need only consider how toa, used as “to be valiant,” and whaka-toa, “to incite, to stir up,” is common in Polynesia; how toa is the domestic fowl in some islands, and how the Tahitian faa-toa, “to crow together,” also means “to make warlike,” to understand how the Maori dance, used to incite to deeds of bloodshed, has this extraordinary combination of the two words for the fighting-cock—viz., toa, and moa.
I have thus, then, covered as nearly as possible the field of knowledge concerning the comparative value of the word moa, so far as our present acquaintance with Polynesian dialects allows a student to do.
In conclusion, I would suggest it to be desirable if we could look at this question for awhile through a more impersonal medium. We have become so used to view the subject from one side or the other, to examine it so constantly through the spectacles of one learned man or another, that our conclusions receive a continuous personal or local colouring. I will appeal to your imaginations, and ask you to consider the locality of argument shifted. We will suppose ourselves for a little while on some unnamed island. It is inhabited by a people who speak our own English dialect of Low Dutch, but they have no written records. They are known by tradition to be immigrants to the island, and they have no quadruped larger than the rat. Some scientific men visit them, and find in situ the bones of mammoths. On appealing to the natives, the scientists are informed that these must be the bones of a creature called “the hound”; that it is mentioned in a few verses of very old songs and proverbs, such as “Lost like the losing of the hound”; “Lost as the hound has been lost”; but their old men add, “Neither we nor our fathers ever saw the hound, because the hounds were all destroyed at the time of the Deluge.” The geologists and naturalists say to them, “You must have known this creature (the mammoth); its bones are found on the very surface of the ground; nay, with sinews and integuments still adhering.” The traditionalists and the naturalists are at strife, unable to reconcile the legends with the (apparently) recent destruction of the animal. The philologist then steps forward and says, “It may be true that the natives once called the mammoth ‘the hound,’ but let us go outside the island, and see if we can find traces of the name ‘bound’ among the brothers of these natives, among men who speak dialects of the one Teutonic
language.” He goes outside the island; he finds that in one place “hound” means “dog,” in another place the same; whereever he goes he finds that “hound” is equivalent to “dog.” Then, he meditates, “It is possible that the islanders may be mistaken, and that ‘hound’ never was the name of the mammoth. Their songs say nothing of ‘the huge hound,’ ‘the flesh-producing hound:’ it may have been the dog itself which was alluded to. Let us try the compound words.” He does so, and finds that a word which is being interpreted “Come here, mammoth!” should be, “Come here, dog”; that the word rendered “mammoth-fight” should be “dogfight,” since the words are still so used among sister peoples which never lost the hound. He finds that the compound words exhibit attributes which refer to the dog only, which could not refer to the mammoth, and which prove that the islanders once knew the dog as “hound.” In a similar manner I have proved to you that the word “moa” and its compound words prove that “moa” is not the mammoth of birds, the Dinornis.
There is yet one point unconsidered. Having known the moa as the domestic fowl, did the Maori bestow this name on the Dinornis? The Maori has been recognised as having more than ordinary powers of acute observation, and he possesses a copious and flexible language. Is it possible that he named the huge grey Dinornis from its likeness to the barnyard cock? It is most improbable, and would say little for either his observation or power of linguistic expression. I have heard a suggestion that on coming here he was so impressed with the sight of the Dinornis that he called it “the” bird, moa. But moa does not mean “bird”; manu is the general name for bird; and, although we may speak of “the man of men” in English or Greek or Hebrew as a pre-eminent distinction, we could not do so in Polynesian. We must also remark that tradition bears strong evidence that the moa is a reminiscence of the cock. Mr. Colenso says (Transactions, xii., p. 64) that half a century ago, when he was making his inquiries concerning the moa, he was told that “in general appearance it somewhat resembled an immense domestic cock.” Again, the traditional feather handed down from generation to generation as a moa's feather was “bright and shining, like the plume of a peacock”; but, then, this feather had been found in a tree, not taken from the bird. It was evident that it was not the dull grey plume of a real Dinornis, it was only that the traditions telling of the bright (cock's) feathers of the moa made the natives think that they had found a plume of their lost bird.
I do not claim for an instant that this paper has settled the controversy as to whether the Maoris did or did not know
the Dinornis. But I think that those who have considered the arguments adduced will agree with me that we have cleared away a good deal of what has been supposed to be evidence to that effect. We have seen that it is in the highest degree doubtful whether the allusions in place-names, songs, proverbs, or legends to the moa refer to the Dinornis in any way, so that in the future we may discuss the relation of the Dinornis to the Maori without knowing the Maori name of the Dinornis, any more than we know the Maori name of the extinct swan whose bones were found together with those of the Dinornis in the cave at Sumner.