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Musings in Maoriland


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Three hundred swarthy braves at Orakau—
Savage warriors from Uriwera,
And from the hills and gorges of Taupo—
Gathered together to defend the land
From the encroachments of the Pakeha.
The Ngatimaniapoto were there,
Led on by Rewi Manga the fearless;
Te Paerata, famed in many fights,
Commanded the Ngatiraukawa tribe.
He was the warrior who cried aloud—
"Me mate au kikonei!"—which means,
"Let us make the Pa here; let us die here!"

1 Orakau is situated in the Waikato District, near Kihikihi. The battle was fought on the 31st March, 1st and 2nd April, 1864. The Imperial and Colonial troops numbered 1,700, and were under the command of Brigadier-General Carey. The Maoris numbered 300, including women and children.

page 162

The dauntless chief Te Whenuanui,
And Hapurona of Uriwera,
Headed their wild and savage warriors.
Te Warn was there with his East Coast braves,
And other chiefs famed in song and story,
Met on the spot to resist the spoilers
Who had taken the land from the Maori
In the name of the Queen of the far land.
Only three hundred warriors were there
Entrenched within the weak, unfinished Pa,
Only three hundred brave men and women
To meet the Pakeha who surrounded
The sod-built fortress, with his well-drilled troops,
Nearly two thousand hardy Britons—
The Royal Irish and Forest Rangers,
And Fortieth Fighters under Leslie.
It was the second morning of April
When the colours in Nature's dress were changing
From the brown and russet hues of autumn
To the dark and sadder shades of winter,
Three hundred lion-hearted warriors
Assembled with Rewi to fan the flame
Of deadly hatred to the Pakeha
Into a vengeful blaze at Orakau,
Chanting the deeds of their ancestors,
They cried aloud—"Me mate te tangata,
Me mate mo te whenua!"—which means,
"The warrior's death is to die for the land!"

page 163

Roaring for blood, our early gun
  Rent the clouds like a thunder-clap;
Carey cried, "There's work to be done"—
  Close to the walls we pushed the sap.

"Ready, lads, with your hand-grenades,
  Ready, lads, with your rifles true;
Ready, lads, with your trusty blades,
  Ready, lads, with your bayonets, too."

"Now for the Armstrongs, let them roar:
  Death unto those that laugh at peace—"
Into their nest our volleys pour—
  "Steady there!—let the firing cease."

'Tis Cameron's voice—"Tell the foe
  To leave the Pa, their lives we'll spare,
Tell them, Britons can mercy show,
  Nothing but death awaits them there."

Then Major Mair, with flag of truce before the Maoris stood,
And said, "O friends, be warned in time, we do not seek your blood.

page 164

Surrender, and your lives are safe." Then through the whole redoubt
The swarthy rebels answered, with a fierce, defiant shout,
        "Ka Whawhai tonu! Akè! Akè! Akè!"1

Again spake gallant Mair—"O friends, you wish for blood and strife,
With blind and stubborn bravery, preferring death to life;
But send your women and your children forth, they shall be free."
They answered back, "Our women brave will fight as well as we:
        "Ka Whawhai tonu! Akè! Akè! Akè!"

Uprose brave Ahumai then, a chieftainess, and said:
"O! what have we to live for, if our dearest ones be dead?
If fathers, husbands, brothers, too, as mangled corses lie,
Why should we stay behind them here?—beside them let us die!
        "Ka Whawhai tonu! Akè! Akè! Akè!"

Again the fiery-throated cannon roared aloud for blood,
Again the hungry eagle swooped and shrieked for human food;

1 We will fight for ever, and ever, and ever.

page 165

Again wild spirits soaring, saw their shattered shells beneath,
In pools of gore, and still was heard defiance to the death—
      "Ka Whawhai tonu! Akè! Akè! Akè!"

Now, now the bold defenders in a solid body break
Right through the sod-built barricade, o'er palisade and stake,
And leaping o'er the trenches, 'mid a storm of shot and shell,
They rushed to liberty or death, still shouting as they fell—
      "Ka Whawhai tonu! Akè! Akè! Akè!"

With wild, untutored chivalry the rebels scorn'd disgrace,—
Oh, never in the annals of the most heroic race
Was bravery recorded more noble or more high,
Than that displayed at Orakau in Rewi's fierce reply—
      "Ka Whawhai tonu! Akè! Akè! Akè!"