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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 12, Issue 2 (May 1, 1937)

Our Maori Bible

Our Maori Bible.

The pioneer missionaries of North New Zealand who translated the Bible into Maori accomplished a literary task which I admire more and more, as I dip into the pages of the “Paipera Tapu.” Perhaps I should take credit for more than a dip, since reading the Maori version is one of my favourite spare-time occupations, or relaxations. The literary beauty and the poetic glory of the English are in no way lost in the Maori. On the contrary, I hold that many Old Testament passages in Maori read more melodiously than our original English. The Psalms of David and the books of Job and Isaiah in particular captured the Maori heart not only for the spiritual thought, the tangi and the consolation, but for the sheer beauty of their rhythmic phrasing. Read aloud or chanted, they please the ear, the Maori ear, where the harder English often falls harsh and clipped. But the Maori must be read aloud to get the full worth of its broad vowel sounds and the accent beat that always falls on just the right syllable.

Such a line as the Prophet's “Woe to Ariel, to Ariel the city where David dwelt,” loses nothing in the Maori: “Aue te mate mo Ariere, mo Ariere mo te pa i noho ai a Rawiri.” Rather it gains in sonorous roll and fervour when a Maori minister reads it as I have heard it read.

I have often admired, too, the linguistic skill and the poetic feeling that made melody out of the most unpromising looking proper names in the Scriptures. The Hebrew names had to be Maorified. An example of name translation in which the translators grappled nobly with the formidable-looking original is this one, taken at random from the Paipera Tapu: Mahere-harara-ha-paha. It is the Maori form given to “Maher-shalal-hash-baz.” The Maori certainly falls softer on the ear.

We all know the powerful singer who invokes “Jee-roo-salem, Jee-roo-salem!” with the long bellow on the “roo.” The Maori gets a less painful effect with his “Hiruharama,” in which the “ha” is the syllable lengthened and stressed.