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Polynesian Mythology and Ancient Traditional History of the New Zealand Race

Preface to Second Edition

page xii page xiii

Preface to Second Edition.

After the lapse of upwards of thirty years I have to write a preface to a second edition of a work which has long been out of print. This is in some respects a trying task. Those who were my fellow-labourers and assistants in collecting the materials for the original work, so long ago as the year 1845, are now nearly all dead. Some of them, to whom I was much attached, and on whose fidelity I placed the greatest reliance, led astray by designing men, joined in a native war against the Europeans, and perished, many of them on the field of battle; others from that want and those diseases which invariably accompany war. Others, again, surviving such disasters, died from old age or sickness, in a state of obstinate and resolute isolation from the Europeans, under a native king, in the mountainous fastnesses of the interior of the North Island.

Others, and not a small number of my native friends, remained true to their religious faith, and to their promises. Nearly all of these have gradually died off from natural causes—many of them much respected and admired. European hands and European regard have raised monuments to some of them—monuments which testify not only to native worth, but also to British admiration for nobility of character and purpose, wherever these qualities may be found.

Such, indeed, has been, upon the whole, the feeling between the two races during and since the cessation of the war to which I am alluding, that the Europeans thoroughly appreciated all instances of truly noble courage in the natives who were opposed to them, and loudly expressed their admiration for the men who thus distinguished themselves.

Even upon a recent occasion, when it was proposed to interfere, in an undesirable way, with a piece of land, which, in the eyes of all, was almost sanctified by an act of invincible and heroic page xiv courage on the part of a small body of hostile natives, the House of Representatives, composed of ninety-one European and four native members, insisted that the piece of land and its vicinity should be for ever reserved as public ground, dedicated to the remembrance of the heroic deed of which it had been the theatre.

A generous conquering race thus preserved a record not of its own triumphs, but of an act of unconquerable courage upon the part of its adversaries, who fell before superior numbers and weapons—an act which the future inhabitants of New Zealand will strive to imitate, but can never surpass.*

However, wars and years have swept off nearly all those grand old chiefs who were my associates in many great trials, and for whom I felt and still cherish a deep regard. I desired to preserve, and they aided me in preserving, a memento of a noble race, in its original state when first discovered. No complete record of such a nation in its savage state-exists, and yet such a record, complete and perfect, is required to clear up many important points in the history of mankind.

There are also peculiar circumstances connected with the New Zealanders which render such a record peculiarly desirable in their case. They were probably the most remote of the Polynesian race, from the point from which that people came in their emigration to the islands of the Pacific. They therefore were most likely sprung from those who first separated from the parent stock, whose descendants in successive generations would probably have always kept continually in front in the line of successively advancing emigrations.

Again, in so far as our knowledge goes, it appears probable that no other people with whom we are acquainted, had been for so long a time shut off from all communication with exterior nations as the New Zealanders had been when first visited by Europeans. If these suppositions are granted, we ought to expect to find the

* There is a beautiful poem on Rewi's defence of Orakau in Mr. Bracken's “Lays of the Land of the Maori and Moa.” The description of this noble defence there given is quite accurate.

page xv Polynesian language, religion, legends, and customs all preserved in New Zealand in their most unadulterated form.

When the first edition of this work was published in 1855, I had no true idea of the number of New Zealand printed books and manuscripts which I had collected in pursuit of the task I had undertaken. In 1858 they were, however, all carefully arranged and catalogued, when it appeared that the collection contained 301 printed volumes, nearly all in the Maori language, and 223 manuscripts, and that the latter documents contained 10,090 pages. The tabulated form which follows, taken from the cata logue of Maori books which was published at Cape Town in 1858, shows the size of the various books and manuscripts, which are deposited in the library at that place.

I. Publications. Books. Leaves.
Folio 132 264
Quarto 17 308
Octavo 79 4,737
Duodecimo 57 1,956
Sedecimo and smaller 16 906
Total of Publications 301 8,171
II. Manuscripts.
Folio 174 3,564
Quarto 44 990
Octavo 5 491
Total of Manuscripts 223 5,045
Total of Maori Books 524 13,216

It is very desirable that the portion of the Cape of Good Hope catalogue which relates to New Zealand should be republished in page xvi this country. It consists of only 76 pages, and contains a description of the contents of each printed work and of each manuscript.

Many of the manuscripts were written by natives from the dictation of the most celebrated old chiefs, such as Rangihaeata, Te Rauparaha, Potatau, Te Heuheu, Patuone, Te Taniwha, etc. Those that I took down from the dictation of the great chiefs, were all carefully gone over and corrected by natives who could read and write. The chiefs who supplied the various religious services, poems, legends, and histories, including the wars and events which had taken place during their own lives, were as anxious as I was, that a complete picture of the Maori race in its original state should be preserved and handed down to posterity, and they cheerfully and eagerly aided me in the work. In many cases I told them exactly what I wanted, supplied them with the requisite writing materials, and some months afterwards received a valuable manuscript which had been dictated to an educated native. Probably no such collection of materials for illustrating the history of a barbarous race has ever before been made. The labour undergone in its collection was great.

Another reason why this Cape catalogue should be republished in New Zealand (it has been long out of print) is, that it contains a minute account of the information supplied to me by each individual, which was embodied in the first edition of the Maori legends. When two or more individuals, European or native, supplied the same portion of a legend the manuscript furnished by each was catalogued, so that the aid rendered by each individual was recorded, although it was not made use of, except as a confirmation of that which had been previously supplied.

I find from the Cape of Good Hope catalogue of manuscripts, that the following European gentlemen gave me the under-mentioned papers connected with Maori poetry and legends.

J. White, Esq.—A manuscript of 215 pages of various songs, proverbs, and customs, all relating to the tribes of Hokianga, which were collected by Mr. White and by him prevented to Sir G. Grey.

A manuscript of two pages, being a translation by Mr. White of the Tale of the Two Dwarfs.

page xvii

Neither of these manuscripts has been published. They are bound up in Vol. 146 of Maori works in the Cape Library. They are of value, not only from their intrinsic worth, but as illustrating the Ngapuhi dialect. Copies of them should be obtained for New Zealand.

The Present Bishop Of Wellington.—Manuscript, being an original paper on the System of Government amongst the New Zealand Tribes in their Savage state, written in 1846 by the Rev. Octavius Hadfield, 23 pages. A very valuable manuscript for Native history. A copy ought to be procured from the Cape of Good Hope for the purpose of publication in New Zealand.

Manuscript, being an original paper by the Rev. Octavius Hadfield, written in 1846, on the relations then existing between the British and the Native Tribes of New Zealand, 68 pages. Both of these MSS. are bound up in the 147th Vol. of Maori works.

Sir Wm. Martin.—Manuscript, The Legend of Paoa, written by Wm. Hoeti.

Manuscript, Explanations of various expressions in Native Poems as given by Natives, in the handwriting of Sir Wm. Martin, so eminent for his knowledge of the Natives, their language, and customs. This valuable manuscript is bound up in the 151st Vol. of Maori works. A copy ought to be procured from the Cape, and published for the use of students. It consists of twelve pages.

Archdeacon Maunsell.—Manuscript, a treatise by the Rev. R. Maunsell on the Poetry of the New Zealanders, illustrated by examples of various songs. Bound up in Vol. 152 of New Zealand works. A copy of this ought to be procured from the Cape for the use of students. The name of the author shows its value.

The Rev. J. F. H. Wholers, a German missionary who resided in Foveaux Straits, and at Ruapuke (Island).—Manuscript of nine pages, containing Six Legends of the Tribes inhabiting Foveaux Straits, with translations. Very valuable as containing the dialect spoken in the extreme south of New Zealand. Bound up in Vol. 151 of New Zealand works. Mr. Wholers has recently died. He was not only an amiable and excellent missionary, but a man of superior attainments. He published some Maori legends with English translations in the 7th Vol. Transactions New Zealand Institute, 1875. Pp. 3–53.

The foregoing list of contributions to my task, afforded by European friends, will show how very large my obligations were to the Maori chiefs for the assistance which they afforded me. This is perhaps as it should be. The legends, poems, and histories are Maori—as they recognised them, and supplied them. page xviii One instance that occurs to my recollection is this. Attracted by the beauty of the spot, I determined to pass a morning on the island of Mokoia.* I proceeded there in a canoe with some friends and two or three natives. Wandering about, I grew weary, and was tempted at last to sit down at the edge of a beautiful warm spring, close to the margin of Lake Rotorua, in which lake the island of Mokoia stands. After a time a native chief came up to me, and knowing my fondness for legends, he told me the beautiful legend of his ancestress Hinemoa, who had landed on the spot where we sat. I was charmed with the tale, made him repeat it, and at once wrote it down in my note-book. I crossed over again to Te Ngae, the mission station on the mainland, in the afternoon, and repeated the legend to my old friend, Mr. Chapman, the missionary. He said, “It is strange, I have lived here for a good many years, and they never told me this.” I could not help smiling, and told him they could never have imagined that a missionary would have cared about such a thing. But he went out at once to ask some of his native converts about the matter, and returned quite pleased to think that he lived near so interesting a spot.

The discovery of this legend, on December 26, 1849, created a strong sensation of pleasure in many minds in New Zealand. It was not then known, and at first could hardly be believed, that tales, containing so much of romance and poetic beauty, existed in New Zealand. I shall never forget the pleasure with which my valued friend Domett first heard it, and long will live the magnificent poem, “Ranolf and Amohia,” into which his genius has expanded the legend, so fortuitously acquired.

The foregoing list of Maori manuscripts taken from the Cape of Good Hope catalogue will show how largely the Cape Library is endowed with New Zealand native literature of extraordinary value. Since the establishment of that Library I have made another collection of New Zealand manuscript literature for the Auckland Public Library. This latter is as yet unarranged, and

* See Journal of an Expedition Overland from Auckland to Taranaki Auckland, 1851. P. 188.

page xix no catalogue of it has been made. It is, however, extensive and valuable. But in the Auckland Library will also be found a considerable collection of manuscript South African literature, which would be of great value to the Cape Library. I must thus seem to have made an injudicious arrangement regarding the place of deposit of great historical treasures.

A man employed in the service of a great and extensive Empire can, however, never perfectly adjust or arrange his entire life. He can neither at any given moment estimate the time he may live, nor can he know in what part of the world he may in a few months find himself. Thus ignorant of his own fate, he is equally I ignorant of that of each of his associates. An arrangement he may deem wise and prudent may turn out, if he lives to a considerable age, not to have been the wisest he could have made, if it was in his power to have foretold the future. When I made arrangements for giving a Library to the Cape of Good Hope, I believed, if I lived so long, that I was likely to have resided at the Cape for a few years. My friend Dr. Bleek, one of the greatest of living philologists, was then resident at Cape Town. He was a good Maori scholar. We were in the habit of working together, and I hoped that we should have worked out and published a great part of the New Zealand literature which was deposited at the Cape. I soon had to leave the Cape, have never returned there, and my friend Dr. Bleek, many years younger than myself, is dead. Perhaps still advantages may be derived from the arrangement which was made. The learned of the Cape of Good Hope and of New Zealand must, in time, be driven into frequent and intimate correspondence regarding the sources of information which the two countries mutually possess of their early history, and of the native populations which inhabited each of two such important portions of the world. From such correspondence and literary intimacy great mutual advantages may arise to each of these two places. Ultimately, I have no doubt also, that frequent exchanges of literary treasures will take place between them, and that they will thus, each of them by relinquishing something, gradually page xx acquire those manuscripts which, in their respective estimations, they think it most desirable that each country should possess. If in any respect either of them may feel disappointed, they will, I know, readily pardon a man whose sole desire was to benefit each of them, according to the best of his ability and knowledge at the moment he formed his decision.

I am indebted to my friend, Dr. Edward Shortland, an eminent Maori scholar, for having corrected for the press the native part of this volume, with the exception of about the first fifty or sixty pages. The students of the Maori language, in studying that portion of this work, will find their labour greatly lightened from the ability and care with which this has been done.


Kawau, Oct. 6th, 1885.