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Promenade

VII

VII

Valiantly the young Maoris were singing: “Oh, when will your manhood rage? Oh, when will your courage blaze? When the ocean tides roar….”

Then, with a very good imitation of the ocean, they would come hurling their nakedness against the cannon, which mowed them down. But the women were singing less of the warlike “Riria” and more of the sad waiatas of death.

Now Cameron brought his forces into the Waikato up the great military road. They came sweeping like a sea; endless miles of pack-horses, bullock-wagons, marching soldiers, floating flags, rumbling Armstrong guns dragged by the mighty horses, bands with bugles and drums. The wildest Maori courage could not face that avalanche. But from pas and camps they withdrew in dignity; men, women, and children raising their voices in farewell to their dear land.

“Tena to-tai o kawhia … oh, that I could burst these captive bonds. Aue! Life is drifting fast away…. Now, now the mighty Io calls. Oh, that I could burst these captive bonds….”

Like the dying chords of an organ, the chant faded over the hills, into the vast dark bush ranges.

For the first time we have put fear into their brave souls, thought the officers, looking round on the smiling valleys won, feeling how little honour was won along with them.