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The New Zealand Wars: A History of the Maori Campaigns and the Pioneering Period: Volume II: The Hauhau Wars, (1864–72)



It is the day after the fight. The square in the centre of the forest stockade is an amazing scene of ferocious excitement. The men with blackened faces, and all but nude, are dancing hakas page 217 and yelling war songs that can be heard a mile away. The women are screaming to each other, and running about with tomahawks in their hands; dogs are barking; children are screeching. It is a bedlam in the forest. On the ground lie the naked bodies of twenty white men, stripped by the Hauhaus, who had dragged them in from the forest where they had been left when the retreat began. Von Tempsky's body is there. The face had been hacked about with a tomahawk, the work of one of the Maori women—the natives revenge themselves in such fashion upon the head for those of their relatives who fell in the battle—but it is identified by Kimble Bent. The camp is in a fury of exultation over the fall of “Manu-rau” (“Many birds”), the name given to him because of his activity in guerrilla warfare; Von Tempsky was as nimble as the birds of the forest. And there, in front of the heap of slain, stands Titokowaru, the planner of ambuscades and midnight surprises, the victor of Te Ngutu-o-te-manu. Long he stands there, his chin resting upon his two hands, which are crossed on the end of his long tongue-pointed taiaha, his halbert-fashioned staff. At last he raises his head, and in a great croaking voice cries to his men that they must tahutahu the bodies of the pakehas—they must destroy them by fire. And this must not be done within the walls of the pa. The slain must be dragged outside the palisades, to the clearing which fronts the fenced village.

When the funeral pyre was prepared by the Hauhaus the body of Von Tempsky was laid upon it in the middle, and the other slain soldiers were piled around and above him, laid crossways on each other. As the Maoris cast the Major's body on the pile of firewood Titokowaru stalked forward, his taiaha in his hand, and cried his farewell, his kupu poroporoaki, to his dead foeman. There were his words (as given by Kimble Bent): “I nga ra o mua i whawhai koe i tena wahi i tena wahi, i ki hoki koe ka puta koe ki te ao marama. Ka tae mai hoki koe ki au, moe ana o kanohi. Taea hokitia, nau i kimi mate mou naku. Ka moe koe.” (“In the days of the past you fought here and you fought there, and you boasted that you would always emerge safely from your battles to the bright world of life. But when you encountered me your eyes were closed in their last sleep. It could not be helped; you sought your death at my hands. And now you sleep for ever.”)

In this not unpoetic fashion did the war-chief of the forest speed his fallen foe to the spirit-land of heroes.

The great pile of firewood—trunks and branches of dry tawa—was set alight with a brand from one of the village fires. When the pyre was kindled an old man walked up to it with a long forked pole in his hand. He was Titokowaru's own tohunga, or priest, page 218 Te Waka-takere-nui. His wrinkled cheeks were deeply tattooed. The warlock chanted an ancient song, a savage elegy to the dead, as he raked the burning logs together. The black smoke soared straight up from the pyre, and as every now and then the bursting of a body sent up the flames and smoke in thicker volume the bushmen laughed and cried, “Haere, haere, e koro!” (“Go, depart, old man!”) Like the smoke from a burning Viking dragon-ship, the funeral boat, so rose the corpse-smoke, black, in the midst of the green forest. And so, in that fiery breath, in true heroic fashion, farewelled by the pagan scalds and the tattooed braves, passed the fallen white men of Te Ngutu-o-te-manu.