Account of the music and amusements of the islanders—Description of the sacred drum—Heiva drum, &c. Occasions of their use—The bu or trumpet—Ihara—The vivo, or flute—General character of their songs—Elegiac singularly beautiful—Translation of a war song—Ballads, a kind of classical authority—Entertainments and amusements—Taupiti, or festival—Wrestling and boxing—Effects of victory and defeat—Foot-races—Martial games—Sham - fights—Naval reviews—Apai, bandy or cricket—Tuiraa, or foot-ball—The haruraa puu, a female game—Native dances—Heiva, &c.—The te-a, or archery—Bows and arrows—Religious ceremonies connected with the game—Never used by the Society Islanders except in their amusements—Discontinued since the introduction of Christianity.
As a people, the South Sea Islanders were peculiarly addicted to pleasure, and to their music, dances, and other amusements, nearly as much of their time was devoted as to all other avocations. Their music wanted almost every quality that could render it agreeable to an ear accustomed to harmony, and was deficient in all that constitutes excellence. It was generally boisterous and wild, and, with the exception of the soft and plaintive warblings of the native flute, was distinguished by nothing so much as its discordant, deafening sounds.
The principal musical instrument used by the South Sea Islanders, was the pahu, or drum. This varied in size and shape, according to the purpose for which it was designed. Their drums page 194 were all cut out of a solid piece of wood. The block out of which they were made, being hollowed out from one end, remaining solid at the other, and having the top covered with a piece of shark's skin, occasioned their frequently resembling, in construction and appearance, a kettledrum. The pua and the reva, which are remarkably close-grained and durable, were esteemed the most suitable kinds of wood for the manufacture of their drums. The large drums were called pahu, and the smaller ones toere. The pahu ra, sacred drum, which was rutu, or beaten, on every occasion of extraordinary ceremony at the idol temple, was particularly large, standing sometimes eight feet high. The sides of one, that I saw in Tane's marae at Maeva, was not more than a foot in diameter, but many were much larger. In some of the islands, these instruments were page 195 very curiously carved. One which I brought from High Island, and have deposited in the Missionary Museum, is not inelegantly decorated; others, however, I have seen, exhibiting very superior workmanship.
The drums used in their heivas and dances were ingeniously made. Their construction resembled that of those employed in the temple, the skin forming the head was fastened to the open work at the bottom by strings of cinet, made with the fibres of the cocoa-nut husk. Drums were among the martial music of the Tahitians, and were used to animate the men when proceeding to battle. The drums beaten as accompaniments to the recital of their songs, were the same in shape, but smaller. They were all neatly made, and finely polished. The large drums were beaten with two heavy sticks, the smaller ones with the naked hand. When used, they were not suspended from the shoulders of the performers, but fixed upon the ground, and consequently produced no very musical effect. The sound of the, large drum at the temple, which was sometimes beaten at midnight, and associations connected therewith, were most terrific. The inhabitants at Maeva, where my house stood within a few yards of the ruins of the temple, have frequently told me, that at the midnight hour, when the victim was probably to be offered on the following day, they have often been startled from their slumbers by the deep, thrilling sound of the sacred drum; and as its portentous sounds have reverberated among the rocks of the valley, every individual through the whole district has trembled with fear of the gods, or apprehension of being seized as the victim for sacrifice.page 196
The sound of the trumpet, or shell, a species of murex, used in war to stimulate in action, by the priests in the temple, and also by the herald, and others on board their fleets, was more horrific than that of the drum. The largest shells were usually selected for this purpose, and were sometimes above a foot in length, and seven or eight inches in diameter at the mouth. In order to facilitate page 197 the blowing of this trumpet, they made a perforation, about an inch in diameter, near the apex of the shell. Into this they inserted a bamboo cane, about three feet in length, which was secured by binding it to the shell with fine braid; the aperture was rendered air-tight by cementing the outsides of it with a resinous gum from the breadfruit tree. These shells were blown when a procession walked to the temple, or their warriors marched to battle, at the inauguration of the king, during the worship at the temple, or when a tabu, or restriction, was imposed in the name of the gods. We have sometimes heard them blown. The sound is extremely loud, but the most monotonous and dismal that it is possible to imagine.
The ihara was another exceedingly noisy instrument. It was formed from the single joint of a large bamboo cane, cut off a short distance beyond the two ends or joints. In the centre, a long aperture was made from one joint towards the other. The ihara, when used, was placed horizontally on the ground, and beaten with sticks. It was not used in their worship, but simply as an amusement; its sounds were harsh and discordant. In its shape, &c. the ihara of the Polynesians appears to resemble the Toponaztli of the Mexicans, described by Claverigo. The huehuetl, or drum of the latter, appears also to be much the same as the drum of the Tahitians, and was used on similar occasions.
The vivo, or flute, was the most agreeable instrument used by the islanders. It was usually a bamboo cane, about an inch in diameter, and twelve or eighteen inches long. The joint in the cane formed one end of the flute; the aperture through which it was blown was close to the end; page 198 it seldom had more than four other holes, three in the upper side covered with the fingers, and one beneath, against which the thumb was placed. Sometimes, however, there were four holes on the upper side. It was occasionally plain, but more frequently ornamented, by being partially scorched or burnt with a hot stone, or having fine and beautifully plaited strings of human hair wound round it alternately with rings of braided cinet. It was not blown from the mouth, but the nostril. The performer usually placed the thumb of the right hand upon the right nostril, applied the aperture of the flute, which he held with the fingers of his right hand, to the other nostril, and, moving his fingers on the holes, produced his music. The sound was soft, and not unpleasant, though the notes were few; it was generally played in a plaintive strain, though frequently used as an accompaniment to their pehes, or songs. These were closely identified both with the music and the dances. The ihara, the drum, and the flute, were generally accompanied by the song, as was also the native dance.
“In every nation it has been found that poetry is of much earlier date than any other production of the human mind,” and I am disposed to ascribe the highest antiquity to the native ballads. Much of their mythology is probably to be ascribed to this source, and many of their legends were originally funeral or elegiac songs, in honour of departed kings or heroes. I have heard them recited, and have often been struck with their pathos and beauty; two lines of one, which Mr. Nott heard recited for the consolation of a mother and family, on the death of an only son, have always appeared exceedingly beautiful. page 199 The grief generally felt was described in affecting strains, and then, in reference to sympathy of a higher order, it was added—
To rii rii te ua ite iriatae:
Ere ra te ua, e roimata ïa no Oro.
The literal rendering of which would be—
“Thickly falls the small rain on the face of the sea,
They are not drops of rain, but they are tears of Oro.”
The sentiment of the second line is weakened by the introduction of the plural pronoun and the conjunction; but, preserving the idiom, as well as the sense, the line would be—
Not rain, but the weeping it (is) of Oro.
In the Tahitian, the word for tears, roimata, is the same in the singular and plural, and accords with the singular pronoun, it referring to the word ua or rain.
Their songs were generally historical ballads, which varied in their nature with the subjects to which they referred. They were exceedingly numerous, and adapted to every department of society, and every period of life. The children were early taught these udes, and took great delight in their recital. Many of their songs referred to the legends or achievements of their gods, some to the exploits of their distinguished heroes and chieftains; while others were of a more objectionable character. They were often, when recited on public occasions, accompanied with gestures and actions corresponding to the events described, and assumed a histrionic character. In some cases, and on public occasions, the action presented a kind of pantomime. They had one song for the fisherman, another for the canoebuilder, page 200 a song for cutting down the tree, a song for launching the canoe. But they were, with few exceptions, either idolatrous or impure; and were, consequently, abandoned when the people renounced their pagan worship. Occasionally, however, we heard parts of these songs recited, when events have occurred similar to those on which, in former times, they would have been used.
The following is one of their songs preparatory to war,—
On the lifted club of Tane, great friend, I rely
For defence from the storm (descending,) on the ship of peace, (or government,)
To allay the raging deep, that it may rest,
Let there be calm before the king,
The king of the black purple deep,
The king of the depths unknown,
The king who fills with consternation;
But Hiro is that warrior,
Broad is the back of Hiro,
A back of vast expanse,∗
His eyes are deep-fixed and dark,
His ear hangs not down in fear,
Like the pike-fish is the hair on his body,
Let the slung stone fly,
Make sacred the council of war,
The collected clubs of the house of warriors,
Soon I will reveal my council,
The sacred and scarlet feathers, and blood,
The slinger who stands,
The beloved, the favourite of kings, who sits,
The war-dress of Tu, warrior of the sky.
∗The name of one of their gods.
O Hiro, to whom shall I deliver the song of war!
Shall I declare it to Marama, the warrior born of Hiro
Who came forth with skill (to arrange the battle,)
With the savageness of the dog, the strength of the shark,
That shall sever the head where the skull joins the neck,
Causing the live bodies to run headless,
And shall pile dead bodies high as the temple walls,
In the cocoa-grove, at Taumau,† let us encamp,
page 201 That Uura king at Tarapati may behold it.
O Hiro, to whom shall I this war-song declare,
I declare it to the band of the keel,
The band of brave fighters who never fled,
The keel sustains the ship, warriors each other,
To the two pupils for whom the life of the stone battle-axe was created,
To the sky producer, or growing sky,
The clear sky, the spreading sky,
The sky above, sky even piled,
The treaty nursed in the lap,
Before the face of the armies of Rai and Roo.
And great Ru, who in Mauarahu lifted the heavens,
Gods shall enter, and there shall be darkness,
There shall be the blackness of darkness;
Our onset shall be as the rolling sea,
Our conflict the struggle of travail,
Let it be as the sea in a storm,
As the sea raised by sudden tempest,
Roo, the first-born god, shall cause destruction:
The heads of men shall be caught as fish in the net.
Shout the name of Ro on the right hand and the left,
Thus shall we the heads of men entangle.
Climb the rock half way to its summit, and return,
Climb the rock Fataufatau;
Enter the narrow cleft, whence it is high above, and deep below,
And weep as did the mother of Tafai,
She fled to the long mountain in Romaroma;∗
Surrounded with war, she and her son fled,
The younger brother may climb the bread-fruit Maau,
Or fly to the elder brother.
The spear of Tuhorotua has been here:
Splendid his vestments,
As the east wind is the speech of the timorous,
Who would arrange for long and pleasant day,
Short be the darkness, a single night,
Let the toughness of the pia and teve†
And of the chosen warriors be shown.
At the root of the cocoa-tree I will wait,
Till a branch‡ shall spring forth,
To feed the visitors of divine Tumataroa in Ai-tupo,§
page 202 A small blow shall be a blow like the water-spout of the sea,
A blow to the rear of the army,
Shall be seen by thee before my face.
O god of earth, O god of ocean,
Let the armament be firm and true,
Only the worthless fly;
Let us (or may we) stand as the coral rock,
Move on terrific as the sea hedge-hog,
A corpulent and short-breathed fellow (is our opponent)
We shall obtain the passes;
Be as the large savage dog, turn not from blows.
Our defence (or steadiness) in battle shall be as that of the flock of birds,
Who sleep at sea in the midst of the storm.
Recite the song of battle,
Be courageous, be vigilant and strong;
Leave the dead among the dead,
Urge on the collected (or united) spears of bold warriors.
†A small island whence the, Huahine fiects sailed.
∗A mountain near Borabora.
†Two native plants.
‡A good victim.
§A temple in Raiatea, to which the first taken or slain in battle was conveyed.
The annexed little fragment is from a song descriptive of one of the small islands near Maufiti, the westernmost of the Society Islands
Song of Tanatua
A dwelling remote is the island Tiapa∗,
A land whence appears well Maupiti,
Unequalled among the thousands of lands;
Easy is the access to Tuanai,†
Elevated is the (rock) Tauraura,
The eating-place of Oubuore;
Where the point of land meets the coral reef.
Cease to weep, great Ipo,
Here is beautiful Maupiti,
O the waters of Atimo,
Ane also at Maupiti.
∗A small island near Maupiti.
Their traditionary ballads were a kind of standard, or classical authority, to which they referred, for the purpose of determining any disputed fact in their history. The fidelity of public recitals referring to former events, was sometimes page 203 questioned by the orators or chroniclers of the party opposed to that by whom the recital had been made. The disputes which followed, were often carried on with great pertinacity and determination. As they had no records to which they could at such times refer, they could only oppose one oral tradition to another, which unavoidably involved the parties in protracted, and often obstinate debates. At such times, a reference to some distich, in any of their popular and historic songs, often set the matter in dispute at rest. On a recent occasion, two parties were disputing in reference to an event which occurred in the bay of Papara during the time Captain Bligh remained there in the Bounty, in 1788 or 1789. The fact questioned was the loss of the buoy of his anchor: after disputing it for some time without convincing his opponent, the individual who had stated the fact, referred to the following lines in one of theie ballads, relating that event:
“O mea eiá e Tareu eiá
Eiá te poito a Bligh.”
Such an one a thief, and Tareu a thief,
Thieved (or stole) the buoy of Bligh.
The song was one well known, and the existence of this fact, among the others that had taken place, and the remembrance of which the ballad was designed to preserve, was conclusive, and appeared to satisfy the parties by whom it had been questioned. Most of their historical events were thus preserved. These songs were exceedingly popular for a time. The facts on which they were grounded became thus generally known; and they were, undoubtedly, one of the most effectual means they had of preserving page 204 the knowledge of the leading events of former times.
Freed in a great degree, so far as the means of subsistence were concerned, from anxiety and labour, the islanders were greatly devoted to amusement, for which heiva was the general name, though voyagers have restricted that term to their dances. By the natives, heiva was applied to most of their amusements, hence they spoke of the heiva-maona, wrestling, heiva-moto, boxing, heiva-vivo, flute-playing, heiva-ude, singing, heiva-haapee uo, kite-flying, and heiva-tea, archery: war, pagan-worship, and pleasure, appear to have engaged their attention, and occupied the principal portion of their time. Their games were numerous and diversified, and were often affairs of national importance. They do not appear ever to have been gamblers, or to have accompanied any of their sports with betting, or staking property upon success, as the Sandwich Islanders have done from the earliest periods of their history, but seem to have followed their games simply for amusement.
The Taupiti, or Oroa, was generally a season of public festivity, when thousands of both sexes, arrayed in splendid garments, assembled to witness the games. These festivals were usually connected with some religious ceremony, or cause of national rejoicing. The return of the king from a tour, or the arrival of a distinguished visitor, were among the most ordinary occasions of these games. Wrestling was the favourite, and perhaps most frequent sport; hence the taupiti, or assembly, was often called the taupiti maona, assembly for wrestling. A large quantity of food was always prepared, and generally served out to the different page 205 parties, at the commencement of the festival, whereby the banquet was concluded before the games began. The wrestlers of one district sometimes challenged those of another, but the trial of strength and skill often took place between the inhabitants of different islands; the servants of the king of the island forming one band, and those in the train of his guest the other.
In this, as in most of their public proceedings, the gods presided. Before wrestling commenced, each party repaired to the marae of the idols of which they were the devotees. Here they presented a young plantain-tree, which was frequently a substitute for a more valuable offering, and having invoked aid of the tutelar deity of the game, they repaired to the spot where the multitude had assembled. A space covered with a grassy turf, or the level sands of the sea-beach, was usually selected for these exhibitions. Here a ring was formed, perhaps thirty feet in diameter, the aufenua, people of the country, being on one side, the visitors on the other. The inner rank sat down, the others stood behind them; each party had their instruments of music with them, but all remained quiet until the games began. Six or ten, perhaps, from each side, entered the ring at once, wearing nothing but the maro or girdle, and having their limbs sometimes anointed with oil.
The fame of a celebrated wrestler was usually spread throughout the islands, and those who were considered good wrestlers, priding themselves upon their strength or skill, were desirous of engaging only with those they regarded as their equals. Hence, when a chief was expected, in whose train were any distinguished wrestlers, page 206 those among the adherents of the chief, by whom the party was to be entertained, who wished to engage, were accustomed to send a challenge previous to their arrival. If this, which was called tipaopao, had been the case when they entered the ring, they closed at once, without ceremony. But if no such arrangement had been made, the wrestlers of one party, or perhaps their champion, walked around and across the ring, having the left arm bent, with the hand on the breast; and gave the challenge by striking the right hand violently against the left, and the left against the side, which produced a loud hollow sound. The strokes on the arm were sometimes so violent, as not only to bruise the flesh, but to cause the blood to gush out.
When the challenge was accepted, the antagonists closed, and the most intense interest was manifested by the parties to which they respectively belonged. Several were sometimes engaged at once, but more frequently only two. They grasped each other by the shoulders, and exerted all their strength and art, each to throw his rival; this was all that was requisite; and although they generally grappled with each other, this was not necessary according to the rules of the game. Mape, a stout, and rather active, though not a large man, who was often in my house at Eimeo, was a famous wrestler. He was seen in the ring once, with a remarkably tall heavy man, who was his antagonist; they had grappled and separated, when Mape walked carelessly towards his rival, and on approaching him, instead of stretching out his arms as was expected, he ran the crown of his head with all his might against the temple of his antagonist, and laid him flat on the earth.page 207
Unbroken silence and deep attention was manifested during the struggle; but as soon as one was thrown, the scene was instantly changed; the vanquished was scarcely stretched on the sand, when a shout of exultation burst from the victor's friends. Their drums struck up; the women rose, and danced in triumph over the fallen wrestler, and sung in defiance to the opposite party. These were neither silent nor unmoved spectators, but immediately commenced a most deafening noise, partly in honour of their own clan or tribe, but principally to mar and neutralize the triumph of the victors. It is not easy to imagine the scenes that must often have been presented at one of their taupitis, or great wrestling matches, when not less than four or five thousand persons, dressed in their best apparel, and exhibiting every variety of costume and brillancy of colour, were under the influence of excitement. One party were drumming, dancing, and singing, in the pride of victory, and the menace of defiance; while, to increase the din and confusion, the other party were equally vociferous in reciting the achievements of the vanquished, or predicting the shortness of his rival's triumph.
However great the clamour might be, as soon as the wrestlers who remained in the ring engaged again, the drums ceased, the song was discontinued, and the dancers sat down. All was perfectly silent, and the issue of the second struggle was awaited with as great an intensity of interest as the first. If the vanquished man had a friend or taio in the ring, he usually arose, and challenged the victor, who having gained one triumph, either left the ring, which it was considered honourable for him to do, or remained and awaited page 208 a fresh challenge. If he had retired, two fresh combatants engaged, and when one was thrown, exhibitions of feeling, corresponding with those that had attended the conclusion of the first struggle, were renewed, and followed every successive engagement. When the contest was over, the men repaired again to the temple, and presented their offering of acknowledgment, usually young plantain trees, to the idols of the game.
There are a number of men still living, who, under the system of idolatry, were celebrated as wrestlers through the whole of the islands. Among these, Fenuapeho, the hardy chieftain of Tahaa, is perhaps the most distinguished. He is not a large man, but broad, strong, sinewy, and remarkably firm-built. In person he appears to have been adapted to excel in such kinds of savage sports.
Although wrestling was practised principally by the men, it was not confined to them. Often, when they had done, the women contended, sometimes with each other, and occasionally with men, who were not perhaps reputed wrestlers. Persons in the highest rank sometimes engaged in the sport; and the sister of the queen has been seen wearing nearly the same clothing as the wrestlers wore, covered all over with sand, and wrestling with a young chief, in the midst of a ring, around which thousands of the people were assembled.
On all great festivals, wrestling was succeeded by the Moto - raa, or Boxing. This does not appear to have been so favourite an amusement with the Tahitians as wrestling; and there was generally a smaller number to engage. It was mostly practised by the lower orders and servants page 209 of the Areois, and was with them, as boxing is every where, savage work; though, considering the rude and barbarous state of the people, who had little idea of influence or power, but as connected with their gods, or with mere brute strength, we are not surprised that it should have existed. The challenge was given in the same way as in wrestling; but when the combatants engaged, the combat was much sooner ended, and no time was spent in sparring or parrying the blows. These were generally straight-forward, severe, and heavy; usually aimed at the head. They fought with the naked fist, and the whole skin of the forehead has been at times torn or driven off at a blow. No one interfered with the combatants while engaged; but as soon as either of them fell, or stooped, or shunned his antagonist, he was considered vanquished, the battle closed, and was instantly succeeded by the shouts and dances of triumph.
These barbarous sports, though generally followed by the common people, were not confined to them; other classes sometimes engaged; chiefs and priests were often among the most famous boxers and wrestlers. These games were not only dreadfully barbarous, but demoralizing in their influence on the people, who would set up a shriek of exultation when the blood started, or the vanquished fell senseless on the sand. They were also often fatal. Metia, a taura no Oro, priest of Oro, who resided at Matavai, was celebrated for his prowess, and slew two antagonists, a father and a son, at one of these festivals, in Taiarapu. Considering the brutalizing tendency and the fatal results of boxing and wrestling, we cannot but rejoice that they have ceased with that system of page 210 barbarism, licentiousness, and cruelty with which they were associated, and by which they were supported.
Connected with these athletic sports was another, less objectionable than either. This was the faatitiaihe-mo raa, or foot-race, in which the young men of the opposite parties engaged. Great preparation was made for this trial of strength and agility. The bodies of the runners were anointed with oil; the maro, or girdle, the only garment they wore, was bound tight round the loins. A wreath of flowers adorned the brows, and a light white or coloured bandage of native cloth was sometimes bound like a turban round the head. A smooth line of sandy beach was usually selected for the course. Sometimes they returned to the place from which they had started, but in general they ran the prescribed distance in a straight line. One of these races took place at Afareaitu while we resided there. It was between one of the king's servants, and a young man recently arrived from the Pearl Islands. The stranger was a tall, thin, handsome young man; and, as they walked past my house to the course, the people in general seemed to think his rival had but little prospect of equalling the swiftness of his speed, and it was thought he had already secured the re, or prize. The result, however, disappointed their expectations; and, as the spectators returned, I learned that, although on the first effort it was impossible to determine to whom the prize belonged, after repeated trials it was adjudged to Pomare's domestic. The faatitiaihe-mo raa vaa, or canoe-race, was occasionally practised on the smooth waters of the ocean, within the reefs, and appeared to afford a high degree of satisfaction.page 211
Their martial games were numerous; and to these preparatory sports, the youth paid great attention. The moto, or boxing, and the maona, or wrestling, were regarded as a sort of military drilling; but the vero patia, throwing the spear or javelin, and the practice of throwing stones from a sling, were the principal military games. In the latter, the Tahitians excelled most of the nations of the Pacific; devoting to its practice a considerable portion of their time, and being able to cast the stone with great accuracy.
Throwing the spear, or darting the javelin, was an amusement in which they passed many of their juvenile hours. It was not a mere exercise of strength, like that exhibited in shooting with the bow and arrow, but a trial of skill. The stalk, or stem, of a plantain tree was their usual mark or target. This they fixed perpendicularly in the ground; and, retiring to a spot a number of yards distant, endeavoured to strike the mark with their missiles. These, thrown with precision and force, readily penetrated its soft and yielding substance. Although this was with some a favourite amusement, the Tahitians do not appear to have followed it with such avidity as the Sandwich Islanders were accustomed to do, nor to have made such proficiency in the art. In order to avoid accidents while practising with the sling, the boys generally employed the fruit of the nono, morinda citrifolia, instead of a stone. The mark at which they threw was a thin cane, or small white stick, fixed erect in the ground; and the force and precision with which it was repeatedly struck, were truly astonishing.
Besides these games, they often had what might be termed reviews of their land and naval forces, page 212 In these, all the appendages of battle were exhibited on land, and the fleets were equipped as in maritime war. The fighting men, in both exhibitions, wore the dress and bore the arms employed in actual combat. They also performed their different evolutions, in attack and defence, advance and retreat. Sham-fights were connected with these displays of naval or military parade. In their mock engagements, they threw the spear, thrust the lance, parried the club, and at length, with deafening shouts, mingled in general and promiscuous struggle. Some of the combatants were thrown, others captured, and the respective parties retreated to renew the contest.
Their naval reviews often exhibited a spectacle, which to them was remarkably imposing. Ninety or a hundred canoes were, on these occasions, ranged in a line along the beach, ready to be launched in a moment. Their elevated and often curiously carved stems, their unwieldy bulk, the raised and guarded platform for the fighting men, the motley group assembled there, bearing their singularly and sometimes fantastically shaped weapons, the numerous folds of native cloth that formed their cumbrous dress, their high, broad turbans, the lofty sterns of their vessels, grotesque and rudely carved, together with the broad streamers floating in the breeze, combined to inspire them with the most elevated ideas of their naval prowess. The effect thus produced was heightened by the appearance of the sacred canoes, bearing the images or the emblems of the gods, the flag of the gods, and the officiating or attending priests. Often, while the vessels were thus ranged along the beach, the king stood in a small one, drawn by a number of his men, who walked in the sea. page 213 In front of each canoe he paused, and addressed a short harangue to the warriors, and an ubu, or invocation, to the gods. After this was ended, at a signal given, the whole fleet was in a moment launched upon the ocean, and pulled with rapidity and dexterity to a considerable distance from the shore, where the several varieties of their naval tactics were exhibited; after which, they returned in regular order, with precision, to the shore.
Many of their games were most laborious. One at which the men played, called apai, or paipai, resembled a sport in some parts denominated “bandy.” A similar game, called palican, was formerly a frequent amusement among the aborigines of South America, and those inhabiting the northern parts of the same continent, even as far as Canada. A ball is provided, and the players are furnished with sticks about three or four feet long, bent at one end; with these they strike the ball, each party endeavouring to send it beyond the boundary mark of their opponents. The ball is made with tough shreds of native cloth, tightly knotted together. The sticks used by the Tahitians were rude and unpolished, just as they were cut from the tree; but those used by the inhabitants of the Southern Islands are made with the aito, or iron-wood, the handle wrought with great care, and sometimes curiously carved, while a round protuberance is formed at the lower end, which, being slightly curved, augments the force with which they strike the ball.
The tuiraa, or foot-ball, is also a frequent game, followed more by the women than the men. Whole districts engaged in this amusement. In the former, they only struck the ball with a stick; in page 214 this, they employed the foot, and each party endeavoured to send it beyond the opposite boundary line, which had been marked out before they began. When either party succeeded in this, the air was rent with their shouts of success.
The haru raa puu, seizing of the ball, was however the favourite game of this kind. The females alone engaged in the seizing of the ball; in projecting which, neither sticks nor feet were allowed to be applied. An open place was necessary for all their sports, and the sea-beach was usually selected. The boundary mark of each party was fixed by a stone on the beach, or some other object on the shore, having a space of fifty or a hundred yards between. The ball was a large roll or bundle of the tough stalks of the plantain leaves twisted closely and firmly together. They began in the centre of the space. One party, seizing the ball, endeavoured to throw it over the boundary mark of the other. As soon as it was thrown, both parties started after it, and, in stooping to seize it, a scramble often ensued among those who first reached the ball; the numbers increased as the others came up, and they frequently fell one over the other in the greatest confusion. Amidst the shouts, and din, and disorder that followed, arms or legs were sometimes broken before the ball was secured. As the pastime was usually followed on the beach, the ball was often thrown to the sea; here it was fearlessly followed, and, with all the noise and cheering of the different parties, forty or fifty women might sometimes be seen, up to their knees or their waists in the water, splashing and plunging amid the foam and spray, after the object of their pursuit. These are only some of the games that were followed by the adults, at page 215 their great meetings or national festivals. In these, and in feasting, the hours of the day were spent.
Their dances were numerous and diversified; and were performed by men and women—in many the parties did not dance together. Their movements were generally slow, but regular and exact; the arms, during their dances, were exercised as much as their feet. The drum and the flute were the music by which they were led; and the dance was usually accompanied by songs and ballads. Ori is the native word for dance, but each kind of dance had a distinct name. The least objectionable was the hura, which appears to have been the kind of dance witnessed by Captain Cook in Huahine. The hura was sometimes a pantomimic exhibition, with dancing at intervals during the performance; but the most decent and respectable was that which consisted principally of dancing. It was practised from a motive which many will think manifested a decisive elevation above savage life. The families of the distinguished chiefs in the neighbourhood were always invited to witness the hura. They usually came arrayed in their best apparel, followed by numbers of their attendants. It was generally designed to bring into notice the daughters of the chiefs, and recommend them to young men of rank and station equal or superior to their own, who, it was hoped, might be so charmed by their dancing, as to become their future husbands.
The daughters of the chiefs, who were the dancers on these occasions, at times amounted to five or six, though occasionally only one exhibited her symmetry of figure, and gracefulness of action. Their dress was singular, but elegant. page 216 The head was ornamented with tamau, a fine and beautiful braid of human hair, wound round the head in the form of a turban.∗ A triple wreath of scarlet, white, and yellow flowers, composed of the aute, the fragrant gardenia, or Cape jessamine, and the beslaria laurifolia, tastefully interwoven, adorned the curious head-dress. The tahema, a loose vest of spotted cloth, covered the lower part of the bosom. The tihi, of fine white stiffened cloth, frequently edged with a scarlet border, gathered like a large frill, passed under the arms, and reached below the waist; while the araitihi, a handsome fine cloth, fastened round the waist with a band or sash, covered the feet. The breasts were ornamented with rainbow-coloured mother-of-pearl shells, or the pii, which was a covering of curiously wrought net-work and feathers.
∗Mr. Barff, to whom I am indebted for the principal part of this account, procured a head-dress of this kind, containing one hundred fathoms of the finest braided human hair.
The music of the hura was the large and small drum, and occasionally the flute. Besides the musicians, the haapii, teacher or prompter, was an important personage. He was attired in three or four finely fringed mats, fastened round his waist, and stood or sat near the mat on which the dancers stood. His business was, by the expression of his countenance and the action of his hands, to direct the performers. Their dancing was not lively and nimble, and seldom could those engaged be said to trip
On the light fantastic toe.
Their movements were generally slow, but always easy and natural, and no exertion, on the part of the performers, was wanting, to render them graceful page 217 and attractive. Besides the distinguished females who performed the hura, there were others who were regarded as appendages to the exhibition. These were the faata, who were men, generally four in number, who were arrayed in fringed mats, fastened round the waist, and each was a sort of clown or harlequin. Their business was, during the intervals between the different parts of the hura, to dance in the most comic and ludicrous manner, for the mirth of the spectators. They were called ei ataraa na te mataitai—cause of laughter to the lookers on. The heva tiaraau was another dance, inferior to the hura, and not more objectionable. There were many others, but they were all too indelicate or obscene to be noticed. These were sometimes held in the open air, but more frequently performed under the cover of the houses, erected in most of the districts for public entertainments. These structures were frequently spacious, and well built; consisting of a roof supported by pillars, without any shelter for the sides. A low fence, called aumoa, surrounded the house; and the inside was covered with mats, on which the company sat and the dancers performed. The patau, or prompter, sat by the drum, and regulated the several parts of the performance. After the athletic exercises of the day, the dances ensued in the evening, and were often continued till the dawn of the following morning. There were gods supposed to preside over their dances, whose sanction patronized the debasing immoralities connected with them.
The te-a, or archery, was also a sacred game, more so, perhaps, than any other; it was also called heiva te-a, play, or amusement of archery. The bows, arrows, quiver, and cloth in which they page 218 were kept together, with the dresses worn by the archers, were all sacred, and under the special care of persons appointed to keep them. It was usually practised as a most honourable recreation, between the residents of a place and their guests. The sport was generally followed either at the foot of a mountain, or on the sea-shore. My house, in the valley of Haamene at Huahine, stood very near an ancient vahi te-a, a place of archery. Before commencing the game, the parties repaired to the marae, and performed several ceremonies; after which, they put on the archers' dress, and proceeded to the place appointed. They did not shoot at a mark; it was therefore only a trial of strength. In a place to which they shot the arrows, two small white flags were displayed, between which the arrows were directed.
The bows were made of the light, tough wood of the purau; and were, when unstrung, perfectly straight, about five feet long; an inch, or an inch and a quarter, in diameter in the centre, but smaller at the ends. They were neatly polished, and sometimes ornamented with finely braided human hair, or cord of the fibres of cocoa-nut husk, wound round the ends of the bow in alternate rings. The string was of romaha, or native flax; the arrows were small bamboo reeds, exceedingly light and durable. They were pointed with a piece of aito, or iron-wood, but were not barbed. Their arrows were not feathered; but, in order to their being firmly held while the string was drawn, the lower end was covered with a resinous gum from the bread-fruit tree. The length of the arrows varied from two feet six inches to three feet. The spot from which they were shot was considered sacred; there was one of these page 219 within my garden at Huahine. It was a stone pile, about three or four feet high, of a triangular form, one side of the angle being convex.
When the preparations were completed, the archer ascended this platform, and, kneeling on one knee, drew the string of the bow with the right hand, till the head of the arrow touched the centre of the bow, when it was discharged with great force. It was an effort of much strength in this position to draw the bowstring so far. The line often broke, and the bow fell from the archer's hand when the arrow was discharged. The distance to which it was shot, though various, was frequently three hundred yards. A number of men, from three to twelve, with small white flags in their hands, were stationed, to watch the arrows in their fall. When those of one party went farther than those of the other, they waved the flags as a signal to the party below. When they fell short, they held down their flags, but lifted up their foot, exclaiming uau pau, beaten.
This was a sport in the highest esteem, the king and chiefs usually attending to witness the exercise. As soon as the game was finished, the bow, with the quiver of arrows, was delivered to the charge of a proper person: the archers repaired to the marae, and were obliged to exchange their dress, and bathe their persons, before they could take refreshment, or enter their dwellings. It is astonishing to notice how intimately their system of religion was interwoven with every pursuit of their lives. Their wars, their labours, and their amusements, were all under the control of their gods. Paruatetavae was the god of archers.
The arrows they employed were sometimes beautifully stained and variegated. The bows were page 220 plain, but the quivers were often elegant in shape and appearance. They were made with the single joint of a bamboo cane, three feet six or nine inches long, and about two inches in diameter. The outside was sometimes handsomely stained, and finely polished at the top and the bottom they were adorned with braided cord, and plaited human hair. The cap or cover of the quiver was a small, handsome, well-formed cocoa-nut, of a dark brown chocolate colour, highly polished, and attached to the quiver by a cord passing up the inner side of the quiver, and fastened near the bottom.
The bow and arrow were never used by the Society Islanders excepting in their amusements; hence, perhaps, their arrows, though pointed, were not barbed, and they did not shoot at a mark. In throwing the spear, and the stone from the sling, both of which they used in battle, they were accustomed to set up a mark; and practised, that they might throw with precision, as well as force. In the Sandwich Islands, they are used also as an amusement, especially in shooting rats, but are not included in their accoutrements for battle; while in the Friendly Islands, the bow was not only employed on occasions of festivity, but also used in war; this, however, may have arisen from their proximity to the Feejee Islands, where it is a general weapon. In the Society and Sandwich Islands, it is now altogether laid aside, in consequence of its connexion with their former idolatry. I do not think the Missionaries ever inculcated its discontinuance, but the adults do not appear to have thought of following this, or any other game, since Christianity has been introduced among them.