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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 8, Issue 3 (July 1, 1933)


On this page in previous issues of the Magazine, I gave a number of proverbial sayings illustrative of the philosophy, the wit and the poetic feeling of the Maori. Here are some more examples of the expressive whakatauki or aphorisms which entered so much into the speech of the native race. Orators delighted in interspersing their addresses with the proverbs of old, and many of these sayings are heard at gatherings of the people and are used in letters, and have even passed over the telegraph wires. The first two whakatauki embody challenge and defiance:

“Ana ta te uaua paraoa” (“Here behold the strength of a sperm whale”, in other words, “I am powerful; be careful how you try to injure me; attack me at your peril.”)

“Taku ringaringa te ngaua e te kuri” (“My hand shall not be bitten by a dog.” Compare with the doughty Scots expression of similar import: “Wha daur meddle wi' me?”)

Some sayings expressive of admiration and praise:

“Me he aroaro tamahine” (“Like the presence of a young girl”—pleasing, comely).

“Mehemea ko Kopu” (“She is beautiful as the morning star”).

“Me he pipi-taiari” (“As white as the glistening shells”).

“Me he putatara” (“Like a trumpet,” said of a strong voiced eloquent speaker).

“Me te rangi ka paruhi” (“Like a lovely tranquil sky”), said of anything beautiful, delicate, softly fading, gentle.

A pathetic saying by aged persons, soon to pass to the Spirit Land: “Moku ano enei ra, mo te ra ka hekeheke; he rakau ka hinga ki te mano wai.” (“Leave to me these last days; I am like the setting sun, like a tree soon to fall and be lost in the many waters.')

Sound and patriotic advice to the owners of the soil:

“Te toto o te tangata, he kai; te oranga o te tangata, he whenua.” (“The blood of man's body is formed from his food; it is land which grows that food to sustain him.” That is to say, “Do not part with your land; do not yield the fertile soil which is the source of your life.”)