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Legends of the Maori

At the Rising od Kopu

page 147

At the Rising od Kopu.

Now,” said the white-haired dame Mere Ngamai, of the Ngati-Awa, “this is a tale of the days of old, the tale of the young girl Miro and her love for her chieftain Hikareia. She loved even unto death. Whakarongo mai! Listen to my story.

“Hikareia was a young chief of a tribe far in the north of New Zealand, and Miro was a certain puhi, a girl whom her family kept sacred from man until such time as she should be given ceremoniously in marriage. The fame of that young girl spread throughout the land. The young man heard of her, of her beauty and her sacredness; she was much in his mind, and he desired greatly to meet her. And at last they beheld each other face to face at a gathering of the tribes, and each conceived a great desire for the other. They loved, and from that time onward they had no thought but for each other.

“When the girl’s kinsfolk heard that the young people loved each other they were angry, and they returned to their homes—they had been on a visiting journey among the tribes of the North—and they took Miro with them.

“Time passed, perhaps a year. Hikareia and the girl still loved each other though far separated. At last Hikareia persuaded his elders to prepare for a great gathering of the tribes at his village, a hui, a very great hui. The harvest of the kumara was gathered in; the men snared and speared great numbers of the forest birds and preserved them in bark containers; and they caught huge quantities of fish and sun-dried them against the time of feasting. The women wove the finest of flax robes, for there must be generous gifts to the guests. Hikareia planned all this because the hui would enable him to meet his love again; the young chieftainess would come with her tribe to the assembly.

“The word went forth, and from far and near the tribes gathered to the ceremonial congress in Hikareia’s pa.

“And, as the lover hoped, Miro came, and with her her father and her brothers, and their tribesfolk. They came in their large canoe—for canoes were the only means by which people could reach that place, which was on an island. The name of the canoe was Te Punga-i-orohia (The Polished Anchor-stone). They arrived at the village, a hill pa overlooking the sea, and there the lovers beheld each other again.

“It was not long before the two young people secretly appointed a meeting in the woods. There they met, in the fragrant twilight of the bush, and they loved each other as men and maids will. And Hikareia and the girl took each other as man and wife.

page 148

“But their joy was not for long. The girl’s angry father and brothers, and their warriors, seized her, and bore her weeping away, and took her to their canoe, in which they were about to return to their homes. They were exceedingly wroth at their puhi having given herself to Hikareia against the family’s and the tribe’s wishes. So to the great canoe, the Punga-i-orohia, lying on the beach, the tribe led the weeping Miro. It was in the very early morning, when the sea was calm for the passage to the mainland.

“As they walked along the beach the girl stooped and picked up some heavy stones, which she secretly placed in the folds of her tatua, the flaxen girdle which she wore around her waist inside her mat. These stones she placed there for a purpose, for she had resolved not to survive the parting from her lover.

“It was not yet dawn when they left the shore, and the paddlers dipped their paddles, and the canoe moved swiftly over the calm sea. The chief stood amidships in the canoe, the ‘Polished Anchor-stone,’ turning from side to side and waving his greenstone weapon, the mere, and chanting his time-song for the paddlers. The young girl Miro sat in the stern of the canoe near the steersman. The canoe drew away from the island, heading for a bay on the mainland, and presently as they passed clear of a high headland, the young girl beheld the great star Kopu (Venus), the brightest star of the morning, shining in the sky. And when she beheld it she rose, and standing there she chanted this song of love and lamentation for her lost lover:

“‘Tera Kopu, whakakau ana mai-e!
Nga mata kaha koia,
Kei runga ahau
O te pua o toku nei waka,
O te Punga-i-orohia e.
He rimu ano au,
Ka motu ki Tawaiti e.
E taea te hiri mai
Te tinana ki te tau!
Me moe ki te po
I konei to wairua e!
Hara mai noa nei
I whakaoho i te moe ra,
Tokiki waewae i rangona e au e!
Tohu ake ai au
Ko Hikareia ko ra.
Titiro kia ahau,
Ka hei ona mata
Ki rau o te wahine ra.
Ma wai hold koe
E nui manako atu e
He tau na te tangata?
Ka hara mai, ka ruha e i!”


“‘Yonder shines Kopu, fairest star,
Rising o’er the mountain brow,
Bright star and glorious, beaming now
On this poor stricken one,
Borne away in the feather-plumed canoe,
The canoe ‘Punga-i-orohia.’
I’m like a wreath of seaweed
Torn from the rocks on Tawaiti’s isle.
I’ll ne’er return
To my lost lover’s arms.
When evening comes thy spirit hovers near—
It mingles once again with mine
But when I wake, alas! thou’rt gone.
The rustle of thy spirit feet
I faintly hear,
Token that thou didst linger near, O Hikareia!
Gaze on me once more,
And then forever veil thine eyes
From women of this world!
Who will love thee, who desire thee
As I do love thee now?
I am cast away
Like a worn-out fishing net—
Ah me!”

page 149

“And, having chanted this her death-song, the girl instantly dropped over the side of the canoe into the sea. The heavy stones she had concealed within her garments carried her down in a moment. She sank out of sight, carried to the bottom by the stones from her lover’s isle.

“The crew paddled back over the course they had come, but no sign of the young girl Miro could they see. She had gone, utterly vanished. And after long and vainly searching the ‘Punga-i-orohia’ was put on her course again and the chief and all his men chanted their farewell songs for Miro, and they wept bitterly, for she was a much-loved maid. And so they returned to their homes, and left Miro there in the deeps of the sea. So the lovers were for ever parted in body, but their souls were united in the twilight land. The lover’s wairua—his spirit—nightly went to seek the wairua of Miro in the Reinga, the shadowy shore. For that is where the sou! goes abroad, and the sleeper smiles as he embraces his spirit-love. ‘Ki te awhi-reinga ki tenei kiri e’—they clasp each other in the land of dreams.”