Legends of the Maori
Hikairo’s War Song. — A Chant of the Arawa
Hikairo’s War Song.
A Chant of the Arawa.
This song was composed and chanted in the ’thirties of last century by Hikairo Hukeke, a chieftain of the Ngati-Rangiwewehi and other hapus of the Arawa, on a report reaching the headquarters of the lakes tribes that Te Werohia, a warrior-chief of the Ngai-Te-Rangi of Tauranga, had threatened to march on Rotorua with a war-party and “drink the waters of the lake,” that is to say, kill and eat the people. The old man Kiharoa, chief of the Ngati-Whakaue, recited the poem to me as we sat on Pukeroa hill, overlooking Rotorua lake, one day in 1906.
Haha rawa te hau
E pupuhi mai nei?
He pa raro pea,
Pa katokato ana mai
Ki te kiri.
I whea koia koe
I te uiratanga o te patu,
I te rarapatanga o te waewae,
I te tangihanga mai o te whatitiri?
Ka maka mai te kupu kia ahau e!
Ka pau te hoatu ki runga Maungatapu,
I kiia atu ana
Kia tau ki raro ra
Kia ana mai a Werohia*
Kia whakaruku koe
Te puna i Rotorua.
Ko Uenuku† koia koe
Kia tawhana ai te rangi,
Ka noho koe i runga i te Pukeroa—
Kauaka e whaia mai,
Tena whana atu na
Ka kite koe i te riri
A te Arawa—e!
He aha kai a Kapiti‡
E titoa mai nei
Ka rato tahi ano
I te pikau-muka
Ki roto o Tauranga—e!
Haere i waho nga one kirikiri
I runga i te Pukenui,
I roto o Wairake
I waho o Te Tumu.
Hai a Korokai§ e,
Hai a Te Teketapu,
Hai a Ngakai,
Ki runga o Maketu—e
Mo kai haere hai a Naenae
Ki runga Te Papanui e!
Koe uru-rakau i roto Te Hiapo,
To whare-parapara ki kona e!
No hea ai ena iwi ware?
Kia rere ki runga te kowharawhara¶
Me tutahi atu ki runga ra
Ki te kauwhau o te riri,
Ka rere koe
I te Hiku o te Ika e—e!
Whence blows this gentle wind,
Sighing softly hitherwards?
It blows from the North to me,
It wafts me a sound of war.
Where wert thou in the time of battle,
In the day of the flashing of the club,
In the day when men’s feet leaped swiftly,
When war’s thunders crashed?
Methought all strife was o’er
When we did slay and eat
Thy warriors on Maungatapu’s height.
Yet now the word comes forth
From out the North
That Werohia seeks to plunge him in
The fount of Rotorua.
Art thou Uenuku, the Rainbow-god,
That thou should’st strive to span our lands
As heaven’s bow spans the world,
And rest a foot on Pukeroa hill?
Beware, pursue me not,
But hasten to thy home,
Else surely shalt thou see
The anger of the Arawa.
What of Kapiti’s guileful words?
Heed not his greed for muka,
To be carried to Tauranga’s strand.
Go, look upon the gravelly shores of Pukenui,
Of Wairake, of the Tumu,
The battlefields of Korokai, of Teketapu, of Ngakai,
Chieftains of the Arawa.
For ye the glowing ovens burned
On the trail of Maketu.
Ha! Tautari devoured ye there!
And when ye fled,
Naenae did eat your dead
On the plains of Papanui.
Remember now the forests of the Hiapo!
There was the house of death,
The oven where thy warriors were consumed.
If once again the spear we raise
We’ll surely drive thy ignoble clan
Into the forest trees to hide them there,
In the kowharawhara, the nests of fairy flax.
Far away shalt thou fly, to the north land’s end
(The land of the spirits’ flight—the land of death).
* The north wind, blowing from Tauranga, is a simile for the rumours of war which reached Hikairo while at his home at Rotorua. He taunts Te Werohia with not having fought in the previous wars between the Arawa and the Ngai-Te-Rangi tribes, and he reminds him of the Arawa victories when the Lakeland warriors stormed several pas and killed and ate many of Werohia’s tribesmen. The “fount of Rotorua” is a reference to an old saying of the Maori, that Rotorua was the source or fountain-spring of blood and wars (“te puna-whakatoto o te riri”).
† † In the lines beginning “Art thou Uenuku,” the Arawa chief warns Werohia in poetic metaphor that in no other way than by spanning the land like a rainbow can he expect to reach Rotorua, for hostile clans, branches of the Arawa, lie between the seashore and the lake. Uenuku is one of the deities in the Maori Pantheon; he is a god of war, and his “aria” or visible form is the rainbow; hence the name Uenuku is used here as a personification of the rainbow.
‡ ‡ “Kapiti” was the Maori name of one of the early white traders in the Arawa and Tauranga districts. He traded with Ngati-Wai, a hapu of the Ngapuhi, north of Auckland, before he settled in the Bay of Plenty. His trading store was at Te Papa, the principal settlement on Tauranga Harbour, and he bartered muskets and gunpowder, tobacco, blankets and other pakeha commodities for muka, or dressed flax, which was in those days the chief article of export from New Zealand to Sydney. “Kapiti,” it was said, was urging Te Waharoa and Werohia to make war on the Rotorua tribes, in order that he might obtain supplies of dressed flax from the Lakeland districts. He was afterwards murdered on Mokoia Island.
§ §Korokai, who was one of the most renowned war-leaders of the Arawa, was the principal chief of the Ohinemutu Pa. Teketapu was one of the names of Te Amohau, a chief whose descendants now live at Ohinemutu and Maketu. Ngakai was another name for Pango or Ngahuruhuru, a great priest and warrior of the Ngati-Whakaue. The Tautari mentioned in the song was a Ngati-Pikiao man, chief of a pa at Lake Rotoehu; he was celebrated for his daring feats of war and for his skill in laying ambuscades.
¶ ¶The kowharawhara is an astelia, with long flax-like leaves, which grows in great bunches in the forks of the large forest trees; it is said by the Maori to be the abode of the fairies or Patupaiarehe.