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Legends of the Maori

The Mountain God: a Chant of Adoration. — A Song for Mt. Egmont

page 282

The Mountain God: a Chant of Adoration.

A Song for Mt. Egmont.

Many West Coast poems and chants have Taranaki Mountain (Egmont) for their theme. The following is Mere Ngamai’s chant of praise for her grand ancestral mountain, an old song of Te Atiawa:—

Whakawaiwai ai
Te tu a Taranaki,
O kahu hukarere
I huatau ai koe ra.
Huhia iho koe
Ki to parawai ma,
O kahu taniko
I tino pai ai koe—e!

Me tipare koe
Ki te rau-kawakawa,
He tohu aroha nui
Ki te iwi e ngaro nei.
Waiho ra, e Rangi,
Kia taria ake
Ka tere mai he karere,
E kore ra e hoki mai!


Enchanting to the eye
Art thou, O Taranaki,
Clothed in thy snowy garment;
O mountain gloriously arrayed
In spotless cloak of glistening white,
With fringe of patterned taniko,
A robe of radiant beauty!

Yon cloud that wreathes thy lofty brow
Is as a mourning chaplet,
Soft band of kawakawa leaves,
Emblem of sorrow for the dead,
Love circlet for the vanished ones
Forever lost to us.
Remain thou there, O peak of Rangi!
Steadfastly keep thy silent watch
For ocean-borne grief-messenger
From those who’ll come no more!

The singer likens the snowy dress of Mt. Egmont to the parawai mat or robe of white finely-dressed flax; the thrums of loose twisted threads hanging from the mat, which are black in the korowai, are white in the parawai. The reference to the taniko zigzag design which forms the border of ornamental mats, draws a likeness between this pattern and the uneven edge of the snowline, formed by the alternation of rocky ridge and deep valley on the mountain side. “Rangi” is a contraction of Rangi-toto, or Fantham’s Peak, the knob-like subsidiary peak on the southern slope of Egmont. A small dark cloud sometimes encircles the summit of the mountain; this is regarded by the Taranaki people as a tohu aitua, a foreteller of death. The old settlers call it “Egmont’s Tam-o’-shanter.”

page 283
The Mountain God.

The Mountain God.

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