Legends of the Maori
Bird Song. — What the Tui Says
What the Tui Says.
This little song, the Maori idea of the duet of a pair of tui, the male and female birds, was recited by Mere Ngamai o Te Wharepouri, the venerable lady of Ngati-Awa, Taranaki, who gave me much other poetic lore of her people.
The two birds, said she, are sitting on a bough of a tree, the tane and the wahine, and this is their musical dialogue. The tane says to his bird-wife:
“Te tu e hu,
Te tu e hu,
Te to karekare
Te memeke tetere ma-maku
(These words describe the gentle, soothing sound of the birds as they flit on softly winnowing wings to and fro, and their movements in shaking their plumage free of the moisture in the foliage.)
The male bird nods his head repeatedly as he utters these words and shakes his white throat-tassel.
The female bird says:
“Ko wai, ko wai tenei?
Ko au, ko au;
Tui pai, huruhuru maeneene.
Ko terepu, terewai.
(“Who, who is this? ’Tis I, the pretty tui, with soft, smooth plumage.” The words in the last two lines are onomatopoetic, descriptive of the musical call and the deep-throated gurgling sound often uttered by the tui.)
The pair flap their wings and they rise and fly away to the fork of a tree near by, where the kiekie plant grows in great bunches, with ripe tirori fruit (patangatanga), usually called the tawhara, which is the name of the flower.
The female bird utters these words:
Ki te pakihaka tirori
(“Reach out, stretch out and break off the sweet fruit of the kiekie for us two.”)
The birds feast on the tirori fruit, and then the tane utters this in a flute-like note, prolonged to a whistle:
“Hu-hu-e! whio-o, whi-i-o!”page 291 page break