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Legends of the Maori

Folk Songs and Chants

Folk Songs and Chants.

page 279

The Chant of Hautu.

A Folk-Song of the Urewera.

THE scene is one of those bush hamlets you may see in some of the less frequented parts of the Urewera Country, a kainga of three or four houses of the olden type, roofed with totara bark; a camp nearly surrounded by forest ranges. On the open side the land dips steeply from the terrace on which the village is built, and below there is a glint of water. The first of the morning light is slowly stealing into the forest aisles and across the still waters. The Maori camp sleeps, but the bush birds are wide awake, and the fringe of the forest is ringing with song, long before the cold mists of the night lift from gully and river. The bell-birds are ringing their chimes of the dawning, the tui are sounding their deep bing-bongs and flute-notes, the kaka parrot now and again gives its screech-call. Our English poet sang of “The breezy call of incense-breathing morn, the swallow twittering from the straw-built shed.” The Urewera have a terse and meaningful phrase of beauty to describe the morning song of the birds: “Te waha o Tane, e ko i te ata.” The bush music is here the voice of the god of forests, Tane-Mahuta, who is the personification not only of the trees, but of all the birds; their singing is the utterance of the lord of the wild places.

The rearea, as the Urewera call the bellbird, is chanting its sweetest and loudest, when a blanketed figure appears from one of the low-eaved dwellings, the patriarch of the kainga; the old folk are usually the earliest risers. Listening awhile to the music of the bush, he murmurs a chant of earlier days, the well-remembered song of his departed kinsman Hautu, the wise man of Tuhoe, one-time canoe expert, wood-carver, well-skilled warrior. It is a chant known all through these mountains and valleys of the Urewera, from Ruatoki, on the northern border, to Mataatua and the lakeside kaingas at Waikaremoana. Young and old alike sing the song of Hautu.

It was composed by the tohunga as a song addressed to his young daughter, who was lying apparently in a dying state; she was supposed to have been bewitched by an enemy of her father’s, a rival tohunga of the Urewera. The sorcerer was believed to have performed diabolical page 280 rites, which included the kindling of a sacred fire and the recital of incantations to cause weakening and paralysis of all the bodily and mental faculties; the most feared of all was the ahi whakamatiti. To wreak vengeance on Hautu for some injury or other the wizard caused the little daughter to lie in a lethargic semi-paralysed state that must end in death.

In this song you must suppose the father endeavouring to rouse his daughter to an interest in life, to dispel her fears, to reassure her against the imaginary hurtfulness of the wizard’s spells. You must imagine also something of the untamed face of Nature, which makes a fitting setting and predisposes the forest dwellers to belief in all manner of magic charms and arts of gramarye. In this translation which I have made of the song I have attempted to preserve something of its spirit and rhythm:—

O Pare, my daughter,
Cease your long slumber,
Rise from your mat-bed,
Come forth to the morning.
Lay your hand to the paddle,
The great blade, the long blade,
Matahourua’s paddle.
The dawn-light is breaking,
Soon the sun will be leaping
Above the dark mountains.
Come forth, O my daughter,
The canoe’s at the lakeside;
Set your hand to the baler,
Dash out the water—
The tide of Hawaiki.

No more that sad moping,
That gloomy heart-sickness,
Despair by the fireside;
Bend your ear to the morning,
Voice of Tane, the Tree-God,
The birds of the forest
All chanting together,
The song of the bush-edge,
The song of the summer;
Listen gladly, my daughter.

Slide back the carved tatau,
The door of the whare,
Gaze out on the morning;
The dawn light is spreading,
The bush is awakened,
The Sun God flames upward—

page 281

To your weaving, my daughter;
Place upright the turuturu
The sticks for mat-weaving,
For the robe fine and flaxen.
Set your heart on your pattern,
The art of your mother,
Your karakia murmur,
Skill-implanting taumaha;
Pass your threads deftly,
Shape the tapering garment
That soon will be finished.

Snared bird of the forest,
For the Atua’s appeasement,
Will be laid on the bush shrine,
Sacrificial that offering,
Lest wizard spells harm you.

Let no hurt now befall you:
Curse-spells of makutu,
Charm-fires of magician,
Ahi ruhi, ahi ngenge,
Limb-withering matiti—
At nought we shall set them,
They are powerless to harm you;
Rise and live, O my daughter.

From this translation some cryptic mythological allusions and genealogical references have been omitted. They were introduced by the composer to give additional force and efficacy to his appeal.*

Nowadays the chant of Hautu is often used as a lullaby, and many a child of the mountain country is sung to sleep to the low, soothing rhythm of words that the grieving father long ago used for a different purpose—to rouse his daughter from the stupor that meant death.

* The original of this chant of the Urewera was recited to the author in 1907 by Hurae Puketapu, of Waimako, Lake Waikaremoana.

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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page 285

A Song in Exile.

The Chant of Hoani Papita.

One of the refugees who sought shelter in the Taupo Country after the attack by the British troops on the people of Rangiaowhia village in the Waikato War, early in 1864, was the chief Hoani Papita (“John the Baptist”), of the Ngati-Hinetu clan of Waikato. Routed in the skirmish, he and some of his people fled through the swamps to Maungatautari, and thence to Taupo. His lands were lost, confiscated by the Government, and he lived the rest of his life at Taupo. This is a lament he sang for his old home and his friends. It is a favourite chant among the Waikato and Taupo tribes to-day. The song bears the impress of an earlier origin; the reference to Tokaanu and the hot springs formed part of a song by an olden South Taupo poet.

The lament is also known as Te Kooti’s mihi for his distant tribe and homeland when he was in exile in the prison-isle of Wharekauri (Chatham Island), 1866–68. It was peculiarly appropriate to his condition as a prisoner of war:

E pa te hau, he muri raro,
He homai aroha.
Kia tangi atu au i konei
He aroha ki te iwi
Ka momotu ki tawhiti, ki Paerau.
Ko wai e kite atu?
Keiwhea aku hoa i mua ra?
I te tonuitanga, ka haere mai,
Tenei ka tauwehe, ka raunga-iti au.
E ua e te ua, e taheke
Koe i runga ra-e,
Ko au ki raro nei, riringi ai
Te wai i aku kamo.
Moe mai, e Wano, i Tirau,
Te pae ki te whenua,
Ki te wao tutata ki te kainga kua hurihia.
Tenei matou kei runga kei te toka ki Taupo;
Ka paea ki te one ki Waihi,
Ki taaku matua nui
Ki te whare-koiwi ki Tongariro,
E moea iho nei.
Hoki mai, e roto, ki te puia nui
Ki Tokaanu,
Ki te wai tuku kiri o te iwi
E aroha nei au-i-i.
On Tongariro’s side.


Blow soft, ye northern breezes,
With love and sorrow laden,
Ye fill my soul with sadness
For kinsfolk far away,
For those beyond dread Paerau
The mountains of the grave.
What eye beholds them there?
Where are my friends of other days,
The days of my youth and fame?
They’re separated far from me,
My pride is shorn away.
Rain on, O rain! Unceasing,
Downpouring like a torrent;
As falls the rain’s cascade,
So flow my tears.
Sleep on, O Wano!
In thy grave at Tirau,
Beyond yon mountain ridge,
Where the high-woods shade our olden home.
Here we rest upon a lakeside rock
By Taupo’s waters; we were cast
Upon the sandy Waihi shore.
Yonder my chieftain parent sleeps,
He rests in the dark burial cave
Return, my soul, to the soft soothing waters,
The great plashing hot-springs of Tokaanu,
The pools wherein my kinsfolk laved their limbs.
The people that I love.

page 286

Sketch of a New Zealand Maori

page 287

The Lone Sentinel’s Song.

When the Urewera Hauhaus in arms against the Government evacuated Matuahu Pa, on the north side of Lake Waikaremoana, in 1870, and it was occupied by Hamlin’s and Witty’s force of Government Maori from the Wairoa (H.B.), the sole occupant found in the deserted hill pa was an old woman named Mihi-ki-te-kapua (Lament to the Clouds), a woman of rank in the Urewera and Arawa tribes. Old Mihi had been left behind by the garrison when they took to their canoes and crossed to Tikitiki Pa, on the opposite side of the narrow strait leading up to the Mokau arm of the lake. She had been a sentry for the garrison, and had been left to keep watch outside the village. She gave expression to her feelings of pouritanga (sorrow and dejection) in this song, which she composed while crouched in the forest close to the pa when her companions abandoned her. It is often sung to this day by members of the Ngati-Ruapani and Urewera.

(Recited to the author by Hurae Puketapu, of Waimako, Waikaremoana.)

Engari te titi
E tangi haere ana-e!
Whai tokorua rawarawa-e!
Tenei ko au nei,
E manu-e!
Kai te hua-kiwi
Mahue i te tawai
Ka toru te rakau kai runga.
Ka hoki mai ki te pao,
Ka whai uri ki ahau,
Noku ano ko te wareware,
Te whai ao, te tira haere
No Te Hirau.
Whakangaro ana nga hiwi-maunga
Ki Huiarau.
Kia ringia ki te roimata-e!
Kei te rere au
Ki Ohinemutu ra-e!
Ko au anake mahue iho-e!
He heteri* kiritai ki te Matuahu,
Ki titiro noa atu ra ki waho,
He waka hera e rere atu ra.
Whakatika rawa ake ki runga ra,
Ka momotu ki tawhiti.
Ma wai ra e whai atu, i—a!


No sound, no cry
But the titi-birds,
Calling through the dark,
Crying as they go!
They ever fly in pairs,
But here alone am I,
Like the kiwi’s solitary egg,
Lost in the tawai woods.
Three forest trees above my head.
Now I’ll arise, I’ll seek my friends,
By whom I am forgotten.
I’ll search for Hirau’s band;
Perchance they are lost in the
Vast hills of Huiarau.
Fast fall my tears;
Would I could fly
To Ohinemutu, far, far away.
They left me here, lone sentinel,
On watch beside Matuahu’s scarped wall;
Watchful was I, gazing o’er the lake
For sign of sail of war canoe,
On Waikare’s dark sea.
I’d rise and seek my friends,
Those vanished ones,
But whither shall I go?
Ah me!

* The singer here introduces two English words Maorified. “Heteri” is the Maori pronunciation of “sentry” and “hera” is sail.

page 288

A Waikato Canoe Chant.

The long war-canoes, Paparata and Whawhakia, are foaming along almost bow and bow in the last half-mile of a great race on the Waikato River, near Mercer. Seventy paddles are going, flashing for a moment in the sun and dipping and glistening again. In each canoe a kai-hautu, the captain and time-giver, is standing amidships, waving his shining whalebone or stone mere on this side and on that, and raising his voice in songs and barking exhortations to his toiling crew. Old warrior Te Katipa, the Paparata’s captain, chants this song, an ancient paddling ngeri, as he balances himself with the ease and grace of long practice:—

E pari ra ko e te tai,
Whakaki ana mai
Nga ngutu-awa.
Hui nga ope au
Ki te tai uru.
Aue! Tiaia!
Aue! Koia hoki.
Hūkere, Waikato!
Aue, ku-umea!
Tūpara, Tūpara,
Tūpara, Waikato!
Tōia, e!


Flowing there is the ocean tide,
Surging towards me,
Filling up the mouth of the river.
Gathering are the armies
At the sea of the west.
Now dip the paddles!
That’s it! Come along!
Harder, hasten, O Waikato!
Oh, a long, strong stroke!
Now quickly, quickly!
Quicker, Waikato!
Pull away O!

The hoarse-voiced captains urge on their crews with frantic cries of “Hūkere, hūkere, Waikato!” “Tena tiaia!” “Hoea, hoea!” Enormous excitement fills the yelling, dancing, waving crowd on the river bank. Paddling like furies, bending nearly double over their blades, splashing the water over each other, the crews surge up to the finishing mark. Paparata’s bow is only six feet ahead of Whawhakia’s. A rifle cracks; the race is won by a nose.

page 289

A Song of Prophecy. (Mata.)

This chant is an example of a class of song called mata, a supernatural vision, a prophecy chanted by a priest. It was a seer’s chant uttered on the west coast of what is now Wellington Province, just before the great Rauparaha’s war-canoe invasion of the South Island, and his capture of Kaiapohia (Kaiapoi) Pa, 1830. The seer was Kukurarangi, of the Atiawa tribe. Standing forth on the marae before the assembled warriors, the tohunga chanted:—

He aha te hau e pa mai nei?
He uru, he tonga, he parara.
Ko nga hau tangi rua—e!
E tu ki te rae o Omere* ra
Ka kite koe, e Raha,
I te ahi papakura ki Kaiapohia.
Ma te ihu waka, ma te ngakau hoe,
A ka taupoki te riu
O te Waka-a-Maui
Te raro ra! Below there!
Tukitukia ha! Rerea ha! Kopekopea ha!
Taku pokai tarapunga Fly through the seas!
E tu ki te muriwai ki Waipara ra—
Ka whakapae te riri ki tua, ho—o—o!


What wind is this that blows upon me?
The West? The South? ’Tis the Eastern breeze.
Stand on the brow of Omere hill
And you will see, O Rauparaha,
The glare of the blazing sky at Kaiapohia!
By the bow of the canoe, by the handle of the paddle,
The Canoe of Maui shall be overturned
Then paddle fiercely!
Deeply plunge your paddles!
See my flock of seabirds
In the quiet waters of Waipara!
Beyond that spot will rage the fight!

* Omere is said to be the original name of Cape Te Rawhiti, on the northern side of Cook Strait. The name Te Ra-whiti (The Rising Sun), the general Maori term for the East Coast, was, through a misconception of Cook’s Tahitian interpreter, Tupaea, in conversing with the Maori in 1769, set down by the circumnavigator as the name of this point.

† “Te Waka a Maui” (Maui’s Canoe) is the ancient symbolical name of the South Island, as “Te Ika a Maui” (Maui’s Fish) is of the North Island.

page 290

Bird Song.

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
Riri hengihengi.”

(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:

“E toro
E toro
Ki te pakihaka tirori
Ma taua.”

(“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
The Song of the Tui.

The Song of the Tui.

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page 293

The Bird of Summer.

A song of greeting to the riroriro (the grey warbler), whose trilling in the thickets and on the bush edge is a sign that summer is beginning. The Maori loves to hear this little bird. Its endless song—always seeming to stop unfinished—has been described by a New Zealand poet as “half joy and half regret.” The English robin’s song has been called “a throatful of heartache.” Our Maori would apply just such a description to the riroriro’s lay—

Tangi e te riroriro,
Te tohu o te raumati;
Tua rua tonu mai;
Tikina mai tirohia,
Tenei ano ahau
Te au reti mai nei,
O te kawe mai
A puna-roimata,
Te aroha whitiora,
Kia ora te kaupapa i au.


Sweetly sings the riroriro,
Chant of summer days;
Sing it over again to me;
Come forth that I may see thee.
My ears ensnare thy melody
The chant that brings the gushing tears
Of joy and love,
The song that cheers
The very heart of me.

“I Sing of Kupe.”

In the poetic symbolism of the Maori, the Polynesian explorer Kupé’s canoe circumnavigation of some of the islands of New Zealand is spoken of as his god-like severing of them from the mainland. There is an old song heard in Maori villages on both sides of Cook Strait which commemorates the ancient sailor’s deeds:—

Ka tito au,
Ka tito au,
Ka tito au kia Kupé,
Te tangata nana
I hoehoea te moana
I topetopea te whenua.
Tu ke a Kapiti,
Tu ke a Mana,
Tu ke Arapawa;
Ko nga tohu ena
A taku tupuna, a Kupé,
Nana i whakatomene-Titapua,
I toreke ai te whenua—e.


I sing,
I sing,
I sing of Kupé
The man who paddled o’er the seas,
And cut the islands from the main,
Who set Kapiti isle apart,
Who severed Mana from the land,
And sundered Arapawa;
These are the signs
Of the deeds of my ancestor Kupé,
He who found Titapua’s isle
And left this new-found land.

page 294

A Patriotic Chant.

Hold Fast the Land.

This composition, which was sung as a war-dance and haka chant, is of historical interest as an expression of the intense national fervour and anti-pakeha determination which possessed many of the Maori tribes during the Fifties and Sixties of last century. The chant was sung with frenzied enthusiasm at the great gathering of tribes at Manawapou, on the Taranaki coast, in 1854, when the Land League was founded for the purpose of preventing further sales of native land to the Government.

E kore Taranaki e makere atu,
E kore Taranaki e makere atu!
Tika tonu mai
Kia Piata-kai-manawa,
I Piata-kai-manawa.
Ka turu, ko te whakamutunga.
E kapeti, kapeti,
Kapeti te wai o te paraheka;
E ko te pakurutanga iho
Ki runga ki te kahaka;
Tungou kau te ure
O Piata-kai manawa—
Ka turu!*

In this haka or hanihani chant, which was sung by many hundreds of voices on the marae at Manawapou, the people declared that the lands of Taranaki should not be lost or abandoned to the white man, that the ancestral territory should not be loosened and endangered by alienation of portions of it. This cry of resolution to hold the land was followed by a challenge to the pakeha, in symbolical language. All the efforts of the foes of the Maori would be futile. The challenge to the English was couched in Rabelaisian terms that added to its vigour and fierceness.

* From Ngahina, of Matangãrara, Taranaki, who was present at the Manawapou meeting in his youth.

page 295

A War-Chant (Ngeri).

The Song of Tokatoka.

Tokatoka is a sharp-topped volcanic peak rising above the eastern bank of the Northern Wairoa River. “Rocks upon rocks” is the meaning of the name. It has a story and a song, that fantastic peak, lifting like a huge marlinspike above the woods and farms. High up there on Tokatoka’s precipitous crag there dwelt a hundred years ago the warrior-chief Taoho, head of the Ngati-Whatua tribe. Taoho’s house (said his son, the old man Te Rore Taoho, of Ahikiwi) was close to the Puru (the “Plug”), that rocky projection which juts out from the western face of the peak, the Tokatoka citadel which no foe had ever scaled. This is the tribal warsong of the Ngati-Whatua and Te Roroa, the thundering ngeri of the river-dwellers, enjoining the warriors to be as firm as the great rock Tokatoka, which they regarded as a type of their clan and country:—

A-a! Ko te Puru-e!
A-a! Ko te Puru,
Ko te Puru ki Tokatoka!
Kia ueue;
E kore te riri
E tae mai
Ki roto o Kaipara.
Kia toa!
A-a-ae! Te riri!


’Tis the firm-set rock,*
The steadfast rock,
The rock of Tokatoka’s height!
Put forth your strength!
The tide of war
Ne’er shall the heart of Kaipara touch.
O tribe, be brave!
Ah, yes, indeed, ’tis war.

This battle song, the slogan of the Wairoa men, was chanted, said Te Rore, on the eve of an engagement, in particular before the fight of Te Moremonui, where Taoho and his braves defeated an army of Ngapuhi under Pokaia, Hongi Hika and other great warriors.

* Compare this allusion with the slogan of the Scottish Clan Grant: “Stand fast, Craig Ellachie!”

page 296

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,
Mo umu-paparoa
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).

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* 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.

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A Song of Raukawa.

The Dread Crags of the Brothers.

This chant (from the old man Aperahama, of Wainui, Paekakariki) was sung about eighty years ago by a young woman named Tuhupu, for her husband, who had sailed away across Cook Strait—the Maori Sea of Raukawa—in the war-canoe of the chief Hetaraka Patutahi. It contains reference to the old custom of covering the eyes of tauhou or strangers to those waters with a kopare or wreath-screen, consisting usually of three karaka leaves strung together. This was done on board canoes passing near the rocky islets now known as The Brothers; the Maori name is Nga-Whatu–Kaiponu. A dread tapu pertained to those surf-washed dark crags, and rough and dangerous seas were often encountered there. Strangers in the canoes were apt to be dismayed by the high waves, and so they were blindfolded (koparetia) until the worst part of Raukawa was crossed. They could use their paddles, but could not gaze around them.

Ao ma uru
E tauhere mai ra
Na runga ana mai
Te hiwi kei Te Tawake.*
Katahi te aroha
Ka makuru i ahau
Ki te tau ra
E nui ai te itinga.
Pirangi noa ake
Ki te kimi moutere,
Kia utaina au
Te ihu o Te Rewarewa,
Te waka o Patutahi,
E whiu ki tawhiti;
Kia koparetia te rerenga i Raukawa,
Kia huna iho,
Kei kite ai Nga-whatu,
Kia hipa ki muri ra
Ka titiro kau,
Kia noho taku iti
Te koko ki Karauru-pe,
Nga mahi a Kupe,
I topetopea iho.
Kei whea te tane
I rangi ai te itinga?
Mo nga riri ra,
Ka rukea ki ahau,
Waiho i roto nei,
Ka nui te ngakau—i—i!


Far o’er the western sea
A cloud clings to Tawake’s peak,
It drifts this way, it brings to me
Fond thoughts of one who’s far away.
Of him to whom I was betrothed
While but a little one.
Oh, would that I could go with thee
Across the swelling sea
To seek some island of our own!
I’d seat me in Te Rewa’s bows,
Te Patutahi’s great canoe,
And sail so far away;
I’d bind mine eyes so carefully
To cross Raukawa’s rolling sea
Lest I imprudently behold
The dread crags of Nga-whatu.
And when we’d safely crossed the Strait,
And free to gaze around again,
I’d see the shores of Cloudy Bay—
The wondrous works of Kupe,
Our ancestor who sailed these seas,
And severed islands from the main.
But where is now my loved one?
I’m left behind to mourn alone—
My heart swells high with sorrow.

* Te Tawake is a mountain on Rangitoto (D’Urville Island), west of Cook Strait.