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Legends of the Maori

Te Ngaru’s Flute Song

page 301

Te Ngaru’s Flute Song.

NINETY years ago there lived on the cliff-top pa called Motutawa, Lake Rotoiti, a young chieftainess of the Ngati-Pikiao tribe, whose name was Rahera te Kahu-hiapo. Her father, Te Nia, was one of the chiefs of Motutawa, which in those days was a fortified place, defended with stockades and trenches on the landward side; on the level hilltop stood the carved meeting-house Tuau, named so after Te Nia’s father. At a gathering in that meeting-house Rahera met and fell in love with Te Ngaru (The Wave), a young chief of the Ngati-te-Takinga clan. But Te Ngaru was not favoured by the young girl’s family, and the pair were suddenly and violently parted by their unsympathetic elders. Te Nia and his people took the sorrowing Rahera away by canoe to the opposite side of the lake, to the hill pa Pukurahi—yon beautiful wooded headland that guards the entrance to Te Weta Bay. So the width of Rotoiti separated the lovers.

And Te Ngaru nightly sat on the cliff edge at Motutawa, gazing across the waters at the northern side, where the fires of Rahera’s village faintly glimmered through the dark, and as he sat and gazed he played melancholy love airs on his putorino, his wooden flute—another Tutanekai playing to his Hinemoa. And he composed and sang this waiata-aroha for Rahera:—

Tenei au kei te tiwa i Motutawa,
Kei Pukurahi i nga tami e ia maku ti e-i.

Ka ritorito te ahi ki Pukurahi; he ahi
Pai, e hine, nga tami e i maku ti e-i.

E titi ra e atarau ki Pukurahi,
Kopuretia ki nga tami e i maku ti e-i.

Tangi te rino, kihai to rino he karanga mo
Nga tami e ia maku ti e-i.


Lonely I sit
On Motutawa’s cliff,
Ever gazing towards Pukurahi,
Where dwells my love.

The fires burn low
On Pukurahi hill;
The moonlight beams
On Pukurahi hill;
By that pale light
Would we could love again!

My sad flute song
Floats out across the lake,
But thy lament
Ne’er falls upon mine ear.

So chanted Te Ngaru his love-song to the sleeping lake. At last it reached Rahera’s ears by tribal message, for Te Ngaru’s hapu heard and page 302 learned the young chief’s waiata. The lovers were never united; but whenever Rahera in after years revisited Rotoiti, the people delighted to chant the song in her honour. It was sung again and again at her tangihanga, her ceremonial wake, at Ngapeke, on the shores of Tauranga Harbour, where the venerable chieftainess was buried in the year 1910.

Sketch of Rahera te Kahu-hiapo, chieftainess of the Ngati-Pikiao tribe

page 303
Te Ngaru’s Flute Song.

Te Ngaru’s Flute Song.

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