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Kowhai Gold

[Jessie Mackay]

The Noosing of the Sun-God
"Tiraha, Te Ra! I am Maui,—
Maui, the bantling, the darling;—
Maui, the fire-thief, the jester;—
Maui, the world's fisherman!
Thou art the Sun-God,
Te Ra of the flaming hair.
Heretofore man is thy moth.
What is the life of man,
Bound to thy rushing wings,
Thou fire-bird of Rangi?
A birth in a burning;

page 104

A flash and a war-word;
A failing, a falling
Of ash to the ashes
Of bottomless Po!

"I am Maui!
The great one, the little one;
A bird that could nest
In the hand of a woman.
I—I have vanquished
The Timeless, the Ancients.
The Heavens cannot bind me,
But I shall bind thee,
Tiraha, Te Ra!"

Ah, the red day Of the fighting of Maui!
How he waxed, how he grew;
How the Earth Mother shook!
And the sea was afraid,
And receded and moaned
Like a babe that is chidden.
The rope that was spun
In the White World of Maui
With blessing and cursing
Curled on the dazzling
Neck of Te Ra.

"A pull for the living
That gasp in the light!
A pull for the dead
In abysses of Po!

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A pull for the babes
That are not but shall be
In the cool, in the dawn,
In the calm of Hereafter!
Tiraha, Te Ra!"

The sky was a smother
Of flame and commotion.
Low leaped the red fringes
To harass the mountains,
And Maui laughed out:
"Hu, hu, the feathers
Of the fire-bird of Rangi!"
But the rope of the blessing,
The rope of the cursing,
It shrivelled and broke.
He stooped to the coils
And twisted them thrice,
And thickly he threw it
On the neck of Te Ra.

"Twice for the living!
And twice for the dead!
And twice for the long Hereafter!
All the heart of the heavens,
The heart of the earth,
Hung on the rope of Maui.
But the red lizards licked it,
The fire-knives chipped it,
It frittered and broke.
Then Maui stood forth
On the moaning headlands

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And looked up to Io—
Io, the Nameless, the Father,
To whom the eyes pray,
But whom the tongue names not.
And a thin voice clave the fire
As the young moon cleaves the blue
Like a shark's tooth in the heavens.

"O my son, my son, and why are thy hands so red?
Wilt fight the fire with fire, or bind the Eterne with deeds?
Shatter the strong with strength?—Nay, like to unlike is wed;
What man goes forth to the river to smite a reed with reeds?

"Soft and wan is water, yet it is stronger than fire;
Pale and poor is patience, yet it is stronger than pride.
Out of the uttermost weakness cometh the heart's desire:
Thou shalt bind the Eternal with need and naught beside.

"Plait thee a rope of rays, twist thee a cord of light;
Twine thee a tender thread that never was bought or sold;
Twine thee a living thread of sorrow and ruth and right,
And were there twenty suns in Rangi, the rope shall hold."

Then Maui bowed his head
And smote his palms together.—
"Ina, my sister, little one, heed!
Give me thy hair."

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Ina, the Maiden of Light,
Gave him her hair.
Swiftly he wove it,
Laughing out to the skies:
"Thrice for the living!
Thrice for the dead!
And thrice for the long Hereafter!"

The thin little cord
Flew fast on the wind
Past the Eyes of the Kings
To the neck of Te Ra.
And then was the pull,
The red lizards licked it,
The fire-knives chipped it,
But it stood, but it held!
And measured and slow
Evermore was the flight
Of the fire-bird of Rangi.

Slumber Song
Neither to fight nor plead, my dear,
Home to the low long nest
On the holy sod of the plains of God,
And it's only to rest, to rest.

Neither to sift nor weigh, my dear,
Neither to sow nor reap,
For the balance is true, and the sickle is through,
And it's only to sleep, to sleep.

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Neither to will nor plan, my dear,
Neither to smile nor sigh;
For home is the fruit to the altar foot,
And it's only to die, to die.