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Te Ika a Maui, or New Zealand and its Inhabitants

Chapter IX. Wakatauki, or Proverbs

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Chapter IX. Wakatauki, or Proverbs.

Manga Nui A Te Ao, A Tributary of the Wanganui.

Manga Nui A Te Ao, A Tributary of the Wanganui.

Next to traditions, Proverbs are the most highly esteemed; they are extremely numerous, and are used on all occasions. The following are a few as examples:—


He pai kai; e kore e roa te tiro hanga; ka pa tau, he pai tangata e roa te tiro hanga.

The pleasure derived from looking at good food is short, and that of looking at a good man is long.


Moramara nui a mahi, kei riro i a noho.

Let industry be rewarded, lest idleness get the advantage.

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He pai tangata ekore e reia; he kino wahine ka reia.

Let a man be ever so good looking, he will not be much sought after; but let a woman be ever so plain, men will still eagerly seek after her (literally run off with).


Ko Waitaha nga tangata, ko kawe ke te ngakau.

The men truly are Waitaha in name, but their hearts are anything and everything (Waitaha was once a tribe celebrated for number and courage).


He kino kai e kore, e rere ki te pai tangata, he pai tangata e rere, ki te kino kai.

The bad quality of the food a man eats will not affect his good qualities, or lower him; but his good qualities will raise or sanctify the food.


Ka ruku ruku a huna, ka horahora a papaka nui.

He who has a thick garment fears not the rain; but he who has only a thin one flees to the house as soon as it begins.


Ka waia te wahie mo takurua, ka mahia to kai mo tau.

Fuel is only sought for against winter; but food is cultivated for the whole year.


Ma pango, ma wero ka oti.

When gentlemen and slaves unite, the work will soon be done. (This refers to the custom of chief's painting themselves with red ochre and slaves with charcoal, before they went to war.)


Ka hia nga kui kui i hoki ki toitoi.

How many old women are there who return to youth?—Toi toi is synonimous with the English word toy, or expressive of the struggle young men have to gain their wives.


He kai tangata he kai titongi, koke mahia e tona ringaringa, tino kai tino makona.

Whoever trusts to another man's labor for his food, will be disappointed; but he who labours with his own hands, will have enough and to spare. (The titongi is a tree whose fruit is only in season for a short time.)


Nau i waka aua te kakahu, he taniko taku.

You wove the garment, I put a border to it. (A proverb used when a person accuses another of having brought any evil upon him, of which in reality he himself was the cause.)


Tenei ano a mutu, kei roto i tona were pungawerewere.

The spider is not seen when hid in his web; so the real intention of the man is concealed in the recess of his heart.

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He tanga kakaho i kitea e te kanohi o te tangata.

The slightest movement of the reed waving in the wind is perceived by man's eye, but not that of the heart.


Ka mate koe i te paoa; kahore, he kauta.

You will be stifled with smoke; no (said ironically), it is a cooking shed, which makes all the difference.


Ma tini mano ka rapa te wai.

A great number will easily accomplish what a few cannot.


He aha mau ma te kotahi.

What can a single person do.


Ko te uri o pani.

The house of the orphan.—A saying for a person without family or friends, who has no power or influence.


Kotahi te koura a wetaweta, tutakina te hiku.

Don't divide the cray fish, give it whole (a little thing). Similar to our saying, Don't make two bites at a cherry.


Ka mau ta Maui ki tona ringaringa e kore e kaea te ruru.

What Maui has hold of he will not give up.—What is given cannot be taken away


Rere i te omanga, wai marire.

What has been given don't seek to get returned.


Ka kotia te taitapu ki Hawaiki.

The road to Hawaiki is cut off.—An expression used by a desperate character who braves the laws and usages of his country. He has passed the Rubicon.


Ko turanga o Potaka.

Potaka was a lazy fellow, who laid in bed when others worked, and got up to work when they were coming away.—A saying for a lazy man.


Ko te kai rapu, ko ia te kite.

He who seeks finds.


Ko ia kahoro nei i rapu, te kitea.

He who does not seek finds not.


He koura kia we te whero.

Spoken of a person easily overpowered.—It does not take long to turn a cray fish red by boiling. Another meaning, an angry man soon turns to fight.


He aruhe kia we te papa.

Fern root is soon cooked.—Papa, to crack or burst as it does when sufficiently rousted.

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Ko te koura kei te upoko te tutae.

The cray fish has its faudament in its head.—Alluding to its color, which is red: though he is smeared with ochre like a gentleman, his head is only filled with filthiness.


He Kiore pukurua.

The rat has a double stomach.—A saying for a greedy fellow who is never satisfied.


He pounamu kakano rua.

A lizard of two colors, spotted or changeable as a chameleon.


Pihi kau ake te wakaaro pai, hauhake tonu iho.

The good thought springs up as grass, but it is immediately cut down.


Ka tuhoa te ra, ka warara, ka hinga.

The sun rises to its zenith, and then declines.—This is applied to human life.


Tena te kawenga, a te ringa kokoparahia.

The man that does not permit the weeds (kokoparahia) to cover the marae, is also strong enough to overcome his enemies.


Mokonahatia te waha o te kuri nei ki te mokonaha, kei haere kei tahae.

The dog's mouth is muzzled, lest it should steal.


Mata rere puku, rite tonu ki te makutu, mata rakau, e taea te karo.

The blow from a bullet like a curse strikes unseen, and cannot be warded off as that of a wooden weapon.


Ka mate ware tahi, ka ora ware rua.

Signifies he has two strings to his bow.—A person who possesses several cultivations is safe, though one should fail, the others will support him,


Ko te kura i huna ki roto ki te toto.

A saying for the pigeon, when it is skinned and the bones taken out; previously to its being put into the toto, or basket, the flesh is quite white.—This is applied to a handsome man, whether for the eye or mouth is rather doubtful.


I kinitia i roto i te matikuku pango.

It was pinched within the end of the finger nail.—A saying for a man who has had a very narrow escape.


Ka ki te piro o nga manu, o nga tangata ka kata.

When the stomach is full, the birds sing, the men laugh.


He kuku ki te kainga, he kaka ki te haere.

A man who is of no consequence at home, is one of importance abroad.—Literally, a muscle at home—a parrot abroad.

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Ko to uri o Kapu manawa witi.

A saying for te Rauparaha; no one know his thoughts, whether they were for good or evil.


Haere te amorangi ki mua, te hapaio o te taua ki muri. [after.

In the procession, the priest goes before, the multitude follows


Ko Maru kai atu, ko Maru kai mai, ka ngohe ngohe.

Give as well as take, and all will be well (right).


Kaore ana he au ahi, kapa he au moana e mate.

Smoke (literally wind) from the fire soon passes away, but wind from the sea causes destruction to the canoe.


He ropu hau, he ropu tangata.

A large party of strangers attracts a large number of lookers on.


E kore e mahana, he iti-iti o te pueru.

There is no warmth; the garment is too small.—A saying for a small war party.


Kaore ra i te kakahu roroa, automai i raro i te whenua.

When the garment is long and trails along the ground, then, indeed, there is warmth.—A saying for a great war party.


I muia Tinirau i mate ai.

Because Tinirau was overpowered by numbers; he was killed.—This is said when many fall upon and kill a single man.


Kapo rere te kuri.

The dog snatches his food from his master's hand, and runs away.—So a person hears what you have to say, without intending to follow it.


I whea koe i te tahuritanga o te rau o te Kotukutuku?

Where were you when the Fuschia came into leaf, that you did not plant food?—A query put to those who are too lazy to cultivate the ground. This is nearly the only deciduous tree of New Zealand.


He iti hoki te Mokoroa, nana i kakati te Kahikatea.

Small and insignificant as the Mokoroa (a grub) is, yet he cats the Kahikatea.—We should not despise an enemy, however feeble he may appear to be.—The Kahikatea (Podocarpus excelsus) is the loftiest of the New Zealand pines.


E hia motunga o te Weka i te mahanga?

How often does the Weka escape from the snare?—One who has had a very narrow escape, will take care not to fall into the same danger again.


He Kotuku rerenga tahi.

A Kotuku whose flight is seen but once.—The Kotuku, or New page 131 Zealand Stork, is so rare, that the natives say, a person can only expect to see it once in his lifetime. This is applied to a great stranger.


Ka pa he ra e huru mai ana; tena, he ra e heke ana.

If it was a sun just appearing, well; but it is a sun which is Betting.—When an old man is very ill, there is little hope; but there is with youth, that he will live to grow up; with old age, the day wanes, it is near its close.


He iti, he iti Kahikatoa.

Though small, it is still a Kahikatoa.—A man should not be despised on account of his diminutive size; for he may be like the Kahikatoa (Leptospermum acoparium), which, though only a small tree, is remarkable for its strength and toughness.


Ka roa te ngaromanga, he iti te putanga.

Though long hidden, it will be small when it appears.—This applies to a man of words, but not of deeds: also to a war party, which, when large, is confident of success, and immediately sets out; but, when small, it is a long time hesitating.


He ringa miti tai heke.

A hand which licks up the ebb tide.—A Wanganui saying for the people who live on the banks of the river, within the influence of the tides. Being accustomed to contend with the cbb tide, they can manage their canoes better than the natives of the interior.


Tino kai, tino ora te kopu.

By a constant supply of food, the stomach will be always full.—A man may indeed eat plentifully at a feast for a day or two; but he who has the produce of his labour stored up, will never want.


Papaku a ringaringa, hohonu a korokoro.

The hand is shallow, but the throat is deep.—A saying for a person who eats a great deal, but is too lazy to work.


He wahine ki uta, he kahawai ki roto ki te wai.

A woman on shore; a kahawai in the sea.—The kahawai is a fish which is very particular in selecting the hook which most resembles its food, and woman is the most difficult to please on land; hence the saying, “As a kahawai selects the hook which pleases it best out of a great number, so also a woman chooses one man out of many.”

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Mata kitea, maoa, riro ke.

When raw it is seen; when cooked it is taken away.—A saying used when persons who are cooking food see a party of strangers approaching. It is better to eat the food only half cooked, than wait and have to divido it with others.


Ka ngaro a moa te iwi nei.

This tribe will become extinct like the moa.—The moa, or dinornis, was a very large bird, which is now supposed to be extinct, the bones only having been discovered. It would be thua with the tribe alluded to; the people would all die, and their skeletons only would remain to show that they had been.


He titi rere ao, ka kitea; he titi rere po, e kore e kitea.

The “titi” which flies in the day time is seen; but the “titi” which flies in the night is not.—Used when a stranger arrives at a village in the night. Being unseen, he is not welcomed till he gets into the pa. The titi is a sea bird which goes inland at night.


Ki te hamama popoia te tangata, e kore e mau te ika.

If a man yawns whilst fishing, he will be unsuccessful.—A saying which is applied to a person who has not perseverance enough to finish what he has begun. If he gets tired of it, it will never be completed.


E kore e taka te parapara a ona tupuna, tukua iho ki a ia.

He cannot lose the spirit of his ancestors; it must descend to him.—This saying is, perhaps, identical with ours, “A chip of the old block.”


Ka tangi te karewarewa ki waenga o to rangi pai, ka ua apopo; ka tangi ki waenga o te rangi ua, ka paki apopo.

If the sparrow-hawk screams on a fine day, it will rain on the morrow; if it screams on a rainy day, it will be fine on the morrow.


I hea koe i te tangihanga, o te riroriro?

Where were you when the riroriro first sung?—The riroriro is a small bird whose note is heard in the spring, and is one of the signs of approaching summer. This saying is applied to a person who is too idle to plant food at the proper season, and complains of hunger in the winter.


Haere ki Patiarero.

Go to Patiarero.—A Wanganui saying, Go, that they may eat you. This is said when any one is bent upon running into danger.

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He kokonga ware e taea te rapurapu; he kokonga ngakau ekore e taea.

We can thoroughly search every corner of a house; but the corner of a heart we cannot.


He kai koutou ka hohoro, ko to ngaki ekore.

You are forward to eat, but not to work.


Te wai tokihi rangi.

The water which was brought from heaven.—This was the name given by the natives to rum, when Captain Cook first gave it to them. It is now used for anything sweet.


Kia wakaara koe i taku moe, ko te watu turei a Rua.

When you disturb my rest, let it be for the Hinau bread of Rua.—Rua was one of the first persons who arrived in New Zealand, and commenced making bread from the Hinau (Elæocarpus IIinau), which has therefore been named after him. It is so highly prized by the natives, that they say it is the only food for which a wearied man should be waked out of his sleep.


He pata ua ki runga, he ngutu tangata ki raro.

Drops of rain above, and men's lips below.—This is applied to a man who is beset on all sides with annoyances, and can find no way of escape.


E kore e kitea te tui i nga toke i te pouri.

It is too dark to see how to thread worms.—This is said when it is time to leave off work, and refers to the custom of threading worms, as a bait for eels.


Tena te ringa tango parahia.

That is a hand which roots out the parahia.—This saying is applied to a diligent husbandman. The parahia is a diminutive kind of spinach, which overruns their cultivations.


Ngahuru ki runga, ngahuru ki raro; ma te paroparo e aki.

There are ten teeth above, and ten below; let the weight of the skull bring them together.—When food is only half cooked, it will be necessary to use more force in chewing it.


E moe ana te mata hi tuna, o ara ana te mata hi aua.

When the eyes of those who fish for ecls are closed, the eyes of those who fish for the aua are open.—Some persons sleep during siege, while others are watching; they who keep awake prevent the pa from being surprised by the enemy.


Tama tu, tama ora; tama noho, tama mate kai.

The man who gets up to work will be satisfied; but he who sits idle will want food.

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Tu ke raumati, wakapiri ngahuru.

You keep at a distance in summer, but stick close in harvest.—This is used for a lazy fellow, who runs away during the working season, and does not return till the crops are dug up.


Me te tarakihi e papa ana i te waru.

Like locusts chirping in the eighth month, or spring.—A saying when there is much food, there is also much talking.


He urunga ekore e wakaarahia hau kino.

A pillow that is not raised by a tempest.—This saying is applied to the top of Tongariro, which is so lofty and difficult of access, that whoever takes refuge there is safe from his enemies.


Ekore e hohoro te opeope o te otaota.

The weeds will not be soon eradicated.—Applied to a large war party, which will not be easily vanquished.


Haere e wai i te waewae o Uenuku, kia ora ai te tangata.

By going to the feet of Uenuku, a man's life may be saved.—Uenuku was famed for his wisdom; therefore, to sit at his feet implied to learn wisdom, by which a man might be able to preserve his life in the midst of danger.


Ehara te urunga tangata, he urunga panekeneke.

It is not good to lean upon a man, for he is a moving bolster.


E hara te toa taua, he toa pahekeheke? Ko to toa ngaki kai ekore e paheke.

What does it benefit a man, if he is brave in war, for it is an uncertain thing. But a man who is brave, or diligent, in tilling the ground shall be certain of his reward.


Kohia te kai rangatira, ruia ta taitea.

Gather the best food, throw the worst away.

The following are a few specimens of He Korero Tara, or Native Fables:—

Kumara.—Mataharuharu; no-hoanga roa i te ahi te ahi; roke nui. Kumara.—Sitting long by the fire; face wet with tears; large lump.
Roi.—Ahakoa ra au kino, ka-wea au ki te wai; raupitia; taka mai te muri-tai e taka ra. Roi.—Though I am bad, take me to the water; press me; let the sea breeze come, how sweet!

Formerly fern-root was nearly the sole food of the natives during the winter months. It was beaten in doors, on account of the con- page 135 stant rain, and their houses being always filled with smoke, the eyes were as constantly suffused with tears.

Thin seems to be uttered by way of reproach, the fern-root being an unsightly lump; but, when properly prepared, it is not at all unpalatable.

The moral of the fable appears to be, that, although the Kumara be more palatable, yet it is neither so abundant, nor does it last so long, as the fern-root, which is always in season.

2. Kumara and Roi
Kumara.—Mataharuharu; no-hoanga roa ki te ahi. Kumara.—Watery face, long squatter by the fire.
Roi.—He kai tahau (tau); he roa tau tahaku (taku); kawea au ki te wai; rau Piu rawa; taka taka mai te muri-tai, e taka ra au. Roi.—You are much food; my year is long; take me to the water; roll me up in Piu leaves; fetch things from the sea (shell fish); then I am good.

This appears to be a different version of the former.

3. Tuna (the eel) and Wapuku (cod-fish).
Wapuku.—Tehea tau wahi mo-mona? Wapuku.—Which is your best part?
Tuna.—Momona ake i taku hiku, a taku tongahau; a ka eke ki runga ki a Tumatua, ka noho tau tokorua. Tehea tau? Tuna.—I am good from my tail to my middle; and if you get to the top of Tumatua, you can sit two together. Which is your good part?
Wapuku.—Momona a hiku, momona a tara; ka kake i te ka-kenga i a Tumatua ka nohonoho tau tokorua. Wapuku.—I am good in my tail, and good in my fins: if you get to the top of Tumatua, you may sit two together.

The Wapuku again asks the Tuna which is its fattest part. The Tuna looks significantly at its tail, and refers the question back to the Wapuku, who, in his turn, opens his eyes wide, signifying that his head was the fattest part of his body.

4. Tuatara (the Guana) and Kumukumu (rock-cod).
Tuatara.—E te Kumukumu, ka haere taua ki uta. Tuatara,—Kumukumu, let us go inland.page 136
Kumukumu.—Kahore; haere koe ki uta. Kumukumu.—No; go yourself.
Tuatara.—E, haere mai, ka pau koe i te tangata. Tuatara.—Come, lest you be destroyed by man.
Kumukumu.—Kahore; ekore au e pau: ko koe anake te pau. Kumukumu.—No; I shall not be destroyed: it is you that men will destroy.
Tuatara.—E kore au e pau. Tutu aku tara; rarau aku peke; mataku te tangata, oma ki ta-witi Tuatara.—I shall not be destroyed. I will set up my spines; I will stick out my claws: it is man that will be afraid, and run away.
5. Kauri (pine tree) and Tohora (whale).
Tohora.—E te Kauri, haere mai taua ki tai nei. Tohora.—Kauri come to sea with me.
Kauri.—Teka ra. Ko konei ra au ko taku wahi. Kauri.—No, I prefer my own clement.
Tohora.—Taua ra ka hoko kiri: meake koe tuakina e te tangata, a ka haua koe hei waka. Tohora.—Then let us change skins; for you are in danger of being cut down by man, and made into a canoe.

They accordingly exchanged skins. This is the reason assigned for the bark of the kauri being so thin and full of resin, as the whale is of oil.

6. To Tuatini (a fish) and Ngarara (lizard).
Ka mea atu te Tuatini ki te Ngarara, Haere mai taua ki roto ki te wai. Ka mea atu te Ngarara kahoro, Ka mea atu te Tuatini, Akuanei au ka wakarongo mai ki a koe e murumuru ana ki te ahi rarauhe. Ka mea atu hoki te Ngarara, Apopo hoki au wakarongo rawa atu ki a koe e kuru-kurua ana koe ki te papa o te waka. The Tuatini said to the Ngarara, Come, let us go together into the sea. But the Ngarara said, No. The Tuatini retorted, I shall hear you before long in the flames of the blazing fern. The Ngarara answered him again, And tomorrow when I listen, I shall hear you dashed against the side of the canoe.

This is spoken ironically. The Tuatini tells the Ngarara, Soon you will wish you had listened to me, when you are being consumed in the blazing fern; and the Ngarara replies, You will soon wish that you had taken my advice, when you are caught by the fisherman and killed against the side of his canoe.

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7. Kiore (Rat) and Pouwhaitere (Green Parrot.)
Pouwhaitere.—E kio e, ka piki taua ki runga. Pouwhaitere.—Okio(short for rat) let us climb up into the tree.
Kiore.—Ki te aha taua i runga? Kiore.—What shall we do there?
Pouwhaitere.—Ki te kai pua rakau. Pouwhaitere.—Eat the fruit of the trees.
Kiore.—E aha te pua rakau? Koire.—What kind of fruits?
Pouwhaitere.—He miro, he kahi-katea. Pouwhaitere.—That of the miro and kahikatea.
Kiore.—E tama ra e — kote waka rua rua i a taua; e tama ra—e—e haere mai nei te tangata, e ronarona nei i te kaki torete te wai au, ti mau rawa. Kiore.—My friend, both our tribes are diminishing; man comes and twists your neck, torete te wai (the imitation of the bird's cry of pain,) and as for me, I shall be caught in his snare.

Moral—No escape from man's power.

The Aute and the Whau.
Whau.—Hei kona koe, tu ai hei parepare. Whau.—Here you are decking a woman's head.
Aute.—Haere koe ki te moana hei whau kupenga, ka mutu hei pouto kupenga. Aute.—Go you to sea to make the net float, and when the fishing is over remain attached to it.

The Whau (Entelia arborescens), a light wood used instead of cork. Aute, the inner bark of the Hoheria populnea, used as ribbon.

Moral—One office or business is as good as another.

He Tata or Tiheru—A Water Scoop for a Canoe.

He Tata or Tiheru—A Water Scoop for a Canoe.