W hat I believe to be genuine and authentic the collected publications of William Colenso

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Maori Proverbs, etc.

I. Relating to Industry.

  1. He tangata momoe, he tangata mangere, ekore e whiwhi ki te taonga.
    A sleepy-headed lazy fellow will never possess riches.
    Resembling some in the Proverbs of Solomon.

  2. He kai kei aku ringaringa.
    I can earn my food with my own hands.
    Lit. I have food in my hands; or in the use of my hands.

  3. Tama tu, tama ora; tama noho, tama matekai.
    The working chief (or son) flourishes; the idle chief wants food.
    Lit. Standing chief—living chief; squatting chief—hungry chief.

  4. He kai tangata, he kai titongitongi kaki; He kai na tona ringa, tino kai tino makona noa.
    Food from another is little and stinging to the throat; Food of a man’s own getting, is plentiful and sweet, and satisfying.

  5. He panehe toki ka tu te tangitangi kai.
    A little axe well-used brings heaps of food.
    This reminds one of the Persian proverb:—“In time the mulberry leaf becomes satin.” To have plenty of food for hospitable purposes was the greatest of all things with a New Zealand chief, as nothing raised them and their tribe more in the estimation of all.

  6. Takoto kau ana te whanau o Taane!
    The forest is felled (for planting), the hard work is done.
    Lit. The children of Taane are lying prostrate.—Taane being the god of woods and forests, the trees were called his children or offspring.

  7. Tena te ringa tango parahia!
    Well-done the hand that roots up weeds!
    Applied to a steady worker in root-crop plantations. Parahia, a low-spreading weed (Ctenopodium pusillum), is particularly plentiful at Taupo.

  8. He mate kai e rokohanga, he mate anu ekore e rokohanga.
    Hunger can be remedied, not so the want of warm clothing. [116]
    Lit. Famine can be overtaken, sharp feeling of bitter cold can not be overtaken.
    N.B.—Here, bear in mind, that all the garments of the New Zealanders, whether made from their flax fibres, or the skins of their dogs, took them a very long time to make; and the majority were but poorly clothed.

  9. He toa taua, mate taua; he toa piki pari, mate pari’; he toa ngaki kai, ma te huhu tena.
    The warrior is killed in war; the fearless scaler of lofty cliffs (in search of sea-fowl) is dashed to pieces; the industrious husbandman lives long and dies peacefully of old age.
    Lit. The hero dies in fight; the climber of precipices by a fall; the cultivator of food by worms—meaning old age, or gradual decay.
    N.B.—This bears out Cook’s statement: Vol. III., pp. 460,461. Here is another of similar meaning:—

  10. He toa paheke te toa taua; tena ko te toa mahi kai ekore e paheke.
    The warrior stands on insecure footing (or slippery is the fame of the warrior); but the industrious cultivator of land will never slip or fall.

  11. Ma pango ma whero ka oti.
    Through chief and slave working together with a will the work will be done.
    Lit. By black (and) by red finished.
    The slaves and plebeians, naked and unwashed, were black enough; the chiefs used red pigment to anoint themselves.

  12. Maramara nui a Mahi ka riro i a Noho.
    The big chips are hewn off by Worker, but the food is taken and eaten by Looker-on, or Do-nothing, or Idler.
    Lit. Worker (has) big chips gone with Squatter!
    This proverb is so cleverly constructed as not to give offence to a highly-sensitive race, with whom a cross word, or gesture, or look, respecting food, was quite enough to cause serious disturbance: here, however, so much has to be inferred—“If the cap fits wear it.” This is used when men are hard at work hewing timber for a canoe, house, etc.; at which time some are sure to be idly squatting-by looking-on; and when the cooked food for the workmen is brought in baskets, those squatters are often the first to fall-to; and to this, also, no exception can be taken!

  13. Kahore he tarainga tahere i te ara!
    You cannot hew a bird-spear by the way.
    Meaning: Without timely preparation you may die for want of food. Birds were formerly speared in great numbers in the woods; but to make a proper bird-spear took a long time, and (to me) was one of the wonders of old! [117]

  14. Ka mate kaainga tahi, ka ora kaainga rua.
    Through having only one cultivation the man dies from want, through two he lives.
    Lit. One place death (or want), two places life (or good living.)
    This was carried out fully by the New Zealanders, as to food cultivations, houses, bird-preserves, eel-weirs, fishing-grounds, etc., not only that they might have plenty, but so as to secure some from being carried off by their foes, in time of feuds, often happening.

Another similar proverb ran—

  1. Ka mate whare tahi, ka ora whare rua.
    With one house, want; with two houses, plenty.
    The meaning being much the same, only more applicable to the chief having two wives, who, each in her own house, wove garments.

  2. I whea koe i te ngahorotanga o te rau o te kotukutuku?
    Meaning: Where wert thou in the time of work,—or of danger?
    Lit. Where wert thou in the falling of the leaves of the kotukutuku?
    This tree (Fuchsia excorticata) is the only one in New Zealand which is really deciduous. This proverb may also be used for many other purposes; as,—When in siege or battle your tribe or people were killed, where were you? absent or hiding? Meaning, Is it meet for thee to boast, find fault, or speak? At such times it is a very cutting sarcasm; often causing intense feeling.

  3. I hea koe i te tangihanga o te riroriro?
    Where wert thou at the crying of the riroriro bird?
    The riroriro (Gerygone flaviventris) cries in the early spring, the season for preparing cultivations for crops; so this proverb is used to a lazy or careless person who is without cultivated food, especially when begging; and it causes great shame. It is not unlike in meaning to the western fable of the Ant and Grasshopper.

  4. Ko te tokanga nui a Noho.
    The peaceful dweller at home has always a thumping big basket of food to eat.
    Lit. The big basket of Stay-at-home.
    N.B.—Here it should be observed that the dweller at home is merely named Noho, = to sit down, to dwell quietly: of course such a one is not supposed to be idle.

  5. He wha tawhara ki uta, he kiko tamure ki tai.
    Inland is the tawhara fruit; in the sea, the flesh of the snapper.
    Meaning: Sweet food for man is everywhere, in land and water, by exertion.
    The tawhara is the large sweet sugary flower bract of the kiekie (Freycinetia banksii), generally found plentifully in the white pine forests, [118] and formerly eaten abundantly. The tamure is the snapper (Pagrus unicolor), a common fish on all the coasts.

  6. Whana atu poho ki roto, haere mai taiki ki waho; nohoia te whare, ko te hee tonu.
    Inward goes the pit of the stomach, outward come the ribs (from) persistently sticking in-doors, the greatest of all ills.
    This is a highly ludicrous proverb; the joke, or point, being largely increased through the play on the three verbs,—to recede, to come hither, and to squat idly in-doors; or, increased as it is in the passive,—to remain within to support the house! It is used in times of cold and hunger, showing their effects: “Too cold to go out,” “Too hungry to remain in-doors without food, yet keeping house!—squatting idly, or doing nothing!”

  7. Te wahie ka waia mo takurua, te kai ka mahia mo tau.
    Firewood is sought for winter, food is laboured after for the year.
    Meaning: Be usefully employed.

  8. Te toto o te tangata, he kai; te oranga o te tangata, he whenua.
    The blood of man (is from) food, the sustenance of man (is from) land.
    Meaning: Hold to your land, particularly that whence you derive your living.

  9. Taane rou kakahi ka moea; taane moe i roto i te whare kurua te takataka.
    The husband who is dexterous at getting shell-fish in deep water, will find a loving wife; the husband who sleeps idly in the house, will be thumped and knocked about.
    This operation of getting shell-fish in deep water, both fresh and salt, was generally performed by men with their feet; by which they dislodged the shell-fish, and then got them into proper nets, etc.

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