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


II.—In favour of Perseverance, Exertion, etc



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II.—In favour of Perseverance, Exertion, etc.


  1. Tohea, ko te tohe i te kai.
    Persevere strenuously, like as you do in eating.

  2. Na te waewae i kimi.
    Obtained by seeking.
    Lit. Sought for by the leg.

  3. He iti te toki e rite ana ki te tangata.
    Though the stone-axe be small, it is equal to the man (in clearing the forest, etc.)

  4. He iti hoki te mokoroa, nana i kakati te kahikatea.
    Although the grub is but little, yet it gnaws through the big white pine tree (Podocarpus dacrydioides). [119]

  5. Mate kanohi miromiro.
    To be found by the sharp-eyed little bird.
    Lit. For the miromiro’s eye.
    Used as a stimulus to a person searching for anything lost. The miromiro is the little Petroica toitoi, which runs up and down trees peering for minute insects in the cavities in the bark.

  6. He kai iana ta te tou e ho ake?
    Do you think to gain food through inaction?
    Lit. Will squatting at home on your posteriors bring you food?

  7. E rua tau ruru; e rua tau wehe; e rua tau mutu; e rua tau kai.
    Two seasons of drought; two seasons of scarcity; two seasons of crop failure; two seasons of plenty.
    Meaning: Persevere, keep at it, success will follow.

  8. Tungia te ururua, kia tupu whakaritorito te tupu o te harakeke.
    Set fire to the scrub that the flax plants may shoot forth young evergreen shoots.
    Meaning: Clear off the old and bad that the new and good may grow vigorously.


III. Against Idleness, Laziness, Gluttony, etc.


  1. Nga huhu, nga wera, to kai, e mangere!
    This lazy fellow does nothing but roast himself by the fire!
    Lit. Burns (and) scalds (are) thy food O lazy-bones!

  2. He kai ko tau e pahure.
    Food is the thing you can get through very well (but work you cannot despatch, understood).

  3. Kai hanu, kai hanu, hoki mai ano koe ko to koiwi!
    After going about idly “loafing” (mumping) from place to place (lit., eating scraps!), thou returnest again to thy own proper home!

  4. Hohonu kakii, papaku uaua!
    Deep throat, little sinews (to work)!
    N.B.—Here also the adjectives should be noticed, being in direct opposition, and not only so but as here used they have a ludicrous quip, being terms properly and usually applied to water—Hohonu = deep: papaku = shallow.
    This would prove a cutting saying.

Here is a similar one:—

  1. Ka kai kopu, ka iri whata, kei te uaua te kore.
    He fills his belly, he carefully lays up the remainder for himself, but, alas! has no sinews for work! [120]

Here is another:—

  1. To kaha kei te kakii, karapetau tonu!
    Thy strength is in thy throat, for ever swallowing greedily.

  2. He moumou kai ma Te Whataiwi puku ngakengake!
    It’s waste of food to give it to big-bellied Store-up-bones.
    Two peculiar terms are to be noted here:—1. The figurative name given to the person, Whataiwi, i.e., one who puts by dry bones (including fishes’ heads, etc.) for himself on a platform for storing food; and, 2. The ludicrous term (not the common one) for big belly, i.e., the loose hanging bag of a large sea-net!

  3. He hiore tahutahu!
    An often singed tail!
    Used for an idle fellow. Taken from a lazy dog lying before the fire and getting its tail repeatedly burnt.
    N.B. The tail of the ancient Maori dog had very long hair, which was of great value to its master for clothing and ornament, but when singed was useless; and might therefore be killed for food.

  4. Kei te raumati ka kitea ai e koe te tupu.
    When summer comes you will find it by its sprouts.
    Spoken ironically to a person who will not exert himself to find a lost thing, etc.

  5. E noho, tena te au o Rangitaiki hei kawe i a koe.
    Sit on idly, doing nothing, there are the rapid currents of the river Rangitaiki to carry thee along.
    Used to a lazy fellow who ceases paddling the canoe.

  6. He huanga ki Matiti, he tama ki Tokerau.
    In the planting season merely a relative; at harvest time a son (or, eldest son).

  7. He kooanga tangata tahi, he ngahuru puta noa.
    At planting time, helpers come straggling singly; at harvest, all hands come from everywhere round.
    Lit.—to show its terseness—At planting, single-handed; at harvest, all around.

Here is a similar one, which was a favourite saying of the late chief Te Hapuku:—

  1. Hoa piri ngahuru, taha kee raumati.
    Friends stick to you in harvest, but fall off in summer—the season of scarcity and work.
    Very like our English proverbs, “Prosperity makes friends, adversity tries them;” “The rich man has many friends.” [121]

  2. He kakariki kai ata!
    (Like) a little green parrot (which) eats at daybreak!
    Spoken of a person who looks to eat on rising before going to work.

  3. He kuukuu tangae nui!
    A pigeon bolts his food.
    Used of a greedy fellow, never satisfied.

  4. He kuukuu tangaengae nui; he parera apu paru.
    The pigeon bolts, the duck gobbles up mud and all.
    Said of a gluttonous fellow.

  5. He kaakaa kai honihoni!
    A parrot eats leisurely, bit by bit.
    Said to a person who eats moderately and slowly.

  6. Ka whakarongo pikari nga taringa.
    (With) ears quick at listening, like young birds in their nests.
    Spoken of a fellow always on the look-out for the call to meals.

Here is another of a similar meaning (also one of Te Hapuku’s):—

  1. Taringa muhu kai!
    Ears on the qui vive for food!

  2. Awhato kai paenga; and, Ka mahi te awhato hohoni paenga!
    Bravo! great caterpillar eating around the edge of the leaf!

Those two proverbs are nearly alike. The awhato is the large larva of the moth Sphinx convolvuli (or some allied species), which ate the leaves of the kumara, or sweet potatoe, in the Maori plantations (beginning at the edges and leaving the mid-veins), and was therefore a most noxious and hateful animal to them. The proverb is used of a greedy person who goes eating from basket to basket at meal times, selecting the best bits. Formerly, the New Zealanders had their cooked food served up in numerous small baskets; they often sat in a circle to eat their food, and always out of doors.

  1. Awhato ngongenga roa!
    Ugly great caterpillar, always slowly nibbling.
    This is similar to the last two.

  2. Ko Uenuku to korokoro!
    Thy throat is even as Uenuku’s.
    Applied to a great glutton. This is even stronger in Maori,—“Thy throat is Uenuku.” He was a desperate old glutton of very ancient times, who had dwelt at “Hawaiki.” Many things are related of him.

  3. Tohu noa ana koe, e Rangikiato, he whata kei te kakii!
    O Rangikiato! what are you after? Laying by food! Verily, a food-store is in thy throat! [122]
    Applied to a man who eats more than his share, or who takes away titbits from others at meals.

  4. Patua iho, he kaka, ki tahaki tera; a, ka puehuehu, ma tana whaiaro tera.
    He pounds away, lo! a stringy bit,—that’s placed alongside (for the visitors); ha! a nice mealy bit, that’s for himself or his favourite.
    This has reference to the preparation of fern-root for eating; and was used for a sly, selfish, greedy person.
    N.B.—There was a great difference in fern-root, of which varieties the Maori had many names. The difference was much the same as in the various kinds of potatoes and of flour with us.

  5. Pikipiki motumotu, ka hokia he whanaunga!
    Constantly returning (at food-time, saying, he does so) because he is a relation!
    This proverb is concerning a lazy fellow, a “loafer,” who always contrives to drop in at meals, because he is a relation; and is often used in times of scarcity of food, so as to cause those sitting at meat to eat up their victuals quickly. But the whole story is too good to be lost, so I give a translation of it.
    “Tama-ki-te-wananga was lighting his fire to roast his food, but the fire did not burn briskly, so he said, ‘Bother the fire, it does not kindle well; and stooping down he blew at it with his breath that it might burn the better. At this very moment Hauokai had come up, and was standing behind his back, but Tama did not know of it; so he kept on blowing away at his fire, saying, between whiles, ‘Flame up, blaze away, that thou be not caught by Hauokai.’ It came to pass, however, that he (Tama) was indeed thus caught by him while saying those very words. On hearing them, Hauokai called down from behind his back, ‘What have you got against me, O Tama-ki-te-wananga?’ Then Tama turned round and looked up—alas! there, verily, was Hauokai himself standing looking down on him. For some time Tama kept looking up with vacant surprise, not knowing what to say. At last he said, ‘Thy often comings and goings.’ Hauokai replied, ‘Yes, my returning hither was owing to my relationship.’ Then Tama said to Hauokai, ‘Just so, and more too; it is thy continually returning hither.’ Then it was that Hauokai said to Tama, ‘I frequently returned hither, as you have said, through our relationship, but now you and I shall be separate; we shall never again see each other from this time forward; nevertheless, our two spirits (wairua) shall meet in the nether world (reinga).’473 And from that time they never saw each other up to their death. [123]




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