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


(1.) The Lamentation of Te Ikaherengutu for his dead Children; some of whom were killed by the foe, and some died through wasting sickness



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(1.) The Lamentation of Te Ikaherengutu for his dead Children; some of whom were killed by the foe, and some died through wasting sickness.


Sitting idly here in misery, the chord of my heart continually throbbing concerning my own dear children. — Behold, how great! Here am I, O, my friends, just like the offspring of the forests inland, bowed down towards the ground; aye, bending low down, even as the long lithe fronds of the black fern-tree, without ever once rising upwards, concerning my own dear children. Where, indeed (is he)? O, the dear child, who was formerly cheerfully welcomed with “Come hither, O my son.” Ah! he is indeed gone, carried off by the strong ebbing tide.

I continue still in one place, sitting idly, O friends, upon the same plot of ground where my dear children formerly assembled in play—where we dwelt together lovingly! Now (it is become) a slippery plot (on which there is no standing for the foot)—a plot clean denuded and desolated, wholly and entirely despoiled, nothing pleasing left! so that I care not to look up at the sun standing above me, neither to the once fondly-remembered home-mountain standing near! nor even think of the sweet native breeze blowing from (our) home! which one is ever wont to dwell on with affection when the bitter blasts of sorrow are blowing and felt, which are verily as keen as the sharp-cutting icy wind from the south.

Here, indeed, I must mope owl-like in the hut, through the work of that evil-minded friend Whiro! My heart is even becoming forgetful of the doings of the many around about me. Was it, indeed, owing to the attempt of my children to steal the moon that they died, or was it, indeed, through (their) attempt to steal on the edge of some cliff that my offspring fell down suddenly, like debris, and perished miserably? If it had been so (then) the hateful demons would have banded together in anger against us all, and we should all have been exterminated, never more to be seen; extinct for ever, as the Moa!594

This fine poem ends with—

Enough! I will not sigh, nor show affection any longer unto you!595

There are several similes herein used that require both explanation and attention.

“The offspring of the forests:” lit., the begetting of Taane—Taane being considered, in their mythology, as the special maker or begetter of all the vegetable kingdom.

“The fronds of the black fern-tree:” lit., mamaku (Cyathea medullaris). [66]

This beautiful figure, taken from the long palm-like fronds of this fine fern (twelve to twenty feet), gracefully curved and drooping towards the earth, is not unlike that used by us in funereal subjects, our own “weeping willow.” Further, this was the solemn attitude always assumed by the old Maoris in weeping and lamenting over their dead, with body and head bowed forwards, and arms extended together and curved downwards towards the corpse or remains.

“Where indeed is he,” etc. Here one is strongly reminded of those pathetic and striking lines by Byron, in the “Bride of Abydos:”—

“Hark to the hurried question of Despair!—
‘Where is my child?’ and Echo answers ‘Where?”‘—(Canto II.)

A note appended thereto is also worthy of notice—“I came to the place of my birth and cried,— ‘The friends of my youth where are they?’ and an echo answered, ‘Where are they?’” (Arab. MS.)

“Upon the same plot of ground,” etc., lit. kahuipapa;—i.e. the flats, or small islets and shoals, in or near salt-water lagoons and estuaries, where the small sea-birds, etc., flock and preen and dress themselves in the sun; another beautiful figure.

“The mountain standing near my home,” and “the air, or breezes, of my native place.” These two beautiful similes have ever been in great esteem among the Maoris, and are still very commonly used by them in letters when away from home and writing thither, not unfrequently causing affectionate tears when read. Those tender and natural familiar expressions closely resemble some of our own esteemed European ones—e.g., the song of “Home, sweet home;” the proverbs, “Home is home, be it ever so homely” (Eng.); “East and west, at home the best” (Germ.); “The reek of my own house is better than the fire of another’s” (Span.); “Home, my own dear home, tiny though thou be, to me thou seemest an abbey” (Ital.) And so our British poets—Burns, Scott, Byron, and Wordsworth, and particularly Goldsmith. Cotton, who preceded most of them, has a beautiful hemistich, which I cannot help quoting:—

“The world has nothing to bestow;
From our ownselves our joys must flow,
And that dear hut,—our home.”

Not, however, forgetting Burns’ beautiful song,—

“Of a’ the airts the wind can blaw.”

“That evil-minded fiend Whiro.”—Whiro was, possibly, the worst of all the demon-gods, or supernaturals, of the Maoris; to whose malevolence, death and disaster on land were always attributed.



(2.) The Lament for Te Heuheu, a principal Chief of Taupo; who, together with about 60 of his followers, was suddenly swallowed up by a terrible [67] land-slip near the south end of the lake Taupo in 1846. (A portion only, less than half.)

Behold! there is the red streak of early morning dawn! appearing on the far-off horizon, over the craggy peaks of the mountain Tauhara. That, perhaps, is my dear friend returning hither? Alas! no; alone am I, uttering vain laments among the dwellings of men.

Thou art, indeed, gone for ever! O precious treasure! Go on, then (in thy way, thou) great one; go on, (thou) who wast feared (by the foe); go on (thou who wast as) the fine big raataa trees, protecting those smaller trees behind them from the stormy winds. Let me ask, who was the demon who so evilly overwhelmed you all with sudden death?

Sleep on (with thy face turned) towards us, O (our) father, within the cold miserable house. The string of the prized ear-drop (by which it once hung) is now firmly knotted; that ancient prized heir-loom of greenstone; left behind, among us, to become a loved memento for ever of thee.

...

In vain the stars of the heavens plan (their) schemes: the great star Atutahi is gone, carried off a prey for the cannibal star Rehua. But the fine star shining by the side of the Milky Way, is verily thou thyself! Alas! Alas!



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(End.) Thou hast fallen! thou art lying dead within the bowels of the earth! Alas! Alas! Still thy fame shall resound (as thunder) far off to the other side of the heavens.596

Tauhara:”—a conspicuous craggy isolated mountain, 3,000 feet high, about 30 miles north-east from the place where the calamity occurred.

“Fine, big raataa-trees” (Metrosideros robusta):—among the monarchs of the forests.

“The prized ear-drop:”—lit. “Kaukau-te-ika-a-Ngahue.” This was the name of a famous prized ancient ear-pendant; fabulously reported to have been brought from “Hawaiki” [Of this “ika-a-Ngahue,” more anon.] “The string” by which it was suspended to the chief’s ear, when alive and worn, being now “knotted,” indicates that it never would be worn again.

Atutahi” and “Rehua,” two noted stars.; see “Trans. N.Z. Inst., Vol. XII., pp. 145, 146.




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