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


(3.) The Spell, or Invocation, used by the Hero Whakatau, on his going forth to fight



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(3.) The Spell, or Invocation, used by the Hero Whakatau, on his going forth to fight.


“Then the brave warrior, Whakatau, arose, and seized his fighting-belt, and, while girding it on, uttered the following charm, that he and his companions in arms might become bold in battle.”(MS., ined.)

If Tangaroa should enquire,


“Who is that young warrior
So daringly girding-on my war-belt?”
(I reply) Nobody at all; nothing, only me,
Whakatau! [68]
A man of no rank,
Lo! the favourable wind arises;
I hear it; I feel it.
The strong north wind blows,
I feel it encircling.
My foes are already hiding through fear!
Enclose me around, O Space!
O Space and Air encircle me!
O Sky encircle me!
Who am now here, engaged
In girding-on the war-belt of the warrior
I shall stand—as a rainbow,
Girt with the war-belt of the warrior.
Lo! the lightning flashes—it flashes!
The war-belt is rough as the sharp spines of the sea hedgehog;—
Dreadfully hated it is!
This war-belt, whose fame carries fear and hiding;
Whose great fame is everywhere known.
Do you still ask, “What is this war-belt?”;
A war-belt of wrath!
A war-belt of flaming rage!
A war-belt that destroys and eats up its foes!
Now you know. Hurrah!

(MS., ined.)

“If Tangaroa should enquire, etc.” The great fight in which Whakatau was engaged, and so valiantly slew his foes, was commenced at sea and finished on the sea-side; hence the name of “Tangaroa,”—who was the Maori “god” (=maker and master) of the sea and of fishes; one of the great Polynesian “gods.”

“Space” (or the clear open expanses, or Air,) and “Sky,” are here invoked, as being the most ancient of all their many personifications.

“I shall stand—as a rainbow,”—see Proverbs, “Trans. N.Z. Inst.,” Vol. XII., p. 139, proverb 167. See, also, the closing hemistich of song 13, infra.

“Do you still ask, ‘What is this war-belt?”‘—meaning, What the consequences of putting it on? [69]

The ancient Maoris went naked into the fight, the principal chiefs only wearing the war-belt; which was first girt on when actually entering into the battle, and was curiously and very firmly fixed. So that the girding it on, was, to them, quite an event; and, in reality, was just as Hector, or Mars, in Homer, putting on their armour.

This poetical piece is most stirring and spirited in the Maori original; and its effect on Whakatau’s followers, when properly chaunted by him, to, doubtless, a most inspiriting and bold tune,597 may be guessed. Especially, too, as they had ventured to say to him,—“Don’t attempt it; they are many; thou wilt be killed.” The whole prose legend in its entirety is a capital one. A portion of it, much abbreviated and altered, may be found in Grey’s “Polynesian Mythology,” p. 102.


(4.) A ceremonial Charm, used in divorcing the man from the woman and the woman from the man:—


A pulling off by Space,
A pulling out by Sky,
A great drawing-out from within;
A letting fall,
Of [or by] this great priest,
Of [or by598] this knowing teacher;
Go on.—
There the post stands—the post stands,
The very post of the separation.
It is the Sky that unties;
If untied above here, then untie
That you two may be untied,
Separated here be the bed of you two,
Where you two were intimate,599
Where you two slept,
That you two may be untied.
The Sky itself separates;
The Earth itself separates.
Be separate in this evening,
Be separate in this night.
Turn away, proceed;
To the full tide,
To the tide flowing by night,
To the tide that resounds in its ebbing.
Henceforth I turn upwards
To the untrodden forests,
Do not thou sigh lovingly; [70]
Do not thou lament.
Untie the string of the garments;
Be rough, be strong, the string of the garments of you two.
Embrace the rimu pine tree,
Embrace the totara pine tree,
Embrace the tangled fern.
There the post stands;
The post indeed of the separation;
The post of the Sky above:—
Be thou made all aglow.

For a version of this see Grey’s “Poetry,” p. 296.

(1.) According to the Maori cosmogony the Sky and the Earth were anciently man and wife, and lived conjoined; but they were forcibly separated, and that for ever, for the good of man.

(2.) The last line here (as in that of the first poetical piece, ante) must be taken to mean its direct opposite.


(5.) A soothing Charm, to be recited when the young women are having their lips and chins tattooed, —punctured and stained with black figures.


(Part only, as a specimen; the whole containing 13 stanzas.)

Lay thyself quietly down, O daughter!


(Soon it is done!)
That thy lips may be well tattooed;
(“Tis quickly performed!)
For thy going to visit the young men’s houses;—
Lest it should be said,—
“Whither, indeed, is this ugly woman going?
Now coming hitherward.”
Keep thyself still, lying down, O young lady!
(Round the tap goes!)
That thy lips may be well tattooed,
Also thy chin;
That thou mayest be beautiful!
(Thus it goes fast!)
For thy going to visit the houses of courtship;—
Lest it should be said of thee,—
“Whither does this woman think of going with her red lips,
Who is walking this way?”
(Still it is revolving!)
Give thyself willingly here to be tattooed
(Briefly ‘tis over!)
For thy going to the houses of amusement;
(Or) thou wilt be spoken of,—
“Whither goes this woman with her bare600 lips;
Hastening hither indeed (in that state).”
(Round it revolves!) [71]
It is done! it is tattooed!
(Soon it is ended!)
Give hither quietly thy chin to be imprinted;
(Nimbly the hand moves!)
For thy going to the houses of the single men;
Lest these ill words should be said;—
“Whither goes this woman with her red chin;
Who is coming this way?”601

Note.—All those separate lines within parentheses, run thus in the original, “Pirori e” and the great difficulty is, to know what was really meant by that word or phrase. Pirori (as I showed in a recent paper)602 is the name of the curious wimble or drill, of the old Maoris, with which they perforated the hard greenstone; and is used, as a verb, of the making of the drill revolve quickly; also, of the setting a hoop, or a ball, rolling, with a quick jumping or hopping motion; and also (formerly by old Maoris), of a European writing quickly, or shading with black-lead pencil, as in drawing. I am inclined to believe that the word was used here partly in a semi-humorous and partly in a cheering sense; to divert their attention, and to assure them the puncturing operation, always painful, would be soon over. And in this view of it I am also borne out by several old Maoris with whom I have conversed on this subject. Nevertheless I cannot help thinking there is still something more (after their fashion) concealed in the short pithy phrase. In their beautiful and expressive language, so full of natural and truthful metaphor, especially in all matters referring to a young female,603—there is a proverbial comparison for a woman’s lips when well tattooed; such are said to resemble a rori (Parmophorus australis); the plump black smooth and glossy mantle of this shell-fish appearing, when living, its whole length on both sides from under its narrow back shell, and turning up and enveloping its sides, no doubt originated the proverb; and pi being the general name for the young of birds and small animals,—the whole sentence may have been intended to remind the person operated on of that (in their estimation) pleasing natural simile—“Pirori!”=Beautiful as the black young rori! (by keeping quiet).


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