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


(6.) The Cry of the little green Parrot



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(6.) The Cry of the little green Parrot.


G.P. “O, thou big brown parrot, flying away there!
Give me back here my own red feathers!” [72]

B.P.—“My red feathers are my own indeed; I fetched them from the sacred isle, Tinirau604 gave them to me.”

G.P.—“Torete, kaureke; torete, kaureke.”
“O, thou big brown parrot, still flying away there!
Tell me whither art thou flying?
Art thou flying away to Poutahi?
Art thou flying to Puke whanake?
To carry tidings away to Te Iripa?

B.P.—“Verily, I will not reply (do, or say anything) to thee.”

G.P.—“Here am I standing in the preserve, causing
Aching-legs, made by Tokoahu!
Here am I both listless and tired out. Alas!
The weary doings of the hot summer days!
Torete, kaureke; torete, kaureke!”

(See Grey’s “Poetry,” p. 74.)



Notes.—Torete, etc. This is the common cry of the green parrot, according to the Southern Maoris of the North Island, (especially when engaged in quietly talking to itself, as in confinement), hence, too, in some parts it has obtained the name of Torete.

Poutahi, etc. Those proper names may be all figurative, and used by the little bird tauntingly: Poutahi = one pole, or perch, of the big parrot, on which it too will soon be fastened.

Puke whanake = hill, or grove, of cabbage trees, (Cordyline sp.), on the fruit of which it feeds.

Te Iripa = the (one bird) hanging in a village—may mean, the mate or companion bird of the big parrot already caught and made a prisoner, and there being fettered with a cord by its leg to a pole or stick, it sometimes hangs head downwards from its perch in its useless strivings and flutterings.

I suspect this green parrot is itself a prisoner, its own last words facetiously imply as much. Its cage, “made by Tokoahu,” = lit. hot vapour:—scil., a long fellow reaching out or forth, (who hangs me up here in the hot sun), is another figurative play on words. The whole, especially when sung to its own proper tune, is very facetious, especially to a Maori.


(7.) A joyous revelling Song, Duet, or Glee, sung by the Wood Rats.


First Rat.—O, Rat, O! let us two descend (the tree).
Second Rat.—Why should we two go down below?
First Rat.—To gather up nice baits for us to eat.
Second Rat.—What are those nice baits?
First Rat.—The sweet ripe fruits of the pine trees.
Second, or Third, Rat.—Fudge! I am just come up from below, O my friends!
And down there is the fear and trembling, my friends;
The springbolt of the set snare resounds with a click! [73]
My neck is caught and held fast;
I can only then squeak, Torete! torete!
Be assured that I will not go down below,
Seeking those nice baits; alas! no, no!

A version of this song is to be found in Grey’s “Poetry of New Zealanders,” p. 234.

“The fruits of the pine trees:”—the names are given in the Maori—“miro” and “kahikatea;” Podocarpus ferruginea and Podocarpus dacrydioides; the fruits grow at the extremities of the long, lithe branchlets, so that the rats could not well get at them on the trees.

Torete!—the same word is here used in mimicry as before by the green parrot.


(8.) A Chaunt used by Children for fine Weather.


Fly, fly away, O thou kingfisher,
To the thick long-leaved plants*605 on the tree;
There snugly shelter thy wings,
Or thou wilt suffer much from the rain.
The clouds are breaking—from inland;
The clouds are breaking—from sea;
Behold a clear sky! the rain is ceasing!
The rain is all over! quite cleared is the rain!

(See Grey’s “Poetry of New Zealanders,” p. 29.)

Much longer ones for the same purpose were also used by adults, but were just as simple.

(9.) A Charm, causing Healing of Wounds, to be recited for the fresh green gourds when about to be broken-up and baked in the earth-oven. Then the woman who is baking them must say:—


The children, like them! are crying
For their nice food of green summer gourds:
The gourds are plentiful:
The seeds of the gourds are sown;
The gourds grow;
The running branches stretch out,
They grow abundantly.
Grow on, abundantly!
Be ye many;
Grow away fast;
Be ye numerous;
Grow on, become good gourds;
Be ye flourishing!

(A version of this is at p. 388, Grey’s “Poetry of New Zealanders.”) [74]


(10.) A Sentinel’s Cry, or Watch-song, at night, within the besieged fortress.


Here is the owl hooting away bravely!
He is not moving up and down on his perch;
Not he!
No, not even once uplifting his head to look about,
The thumping big head of the owl!
Not gliding away on his wings,
But staying and hooting!
Now,—It is night! it is night!
Anon,—It is day! it is day!
Open broad daylight,—Hurrah!

(Grey, loc. cit., p. 62.)

The inference from the natural actions of the undisturbed owl on the neighbouring forest-trees is,—that there is no enemy prowling near; so, sleep on; we (the owl and I) are watching.

(11.) Another Watch-song.


It is night: it is night:—
It is day: it is day:—
The moon it is breaking;
The bird it is singing;
Broad day-light is coming!
It is day! it is day!
It is broad day-light!

(Grey, loc. cit., p. 40.)

In their watch-songs, used within the fort (of which there are several, as may be supposed), there is always more or less of the coming dawn, and of its harbingers;—the wished for morning dawn,—the stars heralding the approach of the dawn;—expressed in various natural ways. Reminding one of the many not dissimilar bold and beautiful expressions in the Psalms, and in other parts of the Old Testament, re “the waking up of the morning,”—“the dawning of the morning,”—“those that wearily watch for the morning,” etc., etc.—(Psalms 30–5; 57–8; 130–6, etc.); and, also, in Ovid,—“Evocat auroram.”—Met. XI., 597.



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