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

(6.) Of their dark and sombre colours, not black

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(6.) Of their dark and sombre colours, not black.

Of natural ones, they distinguished at a distance the heavy dark-green of the clumps or thickets of some trees, such as karaka, mataii, etc., and correctly named them: also, of their dark-coloured, edible fruits, when ripening, high up on their topmost branches, as of the mataii pine (Podocarpus spicata),—so as to save themselves the trouble of a high, dangerous, and always disagreeable climbing, to examine them. The peculiar black-blue colour of the sky on certain nights, dependent on the state of the atmosphere; also its colour at various times of the night; and particularly the two dark pear-shaped spaces in the Milky Way, near Centaurus and the Southern Cross (called Coal-sacks by the early navigators); also of the ever-varying storm-clouds, for which they had more than 40 names; and the dark colour of the sea, in calm weather, over rocky shoals, and in deep holes off the coast; the slight shades of difference between the colours of their own dark hair; the difference between the colours of several dark-plumaged birds closely allied, as of various shags and gulls, and also of some forest birds; the difference between the varying blue-black and brown-black colours of the backs of several of the larger sea-fishes and of eels; and were particularly knowing in the matter of dark-green749 coloured “sun-burnt” potatoes, some [60] kinds or intensities of which they preferred for seed. They knew at sight the difference in the colour of blood recently and some time shed; and, also, from the hue of the rich purple juice of the fruit of the tutu shrub, (when hospitably set before them in open calabashes in travelling in the summer season), they perceived at a glance whether it was freshly made (when it was highly esteemed), or whether it had stood a day or two; and they accurately determined the age of severe bruises on the human body from the difference in their colour. From a great distance off they knew what was burning by the colour of its smoke, whether arising from dry or green fuel, whether from swamp, or plain, or forest vegetation; and they also knew from the colour of soot what it had been obtained from:—this last was formerly a matter of great importance to them in the business of tattooing.

Of colours of this class artificially produced were the dark-red dyes of various shades obtained from the bark of the tanekaha (and toatoa) tree (Phyllocladus trichomanoides), used in dyeing yarns for the decorated borders of their best flax garments, and in staining their superior furniture, walking-sticks, etc., etc.

(7.) Of their black colours.

Of all their artificial colours, black was the one which they knew how to make and impart to perfection. This colour they had naturally around them,—in the mineral, the vegetable and the animal kingdoms; in the first in coal, and in the black oxide of manganese, and in many species of rocks, as in obsidian and basalt; in vegetables in the common Fungi of the forest,—as Antennaria, Capnodum, etc., which sometimes completely covers the trunk of a large tree, and gave rise to strange tales and fancies; and in the animal kingdom, in the plumage of some birds,—as of the tuii, the tieke, the huia, the torea, the kawau, and the back of the pukeko; in the flesh of the shell-fish paua, and of the rori; and in the black internal skin (lining mouth and abdomen) of several fishes,—as the mackerel, herring, mullet, etc.

In their own peculiar artificial dyes of black, of various shades of intensity, used for dyeing garments, etc., they have never been surpassed; some of their black dyes being strikingly deep, pure, brilliant, and lasting. All their earlier European visitors were astonished at the intensity of this colour used as a dye among them. For dyeing black their flax threads yarns and garments, dressed and undressed, and also their whole big garments (thick cloaks) made of the fibres of the toii (Cordyline indivisa), they generally used (as is now well-known) the barks of two closely allied trees, hinau and pokaka (Elœocarpus dentatus, and E. hookerianus), with a mordaunt composed of aluminous clay; they also used the bark of the [61] tutu shrub (Coriaria ruscifolia) to obtain a blue-black, which was sometimes used for fancy and ornamental work,—as in weaving graceful little baskets, etc., for a first-born or beloved child,—it had a very peculiar hue; and for the purpose of body-tattooing they used various kinds of charcoal, both animal and vegetable, obtained from several peculiar sources, and manufactured in a highly curious manner with much labour and skill. For colouring black their narrow and thin wooden slips, or carefully prepared laths of totara wood,—with which they plentifully ornamented the interior panels on the walls of their chiefs’ houses, in order to set off to advantage the white and yellow filagree work interlaced thereon to regular patterns, as well as the lighter yellow reeds beneath,—they passed the laths one by one repeatedly and quickly through a fire, partly charring the outside, until they had made them of the proper hue; this done the slips were well rubbed and made quite clean and glossy, and fixed in their places.

(8.) Of their sober neutral colours neither dark nor light.

These, composed of various shades and of nearly all colours, they knew well, both naturally and artificially. It was in this particular portion of their discriminating knowledge of the shades of colours, that I early felt the more deeply interested, and often indeed proved their correct descriptions of them, with no small degree of astonishment; for by it I was not unfrequently led, in my early botanizing, to note down and to obtain some new plants or varieties of plants. Even while writing this, I well recollect their statements to me (40 years ago and more), concerning certain plants,—as various species of rushes and of sedges, of scented Hepaticœ, of river Confervœ, and of sea-weeds, and particularly of a Chara, and of a curiously-coloured species of Conferva (possessing a steel-blue cast of colour), which I was led to seek in out-of-the-way holes, through casually hearing from an old woman of their different shades of colour. Hence, too, they discriminated between the different sorts of kumara, and of taro, when the plants were young and growing, by the hue of their leaves (and also of the various kinds of potatoe), and that when travelling along by the plantations, outside of the fence. Also, the varieties of New Zealand flax (Phormium), more than fifty in number, were detected by the hue of their leaves,—all being alike green, yet all slightly differing in the shade of that colour, and only three or four of them (at most) in the shape and size of their leaves. I have sometimes been amused, when travelling, in hearing the descriptive remarks (among others) which would arise from my party, on the baskets of cooked potatoes being placed before them, kindly yet hurriedly boiled on their arrival at a village. On the top of each basket, according to custom, was placed a handful of boiled greens (of sow-thistle tops, or of wild cabbage-sprouts), of such as [62] were at hand; and the remarks would arise simply from the difference in the colour of the greens,—some being well-done, and some (hurriedly) half-done; some freshly gathered, and some stale; the food having been quickly cooked for them by two or three different persons; the little baskets severally brought in; and, according to etiquette, none touched until all were in and placed (as, indeed, with us). It was owing to this finely-developed faculty that they knew so well, and from a distance, whether the annual summer luxuries obtained from the female flowers of the kiekie plant, and from the pollen of the raupo, were in season, and ready for collecting or not,—through the slight change in the green of the tips of their leaves,—and so saved themselves the labour of climbing, etc., purposely to ascertain.

And here I may mention another little botanical incident, which indeed not unfrequently occurred in our deep forest travelling. And to those present who may have travelled through, or even only entered into, an uncleared standing New Zealand forest in all its pristine glory, such a relation may almost seem marvellous. In those umbrageous forests the large trees are generally completely covered with all manner of plants growing thickly on their trunks and branches, as freely, or even more so, than if on the ground beneath. And there, sometimes, nestling among them, yet far away, high up, would be a rare fern or Lycopodium, or some small epiphytical shrub, as Pittosporum cornifolium, or a Loranthus, or a Viscum, or a still smaller plant of Peperomia; and yet all those (and many more) were severally made known to us below by their slight difference in hue; and so, through the quick and fine discernment of my Maori friends, I sometimes gained some desirable specimens. The obtaining of one such I would more particularly relate, as it is an excellent example of what I have just mentioned, and one never to be forgotten by me. It was my discovery (at the north, in 1841), of that rare pine, manoao (Dacrydium colensoi, Hook.). I had heard of it from the old Maoris, but none had seen one for several years, as they grew singly in the dense forests, and the young Maoris did not even know it! On one occasion, however, when travelling through the trackless forest near the coast between the Bay of Islands and Whangarei, we (or rather one elderly Maori then with me) kept a look-out for it. Now this “pine” in its foliage, etc., closely resembled some others of the class,—as the kahikatea, the rimu, etc.,—especially when at the distance of the top of a high tree, but the keen eye of the old Maori detected it at last (though I, and the other younger Maoris with me, could not make out any difference, owing to the distance). And then, for my pocket-knife, he undertook the ugly job of climbing the tree, and breaking off a branch for me. In this case it was more the peculiar shade of green of the foliage, though distant, than anything else [63] that distinguished the tree in his sight; the fruit of this species being very small and concealed, and not at all showy. Specimens from that branch I subsequently sent to Sir W.J. Hooker, and they were described by him with a drawing.750

It always seemed (to me) as if the old Maoris had a peculiar natural inclination, or bias, towards what I have called neutral colours. This, I thought, was shown,—(1.) in their sometimes choosing to line their large public reception houses with the small, light-brown, narrow stalks of the common fern (Pteris esculenta), all cut to one length, and placed horizontally and closely, and built up, or interlaced together, in separate panels between the pilasters of the building, with a very great deal of care and trouble:—(2.) again, in their sometimes preferring to line the roofs of their dwelling-houses and kumara-stores (i.e. the first layer of thatch placed upon the white rafters), with the large green fronds of the nikau palm (Areca sapida), which were regularly placed on while fresh, and their long narrow pinnate leaflets neatly interlaced; these, which were green at first, soon became of a uniform dark-brown colour on drying, serving remarkably well to set off to advantage the light-coloured rafters of kauri, or of tawa wood. This manner of roofing, chiefly obtained at the north, among the Ngapuhi tribe, where the totara timber was not so common as at the south:—(3.) in their dingy-looking kiwi-feather cloaks, and in their common, slightly-coloured, (dyed) flaxen ones:—(4.) in the brown parrot, and dark pigeon plumes, used largely for their war-canoes:—(5.) in the women wearing around their necks little satchets composed of the finely-mottled neutral plumage of the whio duck (Hymenolaimus malacorhynchus), and of the elegantly flecked, or pencilled, back plumage of the male putangitangi or paradise duck (Casarca variegata):—and (6) in their, sometimes, only lightly dyeing their prepared strips of undressed flax for their fancy baskets, so as to become of a dark dove, or drab, or even a light slate-colour; and then, in weaving them, to form many kinds of regular chequered patterns, by ingeniously turning sides to the said strips in the weaving; giving the whole, when finished, somewhat of a damasked, or mosaic, appearance, owing to the difference of the reflection in the hues of the one colour, arising from the more glossy upper skin of the flax-leaf regularly interwoven contrasted with the duller appearance of the under and slightly scraped surface of the same; hence, too, it was, that the skilled old lady-weavers were always mightily pleased with the in-woven damasked pattern of a common unbleached linen table-cloth:—and, also, (7) in their pleasingly weaving together the undressed leaves of widely different fibrous plants—as of New Zealand flax (Phormium), of [64] Astelia (sp.), of kiekie, and of pingao,—collected from opposite and distant habitats;—some from the deep forests (climbing the highest trees), some from sandy dunes and sea shores, some from cliffs, and some from marshes; and all torn into regular-sized shreds, and dried, and woven in various patterns, into one basket! often causing it to possess a very agreeable appearance from the various hues of colour; though, sometimes, the difference in the colour of some of the strands obtained from various plants was so slight as not to be readily distinguished at first sight by the eye of a stranger,—not without inclining the basket at its proper angle towards the light so as to reflect it.

(9.) Of their striking, contrast, and gaudy colours.

These, though various and often contrary, yet not many in number, I have taken together; and that because they may all (as formerly used by the old Maoris) be well included under the one term of striking; i.e., immediately catching the eye and arresting attention.

And here their red colour, in its various shades of richness and depth, must take a first place. In nature around them, they saw plenty of a red colour,—in the rainbow, and in the gorgeous hues of the clouds at sunset; in some of their birds,—as in the red beaks and feet of the pigeon, the oyster-catcher, and the blue swamp-hen, and in the red feathers of the large parrot, and on the heads of the two species of parrakeet; in their fish,—as the red gurnard, the snapper, and the crayfish; in many of their seaweeds; and in the flowers and small fruits of several trees and shrubs. All those reds differed in hue, etc., from carmine to vermillion, and from bright light- to dull dark-red.

Red, as already observed, was one of their national colours; yet, its use was, in a measure, limited; and this, I think, is to be attributed to its having been originally deemed a sacred (tapu) colour; which, in connection with their cosmogony, very likely first arose from observing the brightest colour of the rainbow (also a personage), and of the heavens at sunset, and sometimes preceding sunrise. They used this colour in its mineral state only extensively and commonly for their war-canoes, their chiefs’ private and their village big reception-houses, their kumara storehouses and the large carved images on the outer fences of their pas (towns and forts), for their grave fences and monuments, and for their boundary and other raised cut commemoration posts: all of which were more or less public and superior matters. This mineral colour was also used, both by male and female chiefs, for ornamenting or staining their persons, and also their clothing mats, especially on great public occasions and times of ceremony. To obtain this mineral red colour cost them much patient labour and no [65] small amount of skill in its preparation; as all the several varieties of it were only found deposited in very small quantities, whether in the still and slow-running waters, or in the earth; or deposited as minute crystals and rust-like dust between small layers of shale in some dry cliffs. To relate the several long and tedious processes of collecting, roasting, or baking, etc., etc., though highly interesting, would take up many pages. And this toil was not unfrequently increased through their not at first obtaining the true shade of red they wished for, hence they patiently repeated their work. Those various hues of red colour all bore different names; the brightest and purest was very highly prized. Notwithstanding, they never adorned their hair with red flowers, or with red feathers751 from their birds; these latter (obtained from the abdomen and under the wings of the big parrot), were used by them to decorate the heads of their staffs of state (hani and taiaha), for which purpose they were neatly woven into, or stitched on to, a bit of flaxen cloth woven expressly for that purpose.

And here it may be remarked, that on the early coming to New Zealand of Europeans (before the establishment of the colony), and their trading with the Maoris, they did not care to select red wares, save in the matter of red worsted cravats, and red sealing-wax; the former they generally unravelled to weave it into the borders, etc., of their best flax clothing-mats, and the latter they used as a base for the fang of the shark’s white tooth which the chiefs usually wore suspended in their ears; and, also, further to ornament the four mother-of-pearl eyes of their carved staffs of state (supra). Subsequently, however, when red articles of clothing both woollen and cotton were brought for sale, and (for a time) became more eagerly sought after, the Maoris could not be deceived with the cheaper common dull red handkerchiefs, though stouter in quality, instead of the brighter Turkey-red ones. [66]

It was owing to their quick and correct perception of the several hues of red that they often saved themselves from loss and disaster, and from much extra and dangerous labour. As, for instance, in their knowing from the peculiar red of the clouds and sky before sunrise of the coming change in the weather, and so postponed their deep-sea fishing, or voyage by sea, and sometimes their journey also by land; as they always commenced their expeditions very early in the morning: and, just so, again, at sunset, they knew by the red hue of the clouds, etc., what weather was at hand, and if stormy, then they drew up their canoes, and collected their nets, and arranged their matters accordingly. Indeed, a whole paper might be written on their descriptive powers and opinions concerning the colours of the clouds, their changes, and their portents, and the speedy alterations in the approaching wind and weather (exclusive of their many superstitious notions), of all which they had evidently made a long natural and useful study, in which their remarkably tenacious memory assisted them greatly; every variety in colour (as well as of form, though in a much less degree), was critically scanned, and bore its own proper name. For my part, I confess, I never could learn those nice differences; though I had always found the old Maoris to be correct in their weather prognostications. Also, in the climbing of the high white pine (kahikatea), totara and rimu trees in the forests, to obtain their fruit (a work always attended with more or less of danger), for they readily discerned from below whether the fruits were quite ripe, though very small, from their shade of red colour; and so with the karaka, poroporo, kawakawa, rohutu, kohia, and other fruits, which are orange-coloured when fully ripe. This last, being a high-climber, was only found bearing fruit on the tops of their highest trees; from its seeds they obtained one of their choicest anointing oils. And here, in speaking of orange-colours, I may also mention the discussions I have known among the old Maoris relative to the proper hue or colour of the wattles of some of their birds (e.g. the huia, and the kokako), which led me to believe that their wattles varied in the intensity of their colour owing to the season of the year, or that those of the male birds were of a different shade of orange from those of the females.

The various sorts of the red-skinned kumara tubers,752—light-red, dark-red, purple-red, reddish, etc.,—were also all well-known and accurately distinguished. Their experienced eye also saw, at a glance, the difference in the two shades of red exhibited in the flower and the fruit of the puriri tree (Vitex littoralis), and accurately described them. And the planet Mars [67] was also distinguished by the old Maoris from the other planets and stars by its redness. Hence, too, they very quickly detected the alteration in the colour of the face and of the eyes,753 arising from bashfulness, apprehensiveness, or shame, or from concealed vexation or open anger; and not unfrequently plainly told the actor or sufferer of it! to his, or her, further vexation and discomfiture.

Blue was another colour which the women and young men sometimes used with striking effect for ornamenting their faces, necks, and arms; this colour they obtained from two sources, one mineral and one vegetable, but it was very scarce. The mineral, in the state of a fine clay or powder, was but rarely found at the north, and then by chance, in some cold swampy grounds having a clay subsoil, and there only occasionally, adhering in small quantities to the roots of some cyperaceous plants; when pure it was of a most beautiful hue of blue (ultramarine); the only indigenous natural productions known to me at all resembling it in colour, were the lovely blue berry of Dianella intermedia (when in perfection); the blue tints of a living Medusa (Physalis pelagica?—“Portuguese-man-of-war”) often found on our outer sandy beaches in the summer season; and a portion of the blue plumage of the kingfisher; this colour was a still more brilliant blue than the breast of the swamp hen (Porphyrio). In the early summer season the youths of both sexes ornamented their faces with the light-blue pollen of the Fuchsia flowers,—much, indeed, as they also did with the orange pollen of the New Zealand flax, but this latter was not sought out purposely for face decoration as the former one was, but used, or accidentally smeared, in their sucking the honey-like liquid from the perianths of the flax. Of pure blue colours, however, the Maoris had but few naturally, save in the sky754 and (at times) the changeable sea; in the breast plumage of the swamp [68] hen, the little blue penguin755 (Eudyptula, sp.), and the kingfisher; in the mackerel, in a Medusa (common on the sandy sea-shores in summer) and in a few marine shells both uni- and bi-valve; and in two or three inconspicuous flowers of small plants, as Wahlenbergia and Teucridium; Colensoa also bears a blue flower, which is by far the largest of them all, but it is very local and scarce, being only found in a few spots between Whangaroa and the North Cape. Sometimes, though rarely, a chief would wear a portion of the blue plumage of the swamp hen dangling in his ear as an ornament.

I should also observe, that although (as I have shown) the old Maoris had but little of blue colours of their own which they could use, yet on their early becoming acquainted with Europeans—whether resident among them as missionaries, or merely as visitors in the numerous ships which visited their shores,—no colour was better known to them in all its shades than this one of blue. In the ships and vessels—both of the Royal Navy and merchant line—there were the blue jackets, blue shirts, blue trousers, and blue caps! while with the Mission from the beginning, blue was the common and, indeed, almost the only colour used in the female and infant schools, and in the Mission houses and premises, by the numerous female domestics,—all alike were clad in blue, both on Sundays and on week-days. “Navy-blue” cotton prints (dark blue with minute white dots) for the children, and blue linen for the women, and blue woollen shirts, and blue-striped cotton shirts (and sometimes blue caps) for the men; and afterwards (say 40–45 years ago), when the American whalers largely and frequently visited New Zealand (Bay of Islands), they brought their wares for trade, and many useful lots were from time to time purchased from them for the general use of the Mission; and among those goods were the twilled cotton shirt with a much wider blue stripe, and the famed American blue twilled cotton; this last was much stouter and stronger than the thin “navy-blue” cotton print of English manufacture (being made among the cotton-growing plantations, and, I believe, originally, for the use of the coloured slaves there), and was also much warmer than both that and the English blue linen, and more easily worked than this latter, apart from its being very much cheaper; therefore, this new blue article also got largely into use. Its colour, however, was very different from that of the “Navy blue” print, of the dark blue linen, and of the blue woollen shirts, being [69] much lighter, and when it was washed it became lighter still in its colour! Hence soon arose a great number of names among the Maoris for all those different shades and hues of blue. Possibly there might have been a dozen or more of Maori names to indicate these several varieties of blue colour, newly introduced. And while it was a neat sight to see all the children, and all the adult women, sitting together at school, etc., clad alike in decent garments of English blue, which stood washing well and kept its colour, it was strangely different afterwards to note the contrasts in the several colours and hues of blue; for the American twilled blue cotton after a few washings became of a dull greyish-blue colour, and was then known among the Maoris as the “tupapaku” (corpse) from its faded dead appearance. And so, also, the Maoris in the villages, in their visiting the several stores to sell their produce, and seeking blue cloths and garments, could not be deceived as to their shades of colour, neither as to their durability; just as I have already shown (supra) in the matter of the red handkerchiefs. But all those several colours of blue, each bearing a distinct name among them, were shut up by the European under the one horrid term of puuru—blue! which, like several other words, mispronunciations of common English terms, inevitably became fixed, and drove the pure Maori equivalents—figurative and comparative—out of the philological field! It is well known to the oldest residents, that had it not been for the many books published in generally pure Maori by the Mission Press, and extensively circulated among the Maoris at an early period,—and the determination of the missionaries generally (at least of all those who knew Maori well), never to use or to encourage the use of such mis-shapen English,—the language would have completely deteriorated, and that very rapidly, becoming a wretched unmeaning and mixed patois. Above I have merely remarked on the corruption of one word for colour—blue; but I have also (especially at the north) heard too often such words as paraki—black, rari—red, karini—green, waiti—white, etc., used among the Maoris themselves, instead of their own far better and more intelligible words for those well-known and common colours!

Another little early incident,—or series of them,—which frequently occurred before New Zealand became a colony, and which also serves further to illustrate what I have already related, as to their correct knowledge of blue and other gaudy colours, is the following:—Large coloured prints (too often mere daubs) of Scriptural and other subjects, were from time to time kindly sent out from England for the Mission Infant Schools; in the close examination of those coloured prints the Maori adults were as much interested as the children, or more so. And here, while they were often “at sea” as to many of the forms drawn in those pictures (the same [70] being wholly new), they were never wrong as to the colours of the robes, etc., in which blues, greens, yellows, and reds, often predominated; these they always settled to a nicety of description of their peculiar hues, and mostly by exact comparison, although to do so, occasionally took them some little time.

It was mainly in this figurative manner, and by way of semblance and likeness, that the Maoris of my early days in New Zealand (following out the long-established habits and customs of their forefathers) could receive and communicate knowledge among themselves; and happy was that missionary or teacher, who could empty himself, as it were, of his foreign ideas and ways, and thus go with them after their manner in seeking to impart truth: all such always found willing hearers. Ideas must be given through something; and the old Maoris could only receive teaching in and through modes of thought that were natural to them. For it is not the mere use of terms, but the sense in which they are used and received that must be considered. It is a fallacy, though both a natural and a common one (and one into which Mr. Stack in his paper has fallen) to confuse the image with the thing signified, like mistaking the colour of a substance for its true nature; but the old Maoris always steered clear of this.

But, after all,—though they so well and so clearly distinguished the many natural hues of red and of orange, of blue and of green, and of all gaudy colours,—perhaps their really chief forte, their strict national taste, in this line was shown, in the using and displaying to advantage the more striking contrast colours,—the contraries of white and of black. This was everywhere among them singularly exhibited, particularly in their clothing and in their dress ornaments. In this particular I never heard or read of any uncultured nation that ever approached them. Hence, when first visited, their best dogskin garments, strongly lined with woven cloth of flax, were composed of small white and black squares of dogskin with the hair on, laboriously and firmly sewn together;756 much like the regular pattern of one of our chess-boards, only on a larger scale. And so, following out the same severely chaste taste, they often trimmed and adorned their best bleached white flax dress-mats, covering them all over with black hanging strings and tassels set on at regular distances, and with a deep border of thick black fringe,—each separate cord or strand finely twisted by the hand. And just so it was in that other elegant dress-mat of theirs, the korirangi (large variegated shoulder-mantle, or tippet), in which the numerous larger hanging tassels with which the garment was closely [71] covered were all severally and regularly annulated, and made of alternate black and white (or black and yellow) chequer-work. Each of those dressmats, made after the fashion above described, took a long time to manufacture.

The same taste was also observable in their smaller personal ornaments;—in the pure white natural plumes of the white heron, and in the long white semi-transparent muslin-like epidermis of the mountain tikumu plant, and in the artificially-scraped and bleached white inner rind of the paper mulberry, for their black hair; in the snowy-white tufts of the down of the albatross and of the gannet for their ears, to set off the more strikingly the black lines of tattooing in their cheeks. And so with their other highly prized head ornaments, namely, the long black tail-feathers of the huia bird tipped with white; and the skin of the dark-plumaged tuii (or parson-bird), with its strikingly-contrasted hanging white neck-feathers suspended in their ears; and also the shark’s white tooth (mako), for which, as a contrast, they early sought a yard of black silk shoe-ribbon: this last addition of a black ribbon, was, of course, a more modern one; but it was entirely in keeping with their national taste before it became debased and vitiated;—and in no case did I ever once detect a Maori wearing a red or gaudy-coloured ribbon to suspend his white ear-pendant of shark’s tooth.

Before, however, I quit this part of my subject (having brought prominently forward their dresses made out of their white and black dogskins), I would also briefly remark, that although I have seen very many of their old and ancient carved and ornamented staffs of rank, they were all hung and decorated with white hair only, obtained from the flowing tails of their white dogs; and I never saw, or heard, of such a staff being so ornamented with the hair of the tails of their black dogs. And this could only have arisen as a matter of similar general taste; the white hair, when new, being a much greater contrast to the carved dark and stained wood of the staff, than the black hair could be.

I have shown how greatly the old Maoris loved a pure white colour, and to what great pains, and even dangers, they went in order to secure ornaments, etc., possessing it in its purity. Some of our early settlers will also recollect how very much the Maoris of 25–30 years back (before they generally adopted European garments) preferred pure white calico sheets as open flowing garments for summer wear, for adults as well as for children. And not a few of our colonists (possibly some of my audience here this evening), who have travelled with Maoris, or who may have fallen-in with them in travelling, will have noticed how very quickly the [72] Maori has descried something at a great distance,—something white, or whitish, or, at all events, of a lighter colour than its environment; whether a distant sail at sea,—or a slip of earth or spot in a far-off cliff,—or a patch of snow on the mountain’s crest,—or a white-breasted pigeon high up in a tree,—or a gull flying over the sea,—or a settler’s house, or even a sheep in the distance;—how readily his eye had caught the object, and that entirely owing to its light or white colour. Now this is quite in keeping with our latest scientific investigation concerning what is known as “colour-blindness” and serves to show, to establish, a priori, how very free the Maoris must have been from all such infirmity. Indeed, for my part, and separate from my experience and experiments among them, I cannot perceive how the old Maoris were to live if such a failing ever existed, seeing that so very much in their daily life depended on their faculty of clear, correct and distant sight. Neither can I bring myself to believe that any such imperfection ever pertained to man in a state of nature.

I find that Mr. Brudenell Carter, F.R.C.S., has lately been giving a series of Cantor lectures at the Society of Arts on colour-blindness; and, among other things, he clearly showed and explained how “that the appearance of the world to the colour-blind must be less bright, less luminous, than to the colour-sighted; and that the appearance of whiteness, as familiar to the latter, must be unknown to the former. Whiteness is the result of the blending of the three primary colours of the spectrum in correct proportions, and the colour-blind, who perceive only two of these primaries, and can consequently only blend two, must see white surfaces as if their colour were compounded of red and violet, of green and violet, or of red and green, according to the primary which was wanting from the perception of the individual.”

But I must close.

Wishing to do justice to my subject, my paper is more diffuse and anecdotical, and at the same time longer, than I had originally intended. I fear, moreover, that, in a few instances, I may at first sight seem to be a little tautological. But when I considered, on the one hand, what Mr. Stack had painfully endeavoured to establish (as against the old Maoris’ superior natural faculties, and especially their knowledge of colours),—and, on the other hand, my own long and varied experience to the direct contrary, it seemed to me that I had no alternative left, if I wished the truth to be known concerning them, but to state what I knew, and to supplement the same with a few facts in support thereof; which, if I did not thus make known, would in all probability die with me. [73]

I will conclude this paper with an excellent observation by the celebrated Professor Owen:—“Past experience of the chance aims of human fancy, unchecked and unguided by observed facts, shows how widely they have ever glanced away from the gold centre of truth.”757

A Paradigm of the word Whero, one of the (several) Maori terms for the red colour.

“It is said, that the New Zealander’s perception of colours was defective and weak; this, however, is a mistake. Their colours were mainly divided into three distinctive classes,—white, black, and red;—but they were never at a loss clearly to express all colours. They used them, much as an English mariner uses the four names of the principal winds and points of the compass, repeated and involved to make 32, only much more expressively; as they also used with them several adjectives, increasing or lessening the meaning; also the words themselves reduplicated as diminutives. Besides which, if a New Zealander wished to convey to another a very exact idea of any colour intended, he would mention that of some natural object which was of the same shade of colour,” etc., etc. (W.C. “Essay on the Maori Races,” § 33, Vol. I., Trans. N.Z. Inst.)

Whero = red.758

I. Ascending: intensifying.

(Indicating, pure, clear, strong, brilliant, and lasting red colours.)
Tino kowhero.
Tino whero.
Tino whero rawa.
Whero nui.
Whero nui rawa.
Whero nui whakaharahara.
Tino whero nui rawa.
Tino whero nui rawa whakaharahara.
Tona whero i whero ai.
Tino whero whakawhero.
Katahi te tino whero.
Katahi te mea i tino pai tona whero. [74]
Koia rawa
Koia kau

te nui o te whero!

te pai o te whero!
te kaha o te whero!
te ataabua o te whero!
te ahua pai o tona whero!
te tuahua pai o tona whero!
Tino whero rawa, anana!

Whero kita.

Whero kitakita.
Whero whakamoe kanohi.
Whero whakakorekoreko kanohi.

II. Descending: lessening.

(1. Lighter, but fair reds.)

(2. Fainter, but having more or less of red and pink hues.)

Maa-whero maa-whero.
E iti ana tona whero.
E iti ana tona wherowhero.
E itiiti ana tona whero.
Maa-wherowhero tu-a-whakamaa ake.
Maa-wherowhero ake.
Maa-wherowhero iho.
Maa-tu-a-wherowhero iho.
Maa-tu-a-whewhero iho.
Ahua whero noa iho. [75]
Ahua whakawhero noa.
Ahua wherowhero noa iho.
Tu-ahua wherowhero noa iho haere ake ki te maa.
Tona whero, he wherowhero noa iho otira ahua whakawhero ake.
Ata wherowhero.
Tona ata e ahua wherowhero ana.

(3. Dark-red, red-brown, etc.)

Whero ahua pouri.
Whero ahua whakapouri.
maarama tona whero.

(4. Faded red colour.)

Whero haamaa.
Wherowhero haamaa.
Whero tupapaku.
Wherowhero tupapaku.
Whero kua kore.

(5. Ugly, disagreeable, bad, red colours.)

Whero kino.
Whero kinokino.
Wherowhero kino.
Wherowhero kinokino.
He whero ano ra, otira he whero tu-ahua kino.
Whero marutuna.
etc., etc. [76]

To most, if not all, of those terms and idiomatic phrases (of which many others could be readily furnished) for the various natural colours of red, would be added the thing possessing that particular hue of red in the estimation of the speaker; who would also aim to be correct, otherwise his comparison, or simile, would be sure to be ventilated and roughly handled. Such was generally given with the comparative particle me (like: just as) preceding the noun: as,—tino whero, me te pua raataa = of a deep red, like the flowers of the raataa tree: whero, me he koura = red, just as a crawfish: whero, me he toto pango = red, like black (or old) blood. There were also several other modes of drawing the comparison.

Of those examples I have given above, I have repeatedly heard a very large number of them used.


1881 Description of two little-known Species of New Zealand Shells. Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 14: 168-169.

[Read before the Hawke’s Bay Philosophical Institute, 14th November, 1881.]

Although just forty years have passed since I first detected and made known these two shells, one marine and one fresh-water, which I now bring before you, I have good reasons for believing they are still but little known. Their scientific description, etc., was early published in the “Tasmanian Journal of Natural Science,”760 but I do not find them noticed in any of the modern conchological works in our library, under my own or any other specific names; neither are they included in the exhaustive “List of New Zealand Mollusca,” recently laboriously compiled from almost all conchological authorities by Professor Hutton, and published last year by the New Zealand Government. I therefore conclude that they are still but little known. This, however, may be easily accounted for, if, as I suppose, the single localities in which I separately found them are their only known habitats; as such are quite out of the way of both the scientific and general traveller; and although I sought them diligently in my early and general collecting of the shells of this country, I never met with these species anywhere else. At the time, however, of their discovery, I distributed several specimens to various parts of the world.

You will not fail to note, in examining the specimens before you, how exceedingly well they have kept both their original colours and freshness of epidermis, more resembling specimens newly obtained, than those of forty years slumbering in a cabinet. In again giving their scientific description, I shall, on account of conformity, confine myself to the terms I used in the original drawing up, although at that very early period without scientific books.

Genus Patella.

Patella solandri:761 Shell oval, anteriorly truncated, much depressed, faintly striated longitudinally, diaphanous, fragile, covered with a thin epidermis; inside, smooth, glossy; vertex, very much anteriorly inclined, sub-acute, produced, slightly recurved; margin, entire, obsoletely crenulated within; colour, bluish green, concentrically streaked with brown, beautifully blotched, or tortuously undulated, with same colour towards margin; 5–7 lines long, 4–5 lines broad.

Hab. Adhering to the underside of large smooth stones; Tokomaru (Tegadoo) Bay, East Coast, North Island of New Zealand. [169]
Genus Unio.

Unio waikarense.762 Shell, oblong, or oblong-ovate, concentrically and irregularly sulcated, sub-diaphanous, inflated; anterior side produced, obtuse, slightly compressed; posterior slope, keeled, sharp: base, slightly depressed; umbones, decorticated, flattish, much worn; primary tooth, large crested; epidermis, strong, overlapping at margin, wrinkled on anterior slope; colour, brownish-yellow on posterior side, shading into dusky-green on the anterior, with alternate light-coloured lateral stripes; 3½ inches broad, 2¼ inches long.

Hab. Waikare Lake, mountains, interior of the North Island of New Zealand.

The largest and handsomest of all the known New Zealand species of the genus.

1881 On some new and undescribed Species of New Zealand Insects, of the Orders Orthoptera and Coleoptera.
Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 14: 277-282.

[Read before the Hawke’s Bay, Philosophical Institute, 8th November, 1880.]


Fam. Mantidæ Genus Mantis
Mantis novæ-zealandiæ763 n. sp

Pronotum five lines long, anterior end widest, ridged down the middle minutely tuberculated all over in scattered dots, punctulate, punctures translucent when viewed between eye and light, side-margins rough finely sub-serrulate, edge straight sloping gradually to mesonotum. Anterior pair of legs: trochanter very slightly serrulate at margins; femur two rows of spines of irregular lengths, inner row small and closely set, outer four only large and distant, a large purple oval or kidney-shaped spot central within; tibia two rows of spines, regular, ending in one very long curved one at base; tarsus long; costæ of the anterior wings (elytra), one to each, run longitudinally parallel with and near the outer margin, with transverse flexuose nerves branching inwardly and diagonally, from it, wholly filled up between them with fine anastomosing veinlets; elytra semi-transparent; posterior wings much smaller and very membraneous; wings extending far beyond base of abdomen; abdomen thick smooth Antennæ short, 3½ lines long; eyes large, two small portuberances (? stemmata) between horns and just behind them: total length from head to posterior edge of elytra 1½ inches: length of nympha 1½ inches. Colour (of both states nearly alike) mostly light emerald green; underneath, about mouth and thorax, and inside of fore-legs pale lemon; outside of legs and head (above) dark orange; a dark purple reniform spot on inside of each fore femur.

Hab.—Scinde Island, Napier, on trees (nympha state only), 1878–1879, Mr. J.A. Rearden; imago state (one specimen), 1880, Mr. J.D. Ormond.

This species has pretty close affinity with the European species M. religiosa, but it is very much smaller, with shorter horns, and less spiny and narrower fore-legs, etc. [278] During the summer of 1878–1879 I had several living specimens of this insect in its nympha state; some of them I sent to the Colonial Museum in spirit. I kept them alive for some time, although I did not succeed in finding out their natural food; one of them, however, shed its skin. I had long been on the look-out for a New Zealand species of Mantis, as we had known from Dieffenbach’s work on New Zealand (vol. ii., p. 280), that some eggs, or egg cases, of a species of Mantis had been taken to England by Dr. Sinclair nearly forty years ago, and I was consequently much gratified on receiving the perfect insect.

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