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I. THE SLAYING OF TAMATEA
IT fell in the days of old, as the men of Taiarapu tell, A youth went forth to the fishing, and fortune favoured him well.
Tamatea his name: gullible, simple, and kind, Comely of countenance, nimble of body, empty of mind, His mother ruled him and loved him beyond the wont of a wife, Serving the lad for eyes and living herself in his life.
Alone from the sea and the fishing came Tamatea the fair, Urging his boat to the beach, and the mother awaited him there, - "Long may you live!" said she. "Your fishing has sped to a wish.
And now let us choose for the king the fairest of all your fish.
For fear inhabits the palace and grudging grows in the land, Marked is the sluggardly foot and marked the niggardly hand, The hours and the miles are counted, the tributes numbered and weighed, And woe to him that comes short, and woe to him that delayed!"So spoke on the beach the mother, and counselled the wiser thing.
For Rahero stirred in the country and secretly mined the king.
Nor were the signals wanting of how the leaven wrought, In the cords of obedience loosed and the tributes grudgingly brought.
And when last to the temple of Oro the boat with the victim sped, And the priest uncovered the basket and looked on the face of the dead, Trembling fell upon all at sight of an ominous thing, For there was the aito (1) dead, and he of the house of the king.
So spake on the beach the mother, matter worthy of note, And wattled a basket well, and chose a fish from the boat;And Tamatea the pliable shouldered the basket and went, And travelled, and sang as he travelled, a lad that was well content.
Still the way of his going was round by the roaring coast, Where the ring of the reef is broke and the trades run riot the most.
On his left, with smoke as of battle, the billows battered the land;Unscalable, turreted mountains rose on the inner hand.
And cape, and village, and river, and vale, and mountain above, Each had a name in the land for men to remember and love;And never the name of a place, but lo! a song in its praise:
Ancient and unforgotten, songs of the earlier days, That the elders taught to the young, and at night, in the full of the moon, Garlanded boys and maidens sang together in tune.
Tamatea the placable went with a lingering foot;He sang as loud as a bird, he whistled hoarse as a flute;He broiled in the sun, he breathed in the grateful shadow of trees, In the icy stream of the rivers he waded over the knees;And still in his empty mind crowded, a thousand-fold, The deeds of the strong and the songs of the cunning heroes of old.
And now was he come to a place Taiarapu honoured the most, Where a silent valley of woods debouched on the noisy coast, Spewing a level river. There was a haunt of Pai. (2)There, in his potent youth, when his parents drove him to die, Honoura lived like a beast, lacking the lamp and the fire, Washed by the rains of the trade and clotting his hair in the mire;And there, so mighty his hands, he bent the tree to his foot -So keen the spur of his hunger, he plucked it naked of fruit.
There, as she pondered the clouds for the shadow of coming ills, Ahupu, the woman of song, walked on high on the hills.
Of these was Rahero sprung, a man of a godly race;And inherited cunning of spirit and beauty of body and face.
Of yore in his youth, as an aito, Rahero wandered the land, Delighting maids with his tongue, smiting men with his hand.
Famous he was in his youth; but before the midst of his life Paused, and fashioned a song of farewell to glory and strife.
HOUSE OF MINE (IT WENT), HOUSE UPON THE SEA, BELOV'D OF ALL MY FATHERS, MORE BELOV'D BY ME!
VALE OF THE STRONG HONOURA, DEEP RAVINE OF PAI, AGAIN IN YOUR WOODY SUMMITS I HEAR THE TRADE-WIND CRY.
HOUSE OF MINE, IN YOUR WALLS, STRONG SOUNDS THE SEA, OF ALL SOUNDS ON EARTH, DEAREST SOUND TO ME.
I HAVE HEARD THE APPLAUSE OF MEN, I HAVE HEARD IT ARISE AND DIE:
SWEETER NOW IN MY HOUSE I HEAR THE TRADE-WIND CRY.
These were the words of his singing, other the thought of his heart;For secret desire of glory vexed him, dwelling apart.
Lazy and crafty he was, and loved to lie in the sun, And loved the cackle of talk and the true word uttered in fun;Lazy he was, his roof was ragged, his table was lean, And the fish swam safe in his sea, and he gathered the near and the green.
He sat in his house and laughed, but he loathed the king of the land, And he uttered the grudging word under the covering hand.
Treason spread from his door; and he looked for a day to come, A day of the crowding people, a day of the summoning drum, When the vote should be taken, the king be driven forth in disgrace, And Rahero, the laughing and lazy, sit and rule in his place, Here Tamatea came, and beheld the house on the brook;And Rahero was there by the way and covered an oven to cook. (3)Naked he was to the loins, but the tattoo covered the lack, And the sun and the shadow of palms dappled his muscular back.
Swiftly he lifted his head at the fall of the coming feet, And the water sprang in his mouth with a sudden desire of meat;For he marked the basket carried, covered from flies and the sun; (4)And Rahero buried his fire, but the meat in his house was done.
Forth he stepped; and took, and delayed the boy, by the hand;And vaunted the joys of meat and the ancient ways of the land:
- "Our sires of old in Taiarapu, they that created the race, Ate ever with eager hand, nor regarded season or place, Ate in the boat at the oar, on the way afoot; and at night Arose in the midst of dreams to rummage the house for a bite.
It is good for the youth in his turn to follow the way of the sire;And behold how fitting the time! for here do I cover my fire."- "I see the fire for the cooking but never the meat to cook,"Said Tamatea. - "Tut!" said Rahero. "Here in the brook And there in the tumbling sea, the fishes are thick as flies, Hungry like healthy men, and like pigs for savour and size:
Crayfish crowding the river, sea-fish thronging the sea."- "Well it may be," says the other, "and yet be nothing to me.