Ballads

第2章

Fain would I eat, but alas! I have needful matter in hand, Since I carry my tribute of fish to the jealous king of the land."Now at the word a light sprang in Rahero's eyes.

"I will gain me a dinner," thought he, "and lend the king a surprise."And he took the lad by the arm, as they stood by the side of the track, And smiled, and rallied, and flattered, and pushed him forward and back.

It was "You that sing like a bird, I never have heard you sing,"And "The lads when I was a lad were none so feared of a king.

And of what account is an hour, when the heart is empty of guile?

But come, and sit in the house and laugh with the women awhile;And I will but drop my hook, and behold! the dinner made."So Tamatea the pliable hung up his fish in the shade On a tree by the side of the way; and Rahero carried him in, Smiling as smiles the fowler when flutters the bird to the gin, And chose him a shining hook, (5) and viewed it with sedulous eye, And breathed and burnished it well on the brawn of his naked thigh, And set a mat for the gull, and bade him be merry and bide, Like a man concerned for his guest, and the fishing, and nothing beside.

Now when Rahero was forth, he paused and hearkened, and heard The gull jest in the house and the women laugh at his word;And stealthily crossed to the side of the way, to the shady place Where the basket hung on a mango; and craft transfigured his face.

Deftly he opened the basket, and took of the fat of the fish, The cut of kings and chieftains, enough for a goodly dish.

This he wrapped in a leaf, set on the fire to cook And buried; and next the marred remains of the tribute he took, And doubled and packed them well, and covered the basket close - "There is a buffet, my king," quoth he, "and a nauseous dose!" -And hung the basket again in the shade, in a cloud of flies - "And there is a sauce to your dinner, king of the crafty eyes!"Soon as the oven was open, the fish smelt excellent good.

In the shade, by the house of Rahero, down they sat to their food, And cleared the leaves (6) in silence, or uttered a jest and laughed, And raising the cocoanut bowls, buried their faces and quaffed.

But chiefly in silence they ate; and soon as the meal was done, Rahero feigned to remember and measured the hour by the sun, And "Tamatea," quoth he, "it is time to be jogging, my lad."So Tamatea arose, doing ever the thing he was bade, And carelessly shouldered the basket, and kindly saluted his host;And again the way of his going was round by the roaring coast.

Long he went; and at length was aware of a pleasant green, And the stems and shadows of palms, and roofs of lodges between There sate, in the door of his palace, the king on a kingly seat, And aitos stood armed around, and the yottowas (7) sat at his feet.

But fear was a worm in his heart: fear darted his eyes;And he probed men's faces for treasons and pondered their speech for lies.

To him came Tamatea, the basket slung in his hand, And paid him the due obeisance standing as vassals stand.

In silence hearkened the king, and closed the eyes in his face, Harbouring odious thoughts and the baseless fears of the base;In silence accepted the gift and sent the giver away.

So Tamatea departed, turning his back on the day.

And lo! as the king sat brooding, a rumour rose in the crowd;The yottowas nudged and whispered, the commons murmured aloud;Tittering fell upon all at sight of the impudent thing, At the sight of a gift unroyal flung in the face of a king.

And the face of the king turned white and red with anger and shame In their midst; and the heart in his body was water and then was flame;Till of a sudden, turning, he gripped an aito hard, A youth that stood with his omare, (8) one of the daily guard, And spat in his ear a command, and pointed and uttered a name, And hid in the shade of the house his impotent anger and shame.

Now Tamatea the fool was far on the homeward way, The rising night in his face, behind him the dying day.

Rahero saw him go by, and the heart of Rahero was glad, Devising shame to the king and nowise harm to the lad;And all that dwelt by the way saw and saluted him well, For he had the face of a friend and the news of the town to tell;And pleased with the notice of folk, and pleased that his journey was done, Tamatea drew homeward, turning his back to the sun.

And now was the hour of the bath in Taiarapu: far and near The lovely laughter of bathers rose and delighted his ear.

Night massed in the valleys; the sun on the mountain coast Struck, end-long; and above the clouds embattled their host, And glowed and gloomed on the heights; and the heads of the palms were gems, And far to the rising eve extended the shade of their stems;And the shadow of Tamatea hovered already at home.

And sudden the sound of one coming and running light as the foam Struck on his ear; and he turned, and lo! a man on his track, Girded and armed with an omare, following hard at his back.

At a bound the man was upon him; - and, or ever a word was said, The loaded end of the omare fell and laid him dead.

II. THE VENGING OF TAMATEA

THUS was Rahero's treason; thus and no further it sped The king sat safe in his place and a kindly fool was dead.

But the mother of Tamatea arose with death in her eyes.

All night long, and the next, Taiarapu rang with her cries.

As when a babe in the wood turns with a chill of doubt And perceives nor home, nor friends, for the trees have closed her about, The mountain rings and her breast is torn with the voice of despair:

So the lion-like woman idly wearied the air For awhile, and pierced men's hearing in vain, and wounded their hearts.

But as when the weather changes at sea, in dangerous parts, And sudden the hurricane wrack unrolls up the front of the sky, At once the ship lies idle, the sails hang silent on high, The breath of the wind that blew is blown out like the flame of a lamp, And the silent armies of death draw near with inaudible tramp:

So sudden, the voice of her weeping ceased; in silence she rose And passed from the house of her sorrow, a woman clothed with repose, Carrying death in her breast and sharpening death with her hand.

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