There, where the broken mountain drops sheer into the glen, There shall you find a hold from the boldest hunter of men;There, in the deep recess, where the sun falls only at noon, And only once in the night enters the light of the moon, Nor ever a sound but of birds, or the rain when it falls with a shout;For death and the fear of death beleaguer the valley about.
Tapu it is, but the gods will surely pardon despair;Tapu, but what of that? If Rua can only dare.
Tapu and tapu and tapu, I know they are every one right;But the god of every tapu is not always quick to smite.
Lie secret there, my Rua, in the arms of awful gods, Sleep in the shade of the trees on the couch of the kindly sods, Sleep and dream of Taheia, Taheia will wake for you;And whenever the land wind blows and the woods are heavy with dew, Alone through the horror of night, (6) with food for the soul of her love, Taheia the undissuaded will hurry true as the dove.""Taheia, the pit of the night crawls with treacherous things, Spirits of ultimate air and the evil souls of things;The souls of the dead, the stranglers, that perch in the trees of the wood, Waiters for all things human, haters of evil and good.""Rua, behold me, kiss me, look in my eyes and read;Are these the eyes of a maid that would leave her lover in need?
Brave in the eye of day, my father ruled in the fight;The child of his loins, Taheia, will play the man in the night."So it was spoken, and so agreed, and Taheia arose And smiled in the stars and was gone, swift as the swallow goes;And Rua stood on the hill, and sighed, and followed her flight, And there were the lodges below, each with its door alight;From folk that sat on the terrace and drew out the even long Sudden crowings of laughter, monotonous drone of song;The quiet passage of souls over his head in the trees; (7)And from all around the haven the crumbling thunder of seas.
"Farewell, my home," said Rua. "Farewell, O quiet seat!
To-morrow in all your valleys the drum of death shall beat."III. THE FEAST
DAWN as yellow as sulphur leaped on the naked peak, And all the village was stirring, for now was the priest to speak.
Forth on his terrace he came, and sat with the chief in talk;His lips were blackened with fever, his cheeks were whiter than chalk;Fever clutched at his hands, fever nodded his head, But, quiet and steady and cruel, his eyes shone ruby-red.
In the earliest rays of the sun the chief rose up content;Braves were summoned, and drummers; messengers came and went;Braves ran to their lodges, weapons were snatched from the wall;The commons herded together, and fear was over them all.
Festival dresses they wore, but the tongue was dry in their mouth, And the blinking eyes in their faces skirted from north to south.
Now to the sacred enclosure gathered the greatest and least, And from under the shade of the banyan arose the voice of the feast, The frenzied roll of the drum, and a swift, monotonous song.
Higher the sun swam up; the trade wind level and strong Awoke in the tops of the palms and rattled the fans aloud, And over the garlanded heads and shining robes of the crowd Tossed the spiders of shadow, scattered the jewels of sun.
Forty the tale of the drums, and the forty throbbed like one;A thousand hearts in the crowd, and the even chorus of song, Swift as the feet of a runner, trampled a thousand strong.
And the old men leered at the ovens and licked their lips for the food;And the women stared at the lads, and laughed and looked to the wood.
As when the sweltering baker, at night, when the city is dead, Alone in the trough of labour treads and fashions the bread;So in the heat, and the reek, and the touch of woman and man, The naked spirit of evil kneaded the hearts of the clan.
Now cold was at many a heart, and shaking in many a seat;For there were the empty baskets, but who was to furnish the meat?
For here was the nation assembled, and there were the ovens anigh, And out of a thousand singers nine were numbered to die.
Till, of a sudden, a shock, a mace in the air, a yell, And, struck in the edge of the crowd, the first of the victims fell. (8)Terror and horrible glee divided the shrinking clan, Terror of what was to follow, glee for a diet of man.
Frenzy hurried the chaunt, frenzy rattled the drums;The nobles, high on the terrace, greedily mouthed their thumbs;And once and again and again, in the ignorant crowd below, Once and again and again descended the murderous blow.
Now smoked the oven, and now, with the cutting lip of a shell, A butcher of ninety winters jointed the bodies well.
Unto the carven lodge, silent, in order due, The grandees of the nation one after one withdrew;And a line of laden bearers brought to the terrace foot, On poles across their shoulders, the last reserve of fruit.
The victims bled for the nobles in the old appointed way;The fruit was spread for the commons, for all should eat to-day.
And now was the kava brewed, and now the cocoa ran, Now was the hour of the dance for child and woman and man;And mirth was in every heart, and a garland on every head, And all was well with the living and well with the eight who were dead.
Only the chiefs and the priest talked and consulted awhile:
"To-morrow," they said, and "To-morrow," and nodded and seemed to smile:
"Rua the child of dirt, the creature of common clay, Rua must die to-morrow, since Rua is gone to-day."Out of the groves of the valley, where clear the blackbirds sang.
Sheer from the trees of the valley the face of the mountain sprang;Sheer and bare it rose, unscalable barricade, Beaten and blown against by the generous draught of the trade.
Dawn on its fluted brow painted rainbow light, Close on its pinnacled crown trembled the stars at night.
Here and there in a cleft clustered contorted trees, Or the silver beard of a stream hung and swung in the breeze.
High overhead, with a cry, the torrents leaped for the main, And silently sprinkled below in thin perennial rain.
Dark in the staring noon, dark was Rua's ravine, Damp and cold was the air, and the face of the cliffs was green.