Legends of the Maori
The Lament for Hikareia
The Lament for Hikareia.
This beautiful waiata-tangi was composed and chanted by the chief Hori Tupaea (head of the Ngai-Te-Rangi tribe), of Tauranga, for his younger brother Hikareia, who was killed in battle by the Arawa in 1836 at the fall of Te Tumu Pa, on the coast between Tauranga and Maketu. It is sung at the present day at tangihanga gatherings throughout the Bay of Plenty country:—
Kapokapo kau ana nga whetu i te ata,
Ko Meremere ano taku e hiko atu,
Tau hokai ana Kopu i te ata;
Ko taku teina tonu tenei ka ora mai,
Taku tau kahurangi
Ka makere i ahau.
Aaku i tuku atu i tc hinapouri,
Nga titahatanga i waho o te tahua.
E whano ana ra ki te kawe-a-riri.
Kia tu mai koe i mua
I te upoko i te whana,
Tukuturi i te nui Titahu,
Kia puhia koe te paura o tawhiti
Kia whakamurahia te ahi a te tipua,
Kia whakatuki—Aue, te mamae, ra-i!
Haehaea koe ki te naihi-tipua,
Kia rewa tou hinu ki roto o Kaituna.
Iri mai, e Pa, i runga i te atamira,
Kupa mai, e te hoa,
Kia rongo atu au
I te takirihanga mai
O te ata na i-i!
Me whakahoki koe
Nga mata tahuna a waho Tauranga,
Ma Opotiki koe,
E hurihuri iho i te papa o te waka
I titiro iho ai tou kiri rauiti
To mata i haea ki te toroa-a-tai,
Toroa tataki no runga i Karewa, na i-i!
Vainly twinkle the many stars,
Quivering in the morning sky,
Meremere alone shines forth for me;
Great Kopu’s glory strides across the dawn—
’Tis as if my brother came again,
Restored to life—My loved one,
Alas, for ever lost to me!
I let you go into the Darkness
On the downward slope of the field of strife,
For such is the fate of war.
You would stand in the very front of battle,
At the head of the assault;
Kneeling to receive the volley
You were shot down by the gunpowder from afar,
Ignited by the demon fires—
Thus did you fall in death—
Ah me! The pain of it!
Your body was scarified with the knives of death,
Slashed with obsidian knives beside Kaituna’s waters;
There on the death stage lies your noble frame.
Your spirit’s now about to take its flight.
Ah, that I could once more hear you
In the glimmering of the dawn.
Your body must be returned to the sandy shores
That lie without Tauranga bay;
Let those of Opotiki
Tenderly handle you in that sacred canoe.
Once more I gaze upon your voiceless form,
Your face scored with the tattooer’s chisel,
From the ocean-roving albatross
That soars above the isle of Karewa.
Meremere (Venus, usually as evening star) and Kopu (Jupiter) are often addressed in elegies, and a dead chieftain or relative is often compared to the brightest stars of heaven.
The Maori of the period of this dirge was fond of introducing lately-learned English words into his speeches and songs. Thus, in a passage here we have the curious expression “Naihi-tipua,” a compound of “knife” and the Maori word for demon or the supernatural. The old man who dictated the poem explained that this death-knife was mata-tuhua, the sharp flakes of obsidian with which mourners scored their faces and breasts and which were used to cut up bodies.
The reference in the last two lines to the tattooed face and the albatross is explained by the fact that in ancient times the uhi or small chisel used by the tattooing artist was usually made from the wing-bone of the albatross. The Bay of Plenty tribes made expeditions to Karewa Island, which was a breeding place for the albatross and many other sea-birds.