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No. 4 (Autumn 1953)
– 41 –

MAORI POETRY

LAMENT FOR A DEAD CHIEF

(Translation)

Oh, my loved ones, let's come together,
For now the sting of pain is racking,
Tugging at the heart strings of the select,
The stars and the moon have fallen,
What has brought you down so low,
If not a storm that raged in heaven?
Not the Lord, but a huia of recent flight,
Seen flying over the hills
Why have you not risen above the horizon?
Your fame has gone forth to evoke love at home,
And to assuage poignant sorrow,
Go in your greatness to the nether world,
There to be greeted by a band of women select
The tide is well out to sea,
And the taniwha has left its lair;
Who will lead your hands now you are gone?
Your mana and heaven itself will descend.

Notes

The song is my favourite and its tune is dignified as the words are. It is clear it was composed as a lament for a great chief, for taniwha is only applied to a great chief. Maori tunes have been described as monotonous and yet they express fittingly the feelings of one in sorrow. Shelley, a great English poet said, ‘Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought’.