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No. 17 (December 1956)
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MAORI PROVERBS
AND SAYINGS

NGA WHAKATAUAKI ME NGA PEPEHA A TE MAORI

He maha nga whakatauki e rangona ana i tena marae, i tena marae, mo nga tini aitua, mo nga mate hoki. Kei nga tangihanga ka rangona te hohonutanga o nga korero. Na, e whai ake nei etahi o aua whakatauki: “He matua pou whare, e rokohia ana; he matua tangata, e kore e rokohia.” Kei te marama te takoto o nga korero nei. Ko te pou whare ka tu tonu, ahakoa pehea te tawhito. Ko te tangata, kua oti ke te korero mai e Rawiri: “Nga ra o o matou tau, e whitu tekau tau; a, ki te whai kaha, a ka waru tekau nga tau: Heoi he mahi mauiui, he pouri to ratou kaha.” Ko te pou rakau ka tu tonu, engari ano te tangata he rite tonu te hinga i tena ra, i tena ra.

“Ehara i te ti, e wana ake”: Ko te rakau nei ko te ti, ki etahi he kouka, he kauka ranei, ki te tapahia ana, e kore e roa i muri mai, ka kitea nga pihi e tupu mai ana i te taha o te tumutumu. Otira he maha nga rakau e penei ana te ahua. Ahakoa pehea te tapatapahi a te tangata, ka tupu ake ano. He rereke te tangata. Ki te hinga te tangata i tetahi mate, e kore ano ia e ara mai. Na reira te tika o te whakatauki nei: “Ehara i te ti, e wana ke.”

“He matua waka e taea te raupine mai; he matua whare, e taea te ropiropi e te ringaringa; he matua tangata, ki te mate ana, e kore rawa a taea te raupine mai e te ringaringa.” Ko tenei whakatauki ataahua, na Kingi Matutaera, ko tona ingoa e mohiotia nuitia ana ko Kingi Tawhiao. He whakahoki nana ki a Kawana Paraone mo te tono a te kawanatanga ki a ia, kia rangi-

 

Throughout the ‘maraes’ of the Country, are heard several proverbs and sayings in connection with deaths. Indeed it is at ‘tangis’ that orations of exceptional quality are given. Here are a few of the sayings commonly heard in connection with deaths:

“The main ridge pole of a house may be found (i.e., it will always stand); not so an adult.”

(Note: It is well to point out that a Maori proverb loses its quality and full force when it is translated into another language. In some instances, the translations are very ‘free’, but in all cases, the principle of the proverb is retained. Then too, there are a number of well-known Maori words which are best left untranslated to preserve euphony, e.g., “Tangi” is more appropriate than “utter a plaintive cry”, and so on. The reader who is a non-Maori linguist, is therefore requested to learn the proverbs in Maori, but refer to the English version and explanations for the meaning.)

The intention of this first saying is to convey the fact that whereas ridge poles of a house may and will last some considerable time, provided that they are properly ‘cured’ and cared for, man has a limited life here on earth and the Psalmist has declared, “the days of our age are threescore years and ten, and though men be so strong that they come to fourscore years, yet is their strength then but labour and sorrow; so soon passeth it away, and we are gone.” A ridge pole can stand erect for years, but man is called to his eternal rest daily.

“Unlike the ti (cordyline), it will never bud.” The various species of the cordyline are noted for their ability to survive in spite of the serious prunings they receive. Even one cut to ground level normally produces young shoots. Moreover, they can easily be transplanted from cuttings. Man is quite the opposite. Once he falls (dies), he will never rise again.

“A canoe may be repaired; a house may be fashioned by hand; a man whom death claims, can never be restored to life by human hands.” The three treasured possessions of the early Maori were his canoe, meeting-house and life. Without his canoe, he was almost helpless. Without his meeting house, he was regarded as a ‘commoner.’ Without his ‘life’ he would not exist! It was therefore natural that a number of his early sayings were closely allied to these three. In this

 
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marie a ia mo te tono a te kawanatanga kia tukuna etahi o nga whenua o Waikato ki raro i te mana o te kawanatanga o taua wa. I korerotia e Paora Te Muera tenei whakatauki i te matenga o Te Puea Herangi, a na te ataahua o tenei whakatauki, a he tika tonu hoki ki nga ahuatanga e pa ana ki nga mate, na reira ka tangia kei ngaro. He mea mama noa iho te tiki atu i te waka tere. He mea mama noa iho te whakatikatika i te whare, mehemea ka hinga tetahi paatu, tetahi atu waki ranei; engari ki te hinga te tangata e kore rawa e taea te rarau atu e te ringaringa. Me mutu nga whakatauki tupapaku i konei.

“E ki ana ahau, i whangaia koe ki te nene o te tamure o Whangapanui, kia tiu koe, kia oha.” Ka maranga a Maruiwi me tona ope taua, ka whakaekengia tetahi pa, ko Oue. Ka tata haere te ope nei ki te pa, ka whakaaro a Maruiwi pai ke to ratou whakarite i a ratou ki te manu, kia kore ai e whakapaengia he ope taua kei te haere atu. Kati, tatari rawa ratou kia po ka whakaeke ai ratou, na, po rawa ake, ka rangona te kiwi, te weka, te kakapo me nga momo manu katoa e tangitangi ana, ano nei kei waho tonu i te pa.

Tera te rangatira o te pa ra, a Tamaruarangi, kua rongo ke mai i nga tangi manu ra, na kua mohio ke mai a ia, ehara nga tangi ra i te tangi manu. Ano ra ko ia: “He oi noa nga kai o te kainga o Tamaruarangi.” Ka whakapae a ia kei te whakaekengia tona pa e te hoariri. I te atatu, e moemoe tonu ana nga tangata o te pa, ka puta te taua. Ka hinga i reira te pa o Oue, engari i mauria hereherengia a Tamaruarangi, tana tama me etahi atu, tokoiti nei. Ka tae ratou ki te pa o Maruiwi, ka ata hereherengia nga ika o te pakanga, a ko Tama he mea here ki ona ake kakahu. I a ia e takoto ana, ka ki ake a ia ki tana tama: “E ki ana ahau, i whangaia koe ki te nene o te tamure o Whanga panui (he toka kei waho o Ohope) kia tiu koe, kia oha”. Mohio tonu atu te tamaiti ra, he tohu tera mona hei omanga. Te tunga ake o te tamaiti, ka makere nga here i runga i a ia, ka kapo ki tana taiaha, turakina ake tana hoariri, a oma ana. Ko te ‘nene’ ko te ngako o te tamure, na ko nga kupu nei ‘kia tiu, kia oha’ he korero whakahau kia horo te haere ki te kimi i tetahi atu ope taua hei utu mo to ratou patunga.

 

instance, the late Kingi Tawhiao whose original name was Kingi Matutaera and who was the second Maori King, was approached by the then governor of New Zealand (Governor Browne) to reconsider the government's request for a major portion of the lands, originally owned by his (Tawhiao's) revered elders and tribesmen of the Waikato territory, to be passed over under government control. Kingi Tawhiao realising that to accede to this request would mean the dishonouring of an oath to preserve their lands, uttered this famous saying. The loss of a canoe or a meeting house can be remedied, but the loss of human life is irreparable, and in view of his oath, Tawhiao could not grant the Governor's wishes. The saying was quoted by Canon Paora Te Muera at the death of Princess Te Puea Herangi, and the free translation given, clearly sets out the meaning.

“It is my belief that you were reared on the fat of the schnapper to enable you to organize an avenging party promptly.”

It was one, Maruiwi, who organised a war party to invade Oue pa. On nearing the pa, the leader decided that it would be best that they should imitate birds to deceive their enemies. It was agreed that the final approach be made at night, and when darkness fell, the cries of supposed kiwis, wekas and other birds were heard not far from the pa. In the meantime, Tamaruarangi, chief of Oue pa, had heard these peculiar sounds and was quite convinced that they did not come from birds, for he knew that only mutton birds were to be found in the district. He realised after a while that an approaching war party was responsible for the sounds. At early dawn, whilst the people still slept, the invaders fell upon their victims and great was the fall of that pa. Tamaruarangi, his son and a few others, were however taken captives. Tama, whilst lying helpless bound with his own clothes, looked up to his son, and quoted the saying which has now become proverbial. On hearing his father, the son broke loose, seized a ‘taiaha’ and struck his guard a heavy blow, after which he escaped. Whangapanui is a rock off Ohope beach, and the ‘nene’ or ‘fat’ of the schnapper was a special relish reserved for the elite and notable warriors.

Maori Chants on Old Phonograph Records

An attempt is to be made to preserve on modern recordings many hundreds of old Maori chants and speeches which were first recorded about the turn of the century and the years following.

The chants were collected by the late Sir Apirana Ngata, Te Rangihiroa (Sir Peter Buck) and others on the old type of cylindrical wax phonograph records, but at present there is no phonograph suitable for playing this type of record in such a way that copies can be made.

The Wellington Branch of the New Zealand Electronics Institute has now decided to see if it can devise some means of re-recording these cylinders.

If the experiment is successful it will mean that a wonderful store of history which might otherwise have been lost will be opened. The cylinders have been in such condition for many years that it has been impossible to play them.

At present they are stored in such places as the Turnbull library, museums and Maori Purposes Fund Board rooms. The re-recording is financed by the Maori Purposes Fund Board.