PUHIWAHINE – MAORI POETESS
Peaceful times soon came and the Maori people of the surrounding district began to fraternise with the townspeople of Wanganui. As the wife of the proprietor of the leading hotel Puhiwahine came to know most of the leading chiefs and their womenfolk. Her sparkling wit and charm made her a popular figure in the town. Puhiwahine never took to drink, nor did she smoke. In speech she preferred to speak in Maori, and although she became quite proficient in English she would not attempt to speak it properly. There was always a tendency on her part to ‘maorify’ English words, and as a loving mother she delighted in teasing her two sons by exaggerating her speech in this way. Puhiwahine became a lady of fashion, and in European society she was a lady to the manner born. Her husband was indulgent towards her, and it is said they never quarrelled. She was a welcome guest at meetings of the river tribes at the principal marae, or courtyard, at Putiki, across the river from the town.
As a guest at gatherings of the tribes she was often urged to sing her songs of love. It was at the first of these gatherings that she sang her Song of War. The people never tired of hearing her sing, and her artistic temperament responded gladly to the delighted shouts which her porformances evoked.
Some of her women friends, and the chiefs, too, when they got to know her well, were prone to tease and provoke her about her youthful escapades. It was as the result of this that she composed one of her well-known songs. It is a class of song in which the composer seeks to make commonplace any oblique references to his or her behaviour. But Puhiwahine in her song outbids all others, and she gives a long catalogue of her love affairs and her many flirtations. The song owes its survival to the fact that the descendants of those mentioned in it have had the verses handed down to them by their forbears. Some present-day families know only the verse in which one of their line is mentioned. It is no exaggeration to say that mention of an ancestor in this song is like a citation for military honours.
HE WAIATA KI ANA WHAIAIPO (SONG OF A COQUETTE)
Kaore hoki koia te rangi nei,
Whakawairuhi rawa i ahau;
Taku tinana kau te noho nei,
Aku mahara kei te purei atu
Never before such a day as this;
Inert and so languid am I.
It is only my body remaining still—
My spirit, alas, is in playful mood.
5. Herepu.—A hill at Waiteti near Te Kuiti.
6. Paripari. A village near Te Kuiti.
7. Tanirau. A Maniapoto chief of the Rora sub-tribe. Better known, in later years, as Taonui.
8. Kataraina. Wife of Tanirau.
10. Orahiri. A village between Te Kuiti and Otorohanga.
Anatipa. A chief of the Maniapoto tribe.
11. Huriana. Wife of Anatipa.
14. Rangitoto. A high range at the headwaters of the Waipa river.
Eruera. Hauauru's baptismal name. Hauauru is the “West Wind” in James Cowan's “Maori of New Zealand.” Hauauru successfully rebutted a counter-claim to the Rangitoto Block in the Maori Land Court, by quoting this verse.
Kei raro iti atu ko Topine;
Tirohia kautia ake tera,
E wehi ana au he rangatira—
Kaore i ara, he koroheke!
Kei te piiti hoki i Whanganui
Ma Te Oti Kati au e peehi mai
Pi-owha! ko we! ko hooma!
Piri pi koaeata! Hu toro iu, kamu mai perehi?
Hei ha! Hei ha! Hei!
Just below there lives Topine;
One can but look up at him!
I fear him, for a chief indeed is he— 55
But really, it is because he is so old!
Now on to the beach at Whanganui 45
Where Te Oti Kati will subdue me
With his, Be off! Go away! Go home!
Please be quiet! Who told you to come to my place?
(With a la de da!) and a hei ha hei!
15. Mere Tuhipo. One of Hauauru's wives.
17. Marata. Another wife of Hauauru.
18. Kihikihi. The home of Rewi Maniapoto. Maniapoto. Rewi Maniapoto, the defender of Orakau. A Maniapoto chief of the Paretekawa sub-tribe.
20. Rahurahu. Raureti. Cousins of Rewi Maniapoto.
21. Kawhia. The harbour of that name on the west coast of the North Island.
22. Ahuahu. The name of a village on the Ahuahu peninsula to the south of the Oparau river, which flows into the Kawhia Harbour. Te Poihipi. A Maniapoto chief of the Karetoto sub-tribe.
26. Ripeka. Wife of Reihana.
28. Reihana. Better known, in later years, as Wahanui. A well known Maniapoto chief. He was noted as an orator, and was accorded the distinction of speaking at the bar of the House of Representatives on the question of liquor in the King Country.
30. Tuhua. A high range above the Taringamotu valley, also the name of the district.
32. Paparoa. Rapids in the Wanganui River,
33. Topine. Topine Te Mamaku, a high chief of the upper Wanganui valley.
38. Waipakura. A village near Pipiriki.
39. Te Tahana. A chief of the mid-reaches of the Wanganui River.
40. Matarorangi. Wife of Te Tahana.
41. Pub. Maorified in the original text as papara. Refers to the Rutland Hotel.
42. Meiha Keepa. A loyalist chief of the lower Wanganui, and known in colonial history as Major Kemp.
43. Makere. Wife of Meiha Keepa.
45. Beach. Maorified in the Maori text as piiti.