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No. 31 (June 1960)
– 64 –

PUHIWAHINE Continued from page 20.

ka noho au ka tangi,
Ka tu au ka titiro
Ki te ao rere mai
I aku matua.
He ahatanga atu
Naaku ki a koe
I rere mai ai
Te mataa rere-puku?
He kai te whenua
Te pau i a koe;
Ngau atu ra koe
Ki te puke i Tararua;
Kia ngata ai hoki to puku,
Kia ora ai hoki koe!

I sit down and weep,
I stand up and look
At the cloud floating hither
From (the abode of) my elders,
What was the offence
That I inflicted upon you
Which has caused the thrust
Of the silent spear point?
Land is the food
Not yet consumed by you;
Let yourself take a bite
At the peak of Tararua;
Have then your fill,
And thus be satisfied!

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Puhiwahine's songs as recorded in this story of her life comprise all the songs she composed so far as we have been able to trace. With the exception of the song “Ka eke ki Wairaka,” which appears as Song 46 in Sir Apirana Ngata's Nga Moteatea Part 1, these songs have not previously been published.

In discussing Puhiwahine's poems in general we would describe her compositions as being in the traditional and classical Maori forms. That is to say there are no European features introduced in the airs or tunes, in the versification or in the arrangement of the songs. The long action song in Chapter 5 is unique in respect of the naive manner in which the poetess has catalogued her love affairs; and unlike Topeora, Te Rauparaha's niece, and other poetesses who were contemporaries but of an older generation, Puhiwahine has avoided the use of pungent erotic terms and refrained from any direct references to physical love. This was no doubt due to the influence of Christian teachings on Puhiwahine. There is an example of this in the first verse of her Song of War in Chapter 5. Puhiwahine belonged to the Roman Catholic faith.

Puhiwahine's oriori or lullaby in Chapter 7 is also a unique composition, not only because in it she anticipated the birth of her grandchildren, but also of certain features in the theme of the song. The lullabies of our race usually have as their theme the ancient myths and traditions, the tribal battles, and other historical incidents—all linked together with the names of famous ancestors. Puhiwahine's lullaby has made a feature of:

—a royal and “worthy trophy”, which was a greenstone brooch presented by the Duke of Edinburgh (Te Tiuka o lenepara); her grandchildren, described by her as Koata kaihe (quarter-castes); and her reference to the Pakeha “who has overrun and lost us this land.” These references would indicate that Puhiwahine, in common with others of that time, had become reconciled to a pattern of life in which the Maori would play the lesser part.

Puhiwahine's compositions show that she was well-versed in the history of her tribes and had a good knowledge of genealogies. She also had a good knowledge of tribal land affairs; took an intelligent interest in what was taking place in the alienation of the lands of her people, and felt that she should warn them against the “ways of the Governor”, and the “lure of rent”. (A Song About Land Affairs). One could say, too, that in her poems Puhiwahine was influenced by her life among Europeans to the extent of using English words in maorified form, and in the narrative arrangement of two of her songs—Action Song in Chapter 3, and The Song of a Coquette in Chapter 5—she has adopted a mode of expression similar to European realistic writing.

⋆ ⋆ ⋆

The popularity of the song “Ka eke ki Wairaka”, of which mention has already been made, can be attributed to the tender mood evoked by the words, “slave heart mine not to seek a lingering farewell; with two nights more in close embrace;” words which have the same appeal as “Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and never bro't to mind?” Puhiwahine also infused a subtle and captivating touch of intimacy to this song by introducing two English words in maorified form:—tiapu (jumps), which has been translated as “leaps” in the second line; and the word pea for pair. In both cases euphonic considerations are in favour of the maorified forms used by the poetess, as may be noted if the equivalent words; mokowhiti or tupeke were used in the first instance, and the word tauriterite in the second case.

(to be continued)