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Unwritten Literature of Hawaii, by Nathaniel B. Emerson, [1909], at

p. 219


There was a peculiar class of hulas named after animals, in each one of which the song-maker developed some characteristic of the animal in a fanciful way, while the actors themselves aimed to portray the animal's movements in a mimetic fashion. To this class belongs the hula koleaa It was a peculiar dance, performed, as an informant asserts, by actors who took the kneeling posture, all being placed in one row and facing in the same direction. There were gestures without stint, arms, heads, and bodies moving in a fashion that seemed to imitate in a far-off way the movements of the bird itself. There was no instrumental accompaniment. to the music. The following mele is one that was given with this hula:

Kolea kai piha! b,
I aha mai nei?
Ku-nou c mai nei.
E aha kakou?
5 E ai kakou. d
Nohea ka ai? e
No Kahiki mai. e
Hiki mai ka Lani, e
Olina Hawaii,
10 Mala’ela’e ke ala,
Nou, e ka Lani.
Puili pu ke aloha,
Pili me ka’u manu. f
Ka puana a ka moe?
15 Moe oe a hoolana

p. 220

Ka hali’a i hiki mai;
Ooe pu me a’u
Noho pu i ka wai aliali.
Hai’na ia ka pauna.
20 O ka hua o ke kolea, aia i Kahiki. a
Hiki mai kou aloha, mae’ele au.


A plover at the full of the sea--
What, pray, is it saying to me?
It keeps bobbing its noddy.
To do what would you counsel?
5 Why, eat its plump body!
Whence comes the sweet morsel?
From the land of Kahiki.
When our sovereign appears,
Hawaii gathers for play,
10 Stumble-blocks cleared from the way--
Fit rule of the king's highway.
Let each one embrace then his love;
For me, I'll keep to my dove.
Hark now, the signal for bed!
15 Attentive then to love's tread,
While a wee bird sings in the soul,
My love comes to me heart-whole--
Then quaff the waters of bliss.
Say what is the key to all this?
20 The plover egg's laid in Kahiki.
Your love. when it conies, finds me dumb.

The plover--kolea--is a wayfarer in Hawaii; its nest-home is in distant lands, Kahiki. The Hawaiian poet finds in all this some-thing that reminds him of the spirit of love.


219:a The plover.

219:b Kolea kai piha. The kolea is a feeder along the shore, his range limited to a narrower strip as the tide rises. The snare was one of the methods used by the Hawaiians for the capture of this bird. In his efforts to escape when snared he made that futile bobbing motion with his head that mast be familiar to every hunter.

219:c Usually the bobbing motion, ku-nou, is the prelude to flight; but the snared bird can do nothing more, a fact which suggests to the poet the nodding and bowing of two lovers when they meet.

219:d E ai kakou. Literally, let us eat. While this figure of speech often has a sensual meaning, it does not necessarily imply grossness. Hawaiian literalness and narrowness of vocabulary is not to be strained to the overthrow of poetical sentiment.

219:e To the question Nohea ka ai?, whence the food? that is, the bird, the poet answers, No Kahiki mai, from Kahiki, from some distant region, the gift of heaven, it may be, as implied in the next line, Hiki mai ka Lani. The coming of the king, or chief, Lani, literally, the heaven-born, with the consummation of the love. Exactly what this connection is no one can say.

219:f In the expression Pili me ka’u manu the poet returns to his figure of a bird as representing a loved one.

220:a O ka hua o ke kolea, aia i Kahiki. In declaring that the egg of the kolea is laid in a foreign land, Kahiki, the poor enigmatizes, basing his thought on some fancied resemblance between the mystery of love and the mystery of the kolea's birth.

Next: XXXI.--The Hula Manó