Unwritten Literature of Hawaii, by Nathaniel B. Emerson, , at sacred-texts.com
Every formal hula was regarded by the people of the olden time as a sacred and religious performance (tabu); but all hulas were not held to be of equal dignity and rank (hanohano). Among those deemed to be of the noblest rank and honor was the ala’a-papa. In its best days this was a stately and dignified performance, comparable to the old-fashioned courtly minuet.
We shall observe in this hula the division of the performers into two sets, the hoopa’a and the olapa. Attention will naturally bestow itself first on the olapa, a division of the company made up of splendid youthful figures, young men, girls, and women in the prime of life. They stand a little apart and in advance of the others, the right hand extended, the left resting upon the hip, from which hangs in swelling folds the pa-ú. The time of their waiting for the signal to begin the dance gives the eye opportunity to make deliberate survey of the forms that stand before us.
The figures of the men are more finely proportioned, more statuesque, more worthy of preservation in marble or bronze than those of the women. Only at rare intervals does one find among this branch of the Polynesian race a female shape which from crown to sole will satisfy the canons of proportion--which one carries in the eye. That is not to say, however, that the artistic eye will not often meet a shape that appeals to the sense of grace and beauty. The springtime of Hawaiian womanly beauty hastes away too soon. Would it were possible to stay that fleeting period which ushers in full womanhood!
One finds himself asking the question to what extent the responsibility for this overthickness of leg and ankle exaggerated in appearance, no doubt, by the ruffled anklets often worn--this pronounced tendency to the growth of that degenerate weed, fat, is to be explained by the standard of beauty which held sway in Hawaii's courts and for many ages acted as a principle of selection in the physical molding of the Hawaiian female.
The prevailing type of physique among the Hawaiians, even more marked in the women than in the men, is the short and thick, as opposed to the graceful and slender. One does occasionally find delicacy of modeling in the young and immature; but with adolescence fatness too often comes to blur the outline.
The hoopa’a, who act as instrumentalists, very naturally maintain a position between sitting and kneeling, the better to enable them to
handle that strangely effective drumlike instrument, the ipu, the one musical instrument used as an accompaniment in this hula. The, ipu is made from the bodies of two large, pear-shaped calabashes of unequal sizes, which are joined together at their smaller ends in such a manner as to resemble a figure-of-eight. An opening is left at the top of the smaller calabash to increase the resonance. In moments of calm the musicians allow the body to rest upon the heels: as the action warms they lift themselves to such height as the bended knee will permit.
The ala’a-papa is a hula of comparatively moderate action. While the olapa employ hands, feet, and body in gesture and pose to illustrate the meaning and emotion of the song, the musicians mark the time by lifting and patting with the right hand the ipu each holds in the left hand. If the action of the play runs strong and stirs the emotions, each hoopa’a lifts his ipu wildly, fiercely smites it, then drops it on the padded rest in such manner as to bring out its deep mysterious tone.
At a signal from the kumu, who sits with the hoopa’a, the poo-pua’a, leader of the olapa, calls the mele (kahea i ka mele)--that is, he begins its recitation--in a tone differing but little from that of ordinary conversation, a sing-song recitation, a vocalization less stilted and less punctilious than that usually employed in the utterance of the oli or mele. The kumu, the leader of the company, now joins in, mouthing his words in full observance of the mele style. His manner of cantillation may be either what may he called the low relief, termed ko’i-honua, or a pompous alto-relievo style, termed ai-ha’a. This is the signal for the whole company to chime in, in the same style as the kumu. The result, as it seems to the untutored ear, is a confusion of sounds like that of the many-tongued roar of the ocean.
The songs cantillated for the hula ala’a-papa were many and of great variety. It seems to have been the practice for the kumu. to arrange a number of mele, or poetical pieces, for presentation in the hula in such order as pleased him. These different mele, thus arranged, were called pale, compartments, or mahele, divisions, as if they were integral parts of one whole, while in reality their relation to one another was only that of the juxtaposition imposed upon them by the kumu.
The poetical pieces first to be presented were communicated to the author as mahele, divisions--hardly cantos--in the sense above defined. They are. however, distinct poems, though there chances to run through them all a somewhat similar motive. The origin of many of these is referred to a past so remote that tradition assigns them to what the Hawaiians call the wa po, the night of tradition, or they say of them, no ke akua mai, they are from the gods. It matters not
how faithful has been the effort to translate these poems, they will not be found easy of comprehension. The local allusions, the point of view, the atmosphere that were in the mind of the savage are not in our minds to-day, and will not again be in any mind on earth; they defy our best efforts at reproduction. To conjure up the ghostly semblance of these dead impalpable things and make them live again is a problem that must be solved by each one with such aid from the divining rod of the imagination as the reader can summon to his help.
Now for the play, the song:
Mele no ka Hula Alá’a-papa
Song for the Hula Alá’a-papa.
This song is from the story of Hiiaka on her journey to Kauai to bring the handsome prince, Lohiau, to Pele. The region is that on the windward, Koolau, side of Oahu.
The lines from the fourth to the ninth in this stanza (pauku) represent a dialogue between two lovers.
(With distinct utterance)
This poem is taken from the story of Hiiaka. On her return from the journey to fetch Lohiau she found that her sister Pele had treacherously ravaged with fire Puna, the district that contained her own dear woodlands. The description given in the poem is of the resulting desolation.
The author of this poem of venerable age is not known. It is spoken of as belonging to the wa po, the twilight of tradition. It is represented to be part of a mele taught to Hiiaka by her friend and preceptress in the hula, Hopoe. Hopoe is often called Hopoe-wahine, from internal evidence one can see that it can not be in form the same as was given to Hiiaka by Hopoe; it may have been founded on the poem of Hopoe. If so, it has been modified.
The last five verses, which sound like a love song, may possibly be a modern addition to this old poem. The sentiment, they contain is comparable to that expressed in the Song of Welcome on page 39:
5 Ha’i ka nalu, wai kaka lepo o Pii-lani;
Hai’na ka iwi o Hilo,
I ke ku ia e ka wai.
Oni’o lele a ka ua o Hilo i ka lani.
Ke hookiikii mai la ke ao o Pua-lani,
10 Ke holuholu a’e la e puke,
Puke e nana ke kiki a ka ua,
Ka nonoho a ka ua i ka hale o Hilo.
Like Hilo me Puna ke ku a mauna-ole, f
He ole ke ku a mauna Hilo me Puna.
15 He kowa Puna mawaena Hilo me Ka-ú;
Ke pili wale la i ke kua i mauna-ole;
Pili hoohaha i ke kua o Mauna-loa.
He kuahiwi Ka-ú e pa ka makani.
Ke alai ia a’e la Ka-ú e ke A’e; g
20 Na-u ku ke ehu lepo ke A’e;
Ku ke ehu-lepo mai la Ka-ú i ka makani.
Makani Kawa hu’a-lepo Ka-ú i ke A’-e.
Ino wa o ka makani o Kau-na.
Nana aku o ka makani ma malaila!
O Hono-malino, malino i ka la’i o Kona.
30 He inoa la!
5 Surf breaks, stirs the mire of Pii-lani;
The bones of Hilo are broken
By the blows of the rain.
Ghostly the rain-scud of Hilo in heaven;
The cloud-forms of Pua-lani grow and thicken.
10 The rain-priest bestirs him now to go forth,
Forth to observe the stab and thrust of the rain.
The rain that clings to the roof of Hilo.
Hilo, like Puna, stands mountainless;
Aye, mountain-free stand Hilo and Puna.
15 Puna ’s a gulf ’twixt Ka-ú and Hilo:
Just leaning her back on Mount Nothing.
She sleeps at the feet of Mount Loa.
A mountain-back is Ka-ú which the wind strikes,
Ka-ú, a land much scourged by the A’e.
20 A dust-cloud lifts in Ka-ú as one climbs.
A dust-bloom floats, the lift of the wind:
’Tis blasts from fountain-walls piles dust, the A’e.
Ka-ú was always tormented with wind.
Cape-of-the-Dog feels Unulau's blasts;
25 They turmoil the cove of Ka-hea-hea,
Defying all strength with their violence.
There's a storm when wind blows at Kau-na.
Just look at the tempest there raging!
Hono-malino sleeps sheltered by Kona.
30 A eulogy this of a name.
"What name?" was asked of the old Hawaiian.
"A god," said he.
"How is that? A mele-inoa celebrates the name and glory of a king, not of a god."
His answer was, "The gods composed the mele; men did not compose it."
Like an old-time geologist, he solved the puzzle of a novel phenomenon by ascribing it to God.
This mele, Hole Waimea, is also sung in connection with the hula ipu.
The song above given, the translation of which is to follow, belongs to historic times, being ascribed to King Liholiho--Kamehameha II--who died in London July 13, 1824, on his visit to England. It attained great vogue and still holds its popularity with the Hawaiians. The reader will note the comparative effeminacy and sentimentality of the style and the frequent use of euphemisms and double-entendre. The double meaning in a Hawaiian mele will not always be evident to one whose acquaintance with the language is not intimate. To one who comes to it from excursions in Anglo-Saxon poetry, wandering through its "meadows trim with daisies pied," the sly intent of the Hawaiian, even when pointed out, will, no doubt, seem an inconsequential thing and the demonstration of it an impertinence, if not a fiction to the imagination. Its euphemisms in reality have no baser intent than the euphuisms of Lyly, Ben Jonson, or Shakespeare.
The poem above given from beginning to end is figurative, a piece of far-fetched, enigmatical symbolism in the lower plane of human nature.
This is not a line-for-line translation; that the author found infeasible. Line 8 of the English represents line 7 of the Hawaiian. Given more literally, it might be, "He'll shake the buttocks of Hilo's forty thousand."
The metaphor of this song is disjointed, but hot with the primeval passions of humanity.
The following account is taken from the Polynesian Researches of the Rev. William Ellis, the well-known English missionary, who visited these islands in the years 1822 and 1823, and whose recorded observations have been of the highest value in preserving a knowledge of the institutions of ancient Hawaii:
In the afternoon, a party of strolling musicians and dancers arrived at Kairua. About four o'clock they came, followed by crowds of people, and arranged themselves on a fine sandy beach in front of one of the governor's houses, where they exhibited a native dance, called hura araapapa.
The five musicians first seated themselves in a line on the ground, and spread a piece of folded cloth on the sand before them. Their instrument was a large calabash, or rather two, one of an oval shape about three feet high, the other perfectly round, very neatly fastened to it, having also an aperture about three inches in diameter at the top. Each musician held his instrument before him with both hands, and produced his music by striking it on the ground, where he had laid a piece of cloth, and beating it with his fingers, or the palms of his hands. As soon as they began to sound their calabashes, the dancer, a young man about the middle stature, advanced through the opening crowd.
His jet-black hair hung in loose and flowing ringlets on his naked shoulders; his necklace was made of a vast number of strings of nicely braided human hair, tied together behind, while a paraoa (an ornament made of a whale's tooth) hung pendent from it on his breast; his wrists were ornamented with bracelets formed of polished tusks of the hog, and his ankles with loose buskins, thickly set with dog's teeth, the rattle of which, during the dance, kept time with the music of the calabash drum. A beautiful yellow tapa was tastefully fastened round his loins, reaching to his knees. He began his dance in front of the musicians, and moved forward and backwards, across the area, occasionally chanting the achievements of former kings of Hawaii. The governor sat at the end of the ring, opposite to the musicians, and appeared gratified with the performance, which continued until the evening. (Vol. IV. 100-101, London, Fisher, Son & Jackson, 1831.)
NOTE BY THE AUTHOR.--At the time of Mr. Ellis' visit to Hawaii the orthography of the Hawaiian language was still in a formative stage, and it is said that his counsels had influence in shaping it. His use of r instead of l in the words hula, alaapapa, and palaoa may, therefore, be ascribed to the fact of his previous acquaintance with the dialects of southern Polynesia, in which the sound of r to a large extent substitutes that of 1, and to the probability that for that reason his ear was already attuned to the prevailing southern fashion, and his judgment prepossessed in that direction.
59:a Ilina. A sink, a place where a stream sinks into the earth or sand.
60:a Olelo. To speak, to converse; here used figuratively to mean that the place is lonely, has no view of the ocean, looks only to the sky. "Looks that commerce with the sky."
60:b Ku-kani-loko. A land in Waialua, Oahu, to which princesses resorted in the olden times at the time of childbirth, that their offspring might have the distinction of being an alii kapu, a chief with a tabu.
60:c Hale. House; a familiar euphemism of the human body.
60:d Kea-au. An ahu-pua’a, small division of land, in Puna adjoining Hilo, represented as sheltering Hilo on that side.
60:e Waiakea. A river in Hilo, and the land through which it flows.
60:f Hana-kahi, A land on the Hamakua side of Hilo, also a king whose name was a synonym for profound peace.
60:g Olo-kea. To be invited or pulled many ways at once; distracted.
60:h Lele-iwi. A cape on the north side of Hilo.
60:i Maka-hana-loa. A cape.
60:j Kaele-papa. A large, round, hollowed board on which to pound taro in the making of poi. The poi-board was usually long and oval.
60:k Kaele. In this connection the meaning is surrounded, encompassed by.
61:a Waiau. The name given to the stretch of Wailuku river near its month.
61:b Moku-pane. The cape between the mouth of the Wailuku river and the town of Hilo.
61:c Wai-anue-nue. Rainbow falls and the river that makes the leap.
61:d Kolo-pule-pule. Another branch of the Wailuku stream.
61:e Pili-kau. To hang low, said of a cloud.
61:f Haili. A region in the inland, woody, part of Hilo.
61:g Pa-ieie. A well-wooded part of Hilo, once much resorted to by bird-hunters; a place celebrated in Hawaiian song.
61:h Mokau-lele. A wild, woody region in the interior of Hilo.
61:i Malua. Name given to a wind from a northerly or northwesterly direction on several of the islands. The full form is Malua-lua.
61:j Pu’u-eo. A village in the Hilo district near Puna.
61:k Iwi-honua. Literally a bone of the earth: a projecting rock or a shoal; if in the water, an object to be avoided by the surf-rider. In this connection see note o, p. 36.
63:a Hale-kai. A wild mountain glen back of Hanalei valley, Kauai.
63:b Ma’alewa. An aerial root that formed a sort of ladder by which one climbed the mountain steeps; literally a shaking sling.
63:c Moana-nui-ka-lehua. A female demigod that came from the South (Ku-kulu-o-Kahiki) at about the same mythical period as that of Pele's arrival--if not in her company--and who was put in charge of a portion of the channel that lies between Kauai and Oahu. This channel was generally termed Ie-ie-waena and Ie-ie-waho. Here the name Moana-nui-ka-lehua seems to be used to indicate the sea as well as the demigoddess, whose dominion it was. Ordinarily she appeared as a powerful fish, but she was capable of assuming the form of a beautiful woman (mermaid?). The title lehua was given her on account of her womanly charms.
63:d Mali’o. Apparently another form of the word malino, calm; at any rate it has the same meaning.
63:e Lehua. An allusion to the ill-fated young woman Hopoe, who was Hiiaka's intimate friend. The allusion is amplified in the next line.
63:f Hopoe-lehua. The lehua tree was one of the forms in which Hopoe appeared, and after her death, due to the jealous rage of Pele, she was turned into a charred lehua tree which stood on the coast subject to the beating of the surf.
63:g Maka’u ka lehua i ke kanaka. Another version has it Maka’u ke kanaka i ka lehua; Man fears the lehua. The form here used is perhaps an ironical allusion to man's fondness not only to despoil the tree of its scarlet flowers, but womanhood, the woman it represented.
63:h Kea-au. Often shortened in pronunciation to Ke-au, a fishing village in Puna near Hilo town. It now has a landing place for small vessels.
64:a Hoolono. To call, to make an uproar, to spread a report.
64:b Ia hoo-nee-nee ia pili mai. A very peculiar figure of speech. It is as if the poet personified the act of two lovers snuggling up close to each other. Compare with this the expression No huli mai, used by another poet in the thirteenth line of the lyric given on p. 204. The motive is the same in each case.
65:a Hi’u-o-lani. A very blind phrase. Hawaiians disagree as to its meaning. In the author's opinion, it is a word referring to the conjurer's art.
65:b Ua o Hilo. Hilo is a very rainy country. The name Hilo seems to be used here as almost a synonym of violent rain. It calls to mind the use of the word Hilo to signify a strong wind:
65:c Pua-lani. The name of a deity who took the form of the rosy clouds of morning.
65:d Mahele ana. Literally the dividing; an allusion to the fact, it is said, that in Hilo a rain-cloud, or rain-squall, as it came up would often divide and a part of it turn off toward Puna at the cape named Lele-iwi, one-half watering, in the direction of the present town, the land known as Hana-kahi.
65:e Huna-kahi. Look at note f, p. 60.
65:f Mauna-ole. According to one authority this should be Mauna-Hilo. Verses 13, 14, 16, and 17 are difficult of translation. The play on the words ku a, standing at, or standing by, and kua, the back; also on the word kowa, a gulf or strait; and the repetition of the word mauna, mountain--all this is carried to such an extent as to be quite unintelligible to the Anglo-Saxon mind, though full of significance to a Hawaiian.
65:g A’e. A strong wind that prevails in Ka-u. The some word also means to step on, to climb. This double-meaning gives the poet opportunity for a euphuistic word-play that was much enjoyed by the Hawaiians. The Hawaiians of the present day are not quite up to this sort of logomachy.
65:1 Hilo, or Whiro, as in the Maori, was a great navigator.
66:a Kaili-ki’i. The promontory that shelters the cove Ka-hewa-hewa.
66:b Ka-hea-hea. The name of the cove Ka-hewa-hewa, above mentioned, is here given in a softened form obtained by the elision of the letter w.
67:a Koa’e-kea, Pueo hulu-nui. Steep declivities, pali, on the side of Waipio valley, Hawaii. Instead of inserting these names, which would be meaningless without an explanation, the author has given a literal translation of the names themselves, thus getting a closer insight into the Hawaiian thought.
67:b A’e. The precipices rise one above another like the steps of a stairway, climbing, climbing up, though the probable intent of the poet is to represent some one as climbing the ascent.
67:c Ha’i. Short for Ha’ina-kolo; a woman about whom there is a story of tragic adventure. Through eating when famished of some berries in an unceremonious way she became distraught and wandered about for many months until discovered by the persistent efforts of her husband. The pali which she climbed was named after her.
67:d Maka’u-kiu. The name of a famous huge shark that was regarded with reverential fear.
67:e Pohaku lele. In order to determine whether a shark was present, it was the custom, before going into the clear water of some of these coves, to throw rocks into the water in order to disturb the monster and make his presence known.
68:a Big-leaf. A literal translation of Lau-nui. Laupahoehoe, Flat-leaf.
68:b Hole. To rasp, to handle rudely, to caress passionately. Waimea is a district and village on Hawaii.
68:c Kipu’u-pu’u. A cold wind from Mauna-Kea that blows at Waimea.
68:d Mahiki. A woodland in Waimea, in mythological times haunted by demons and spooks.
68:e Mala-nai. The poetical name of a wind, probably the trade wind; a name much used in Hawaiian sentimental poetry.
68:f Oha-wai. A water hole that is filled by dripping; an important source of supply for drinking purposes in certain parts of Hawaii.
68:g Pua o Koaie. The koaie is a tree that grows in the wilds, the blossom of which is extremely fragrant. (Not the same as that subspecies of the koa (Acacia koa) which Hillebrand describes and wrongly spells koaia. Here a euphemism for the delicate parts.)
68:h Koolau, or, full form, Ko-koo-lau. Described by Doctor Hillebrand as Kokolau, a wrong spelling. It has a pretty yellow flower, a yellow eye--maka lena--as the song has it. Here used tropically. (This is the plant whose leaf is sometimes used as a substitute for tea.)
68:i Moolau. An expression used figuratively to mean a woman, more especially her breasts. The term huli-lau is also used, in a slang way, to signify the breasts of a woman, the primitive meaning being a calabash.
68:j Pili. To touch; touched. This was the word used in the forfeit-paying love game, kilu, when the player made a point by hitting the target of his opponent with his kilu. (For further description see p. 235.)
70:a Po-lolo. A secret word, like a cipher, made up for the occasion and compounded of two words, po, night, and loloa, long, the final a of loloa being dropped. This form of speech was called kepakepa, and was much used by the Hawaiians in old times.
70:b Ulu-mano. A violent wind which blows by night only on the western side of Hawaii. Kamehameha with a company of men was once wrecked by this wind off Nawawa; a whole village was burned to light them ashore. (Dictionary of the Hawaiian Language, by Lorrin Andrews.)
70:c Walu-ihe a ke A’e. The A’e is a violent wind that is described as blowing from different points of the compass in succession; a circular storm. Walu-ihe--eight spears--was a name applied to this same wind during a certain portion of its circuitous range, covering at least eight different points, as observed by the Hawaiians. It was well fitted, therefore, to serve as a figure descriptive of eight different lovers, who follow each other in quick succession in the favors of the same wanton.
70:d Ho-li’o. The name of a wind, but of an entirely different character from those above mentioned.
70:e Hana-kahi. (See note f, p. 60.)