Unwritten Literature of Hawaii, by Nathaniel B. Emerson, , at sacred-texts.com
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ULI-ULI, A GOURD RATTLE
The hula úli-ulí was so called from the rattle which was its sole instrument of accompaniment. This consisted of a small gourd about, the size of a large orange, into the cavity of which were put shot-like seeds, like those of the canna; a handle was then attached (pl. xi).
The actors who took part in this hula belonged, it is said, to the class termed hoopaa, and went through with the performance while kneeling or squatting, as has been described. While cantillating the mele they held the rattle, úli-ulí, in the right hand, shaking it against the palm of the other hand or the thigh, or making excursions in one direction and another. In some performances of this hula which the author has witnessed the olapa also took part, in one case a woman, who stood and cantillated the song with movement and gesture, while the hoopaa devoted themselves exclusively to handling the úli-ulí rattles.
The sacrificial offerings that preceded the old-time performances of this hula are said to have been awa and a roast porkling, in honor of the goddess Laka.
If the dignity and quality of the meles now used, or reported to have been used, in the hula úli-ulí are to be taken as any criterion of the quality and dignity of this hula, one has to conclude that it must be assigned to a rank below that of some others, such, for instance, as the ala’a-papa, pa-ipu, Pele, and others.
David Malo, the Hawaiian historian, author of Ka Moolelo Hawaii, a in the short chapter that he devotes to the hula, mentions only ten hulas by name, the ka-laau, pa’i-umauma, pahu, pahu’a, ala’a-papa, pa’i-pa’i, pa-ipu, ulili, and the kielei. Ulili is but another form of the word úli-ulí. Any utterance of Malo is to be received seriously; but it seems doubtful if he deliberately selected for mention the ten hulas that were really the most important. It seems more probable that he set down the first ten that stood forth prominent in his memory. It was not Malo's habit, nor part of his education, to make an exhaustive list of sports and games, or in fact of anything. He spoke of what occurred to him. It must also be remembered that, being an ardent convert to Christianity, Malo felt
himself conscience-bound to set himself in opposition to the amusements, sports, and games of his people, and he was unable, apparently, to see in them any good whatsoever. Malo was a man of uncompromising honesty and rigidity of principles. His nature, acting under the new influences that surrounded him after the introduction of Christianity, made it impossible for him to discriminate calmly between the good and the pernicious, between the purely human and poetic and the depraved elements in the sports practised by his people during their period of heathenism. There was nothing halfway about Malo. Having abandoned a system, his nature compelled him to denounce it root and branch.
The first mele here offered as an accompaniment to this hula can boast of no great antiquity; it belongs to the middle of the nineteenth century, and was the product of some gallant at a time when princes and princesses abounded in Hawaii:
This mele is said to have been the production of Prince William Lunalilo--afterward king of the Hawaiian islands--and to have been
addressed to the Princess Victoria Kamamalu, whom he sought in marriage. Both of them inherited high chief rank, and their off-spring, according to Hawaiian usage, would have outranked her brothers, kings Kamehameha IV and V. Selfish and political considerations, therefore, forbade the match, and thereby hangs a tale, the shadow of which darkens this song. Every lover is one part poet; and Lunalilo, even without the love-flame, was more than one part poet.
The poem shows the influence of foreign ways and teachings and the pressure of the new environment that had entered Hawaii, in its form, in the moderation of its language and imagery, and in the coherence of its parts: at the same time the spirit of the song and the color of its native imagery mark it as the product of a Polynesian mind.
According to the author's interpretation of the song, Alekoki (verse 2), a name applied to a portion of the Nuuanu stream lower down than the basin and falls of Kapena (Kahi wai a o Kapena--verse 14), symbolizes a flame that may once have warmed the singer's imagination, but which he discards in favor of his new love, the pool of Kapena. The rain, which prefers to linger in the upland regions of Nuuanu (verses 3 and 4) and which often reaches not the lower levels, typifies his brooding affection. The cold, the storm, and the tempest that rage at Mamala (verse 21)--a name given to the ocean just outside Honolulu harbor--and that fill the heavens with driving scud (verses 27 and 28) represent the violent opposition in high quarters to the love-match. The tale-bearing wind, makani ahai-lono (verse 29), refers, no doubt, to the storm of scandal. The use of the place-names Ma’ema’e and Mauna-ala seem to indicate Nuuanu as the residence of the princess.
I Pa-ie-ie au, noho pu me ke anu.
E ha’i a’e oe i ka puana:
20 Ke kahuna kalai-hoe o Puu-ka-Pele.
From frost-bitten Pa-ie-ie
I bid you, guess me the fable:
20 Paddle-maker on Pele's mount.
This mele comes from Kauai, an island in many respects individualized from the other parts of the group and that seems to have been the nurse of a more delicate imagination than was went to flourish elsewhere. Its tone is archaic, and it has the rare merit of not transfusing the more crudely erotic human emotions into the romantic sentiments inspired by nature.
The Hawaiians dearly loved fable and allegory. Argument or truth, dressed out in such fanciful garb, gained double force and acceptance. We may not be able to follow a poet in his wanderings; his local allusions may obscure to us much of his meaning; the doctrine of his allegory may be to us largely a riddle; and the connection between the body of its thought and illustration and the application, or solution, of the poetical conundrum may be past our comprehension; but the play of the poet's fancy, whether childish or mature, is
an interesting study, and brings us closer in human sympathy to the people who took pleasure in such things.
In translating this poem, while not following literally the language of the poet, the aim has been to hit the target of his deeper meaning, without hopelessly involving the reader in the complexities of Hawaiian color and local topography. A few words of explanation must suffice.
The Makani Inu-wai (verse 1)--known to all the islands--is a wind that dries up vegetation, literally a water-drinking wind.
The Naulu (verse 3) is the ordinary sea-breeze at Waimea, Kauai, sometimes accompanied by showers.
Hala-li’i (verse r) is a sandy plain on Niihau, and the peculiarity of its canes is that they sprawl along on the ground, and are often to a considerable extent covered by the loose soil.
Lehua (verse (6) is the well-known bird-island, lying north of Niihau and visible from the Waimea side of Kauai.
The wreath-maker, hake-lei (verse 7), who dwells at Waimea, is perhaps the ocean-vapor, or the moist sea-breeze, or, it may be, some figment of the poet's imagination--the author can not make out exactly what.
The hinahina (verse 14), a native geranium, is a mountain shrub that stands about 3 feet high, with silver-gray leaves.
Maka-weli, Maka-li’i, Koae’a, and Pa-ie-ie are names of places on Kauai.
Puu-ka-Pele (verse 20) as the name indicates, is a volcanic hill, situated near Waimea.
The key or answer (puana), to the allegory given in verse 20, Ke kahuna kalai-hoe o Puu-ka-Pele, the paddle-making kahuna of Pele's mount, when declared by the poet (haku-mele), is not very informing to the foreign mind; but to the Hawaiian auditor it, no doubt, took the place of our haec fabula docet, and it at least showed that the poet was not without an intelligent motive. In the poem in point the author acknowledges his inability to make connection between it and the body of the song.
One merit we must concede to Hawaiian poetry, it wastes no time in slow approach. The first stroke of the artist places the auditor in medias res.
107:a Translated by V. B. Emerson, M. D., under the title "Hawaiian Antiquities," and published by the B. P. Bishop Museum. Hawaiian Gazette Company (Limited), Honolulu, 1903.