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

p. 113


The character of a hula was determined to some extent by the nature of the musical instrument that was its accompaniment. In the hula puíli it certainly seems as if one could discern the influence of the rude, but effective, instrument that was its musical adjunct. This instrument, the puíli (fig. 1), consisted of a section of bamboo from which one node with its diaphragm had been removed and the hollow joint at that end split up for a considerable distance into fine divisions, which gave forth a breezy rustling when the instrument was struck or shaken.

The performers, all of them hoopaa, were often placed in two rows, seated or kneeling and facing one another, thus favoring a responsive action in the use of the puili as well as in the cantillation of the song. One division would sometimes shake and brandish their instruments, while the others remained quiet, or both divisions would perform

FIG. 1.--Puíli, bamboo-rattle.
FIG. 1.--Puíli, bamboo-rattle.

at once, each individual clashing one puíli against the other one held by himself, or against that of his vis-a-vis; or they might toss them back and forth to each other, one bamboo passing another in slid air.

While the hula puíli is undeniably a performance of classical antiquity, it is not to be regarded as of great dignity or importance as compared with many other hulas. Its character, like that of the metes associated with it, is light and trivial.

The mele next presented is by no means a modern production. It seems to be the work of some unknown author, a fragment of folklore, it might be called by some, that has drifted down to the present generation and then been put to service in the hula. If hitherto the word folklore has not been used it is not from any prejudice against it, but rather from a feeling that there exists an inclination to stretch the application of it beyond its true limits and to make it include popular songs, stories, myths, and the like, regardless of its fitness of application. Some writers, no doubt, would apply this vague term to a large part of the poetical pieces which are given in this book.

p. 114

[paragraph continues] On the same principle, why should they not apply the term folklore to the myths and stories that make up the body of Roman and Greek mythology? The present author reserves the term folklore for application to those unappropriated scraps of popular song, story, myth, and superstition that have drifted down the stream of antiquity and that reach us in the scrap-bag of popular memory, often bearing in their battered forms the evidence of long use.


Hiki mai, hiki mai ka La, e.
Aloha wale ka La e kau nei,
Aia malalo o Ka-wai-hoa, a
A ka lalo o Kauai, o Lehua.
5 A Kauai au, ike i ka pali;
A Milo-ili b pale ka pali loloa.
E kolo ana ka pali o Makua-iki; c
Kolo o Pu-á, he keiki,
He keiki makua-ole ke uwe nei.



It has come, it has come; to the Sun!
How I love the Sun that's on high;
Below it swims Ka-wai-hoa,
On the slope inclined from Lehua.
5 On Kauai met I a pali,
A beetling cliff that bounds Milo-lii,
And climbing up Makua-iki,
Crawling up was Pua, the child,
An orphan that weeps out its tale.

The writer has rescued the following fragment from the waste-basket of Hawaiian song. A lean-to of modern verse has been omitted; it was evidently added within a generation:


Malua, d ki’i wai ke aloha,
Hoopulu i ka liko mamane.
Ueuleu mai na manu,
Inu wai lehua o Panaewa, e
5 E walea ana i ke onaona,
Ke one wali o Ohele.

p. 115

Hele mai lei kou aloha
A lalawe i ko’u nui kino,
Au i hookohu ai,
10 E kuko i ka manao.
Kuhi no paha oe no Hopoe a
Nei lehua au i ka hana ohi ai.



Malua, fetch water of love.
Give drink to this mamane bud.
The birds, they are singing ecstatic,
Sipping Panaewa's nectared lehua,
5 Beside themselves with the fragrance
Exhaled from the garden Ohele.
Your love comes to me a tornado;
It has rapt away my whole body,
The heart you once sealed as your own,
10 There planted the seed of desire.
Thought you ’twas the tree of Hopoe,
This tree, whose bloom you would pluck?

What is the argument of this poem? A passion-stricken swain, or perhaps a woman, cries to Malua to bring relief to his love-smart, to give drink to the parched mamane buds--emblems of human feeling. In contrast to his own distress, he points to the birds caroling in the trees, reveling in the nectar of lehua bloom, intoxicated with the scent of nature's garden. What answer does the lovelorn swain receive from the nymph he adores? In lines 11 and 12 she banteringly asks him if he took her to be like the traditional lehua tree of Hopoe, of which men stood in awe as a sort of divinity, not daring to pluck its flowers? It is as if the woman had asked--if the poet's meaning is rightly interpreted--"Did you really think me plighted to vestal vows, a tree whose bloom man was forbidden to pluck?"


114:a Kawaihoa. The southern point of Niihau. which is to the west of Kauai, the evident standpoint of the poet, and therefore "below" Kauai.

114:b Milo-ili. A valley on the northwestern angle of Kauai, a precipitous region, in which travel from one point to another by land is almost impossible.

114:c Makua-iki. Literally "little father," a name given to an overhanging pali, where was provided a hanging ladder to make travel possible. The series of palis in this region comes to an end at Milo-lii.

114:d The Malua was a wind, often so dry that it sucked up the moisture from the land and destroyed the tender vegetation.

114:e Panaewa was a woodland region much talked of in poetry and song.

115:a Hopoe was a beautiful young woman, a friend of Hiiaka, and was persecuted by Pele, lowing to jealousy. One of the forms in which she as a divinity showed herself was as a lehua tree in full bloom.

Next: XV.--The Hula Ka-laau