Unwritten Literature of Hawaii, by Nathaniel B. Emerson, , at sacred-texts.com
For the purpose of this book the rating of any variety of hula must depend not so much on the grace and rhythm of its action on the stage as on the imaginative power and dignity of its poetry. Judged in this way, the kolani is one of the most interesting and important of the hulas. Its performance seems to have made no attempt at sensationalism, yet it was marked by a peculiar elegance. This must have been due in a measure to the fact that only adepts--olóhe--those of the most finished skill in the art. of hula, took part in its presentation. It was a hula of gentle, gracious action, acted and sung while the performers kept a sitting position, and was without instrumental accompaniment. The fact that this hula was among the number chosen for presentation before the king (Kamehameha III) while on a tour of Oahu in the year 1846 or 1847 is emphatic testimony as to the esteem in which it was held by the Hawaiians themselves.
The mele that accompanied this hula when performed for the king's entertainment at Waimanalo was the following:
If the author of this Hawaiian idyl sought to adapt its descriptive imagery to the features of any particular landscape, it would almost seem as if he had in view the very region in which Kauikeaouli found himself in the year 1847 as he listened to the mele of this unknown Hawaiian Theocritus. Under the spell of this poem, one is transported to the amphitheater of Mauna-wili, a valley separated from Waimanalo only by a rampart of hills. At one's back are the abrupt walls of Konahuanni; at the right, and encroaching so as almost to shut in the front, stands the knife-edge of Olomana; to the left range the furzy hills of Ulamawao; while directly to the front, looking north, winds the green valley, whose waters, before reaching the ocean, spread out into the fish-ponds and duck swamps of Kailua. It would seem as if this must have been the very picture the idyllic poet had in mind. This smiling, yet rock-walled, amphitheater was the vast dance-hall of Lono--Halau loa o Lono (verse 4)--whose walls were deafened, stunned (pa-á-a, verse 6), by the tumult and uproar of the multitude that always followed in the wake of a king, a multitude whose night-long revels banished sleep: Moe pono ole ko’u po (verse 17). The poet seems to be thinking of this same hungry multitude in verse 18, niho ai kalakala, literally the teeth that tear the food; also when he speaks of the Niuhi (verse 19), a mythical shark, the glow of whose eyes was said to be visible for a great distance in the ocean, A mau i ke kai loa (verse 20).
Ikuwá, Welehu, Makali’i (verses 7, 9, and 10). These were months in the Hawaiian year corresponding to a part of September, October and November, and a part of December. The Hawaiian year began when the Pleiades (Makali’i) rose at sunset (about November 20), and was divided into twelve lunar months of twenty-nine or thirty days each. The names of the months differed somewhat in the different parts of the group. The month Ikuwá is said to have been so named from its being the season of thunderstorms. This does not of itself settle the time of its occurrence, for the reason that in Hawaii the procession of the seasons and the phenomena of weather follow no definite order; that is, though electrical storms occur, there is no definite season of thunderstorms.
Maka-li’i (verse 10) was not only the name of a month and the name applied to the Pleiades, but was also a name given the cool, the rainy, season. The name more commonly given this season was Hooilo. The Makahiki period, continuing four months, occurred at this time of the year. This was a season when the people rested from unnecessary labor and devoted themselves to festivals, games, and special religious observances. Allusion is made to this avoidance of toil in the words Li’ili’i ka hana (verse 11).
One can not fail to perceive a vein of gentle sarcasm cropping up in this idyl, softened, however, by a spirit of honest good feeling. Witness the following: Noe-noe (verse 3), primarily meaning cloudy, conveys also the idea of agreeable coolness and refreshment. Again, while the multitude that follows the king is compared to the ravenous man-eating Niuhi (verse 19), the final remark as to the rarity of the king's visits, He loa o ka hiki’na (verse 21), may be taken not only as a salve to atone for the satire, but as a sly self-gratulation that the affliction is not to be soon repeated.