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The Flood

IN THE eleventh section a poetical prologue repeats the theme of the last three chants. The marriage union most approved in Hawaiian taboo chief families was that between brother and sister, called a pi'o or "arching over." The child of such a union had the highest possible rank, that of a "god," akua. The opening lines of the eleventh chant show La'ila'i "living among chiefs and married to her brother" (noho lani a Pi'olani no). From her high position she comes "bending down over Ki'i," that is, she takes a mere man as a husband, and from this union mankind is born, "the earth swarms with her offspring." The enumeration of some eight hundred pairs, man and wife, descended from Kamaha'ina, "first-born" son of La'ila'i and Ki'i, and Hali'a, La'ila'i's daughter by Kane, sufficiently testifies to the fertility of the match.

At the close of the genealogical listing comes an eloquent passage depicting, on the face of it, a flood of waters rising silently over the land to the inhabited places. These lines offer an excellent and thoroughly characteristic example of poetic symbolism. "The whole means that Ki'i slept with her," summarized Ho'olapa, thus bringing the entire declamatory effusion down to a most explicit conclusion. Expressions such as Kaui-ka-wa, explained as the position of the legs in a bow as in swimming, Lele ka ihe and Kaui-ka-hoe, whose exact meaning Ho'olapa passed over, are recognized terms for positions taken in the act of mating, hence are capitalized in the text.

There follows a reference to "the cock born on the back

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of Wakea," an event which spells the end of the genealogy of the long-lived man of the eighth chant. His genealogy becomes extinct with the name of Po-la'a, "Sacred-night." The allusion to the "cock," to be met more than once in the course of the Kumulipo chant, is to a great chief born into the family from an alien source, whose branch becomes itself the main stock from which subsequent ruling chiefs on the family line count descent. Further trace of the old stock who count descent from the "first chief dwelling in cold uplands" is lost, "vanished into the passing night."

The translation of the poetic passages in this section must necessarily be idiomatic. Noho lani means "living among chiefs," as noho kanaka implies "living as a woman" among the people. Legend is full of such romantic situations enjoyed by both chiefs and chiefesses when the restrictions of court life became irksome. The closing lines are particularly difficult; some must go untranslated as I was unable to keep the flood motive, where double meanings were involved, consistent with the text. Bastian (p. 154) struggled with the same difficulty, although probably unaware of the inner meaning. The kua is the woman's house of a family setup. Naneue may imply "withdrawing to a private place." Both konikoni and hi'a refer to "ardent desire" as applied to the emotions, and hi'a to the art of fire-making, a well known sex symbol.


She was a woman living among chiefs and married to her brother
She was a restless woman living among chiefs
710. She lived above and came bending down over Ki'i
The earth swarmed with her offspring
Born was Kamaha'ina [First-born], a male
Born was Kamamule, her younger born
Born was Kamamainau, her middle one
715. Born was Kamakulua her little one, a girl
Kamaha'ina lived as husband to Hali['a]
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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[There follow some four hundred pairs, man and wife, to lines 1332-33, where a pair of brothers are named, Ali'ihonupu'u the elder, Opu'upu'u the younger. They seem to have a common wife named Ka-ea-honu, a name connecting her with the species of turtle from which the precious tortoise shell for ornament is obtained. From this point four hundred more pairs carry the genealogy of the elder line to Po-la'a. That of the younger appears in the next section.]

1530. Born was Pola'a
Born was rough weather, born the current
Born the booming of the sea, the breaking of foam
Born the roaring, advancing, and receding of waves, the
rumbling sound, the earthquake
The sea rages, rises over the beach
1534. Rises silently to the inhabited places
Rises gradually up over the land . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Born is Po-elua [Second-night] on the lineage of Wakea
1540. Born is the stormy night
Born the night of plenty
Born is the cock on the back of Wakea
Ended is [the line of] the first chief of the dim past dwelling in cold uplands
Dead is the current sweeping in from the navel of the earth: that was a warrior wave
1545. Many who came vanished, lost in the passing night

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