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

p. 122


The kaekeeke was a formal hula worthy of high consideration. Some authorities assert that the performers in this dance were chosen from the hoopaa alone, who, it will be remembered, maintained the kneeling position, while, according to another authority, the olapa also took part in it. There is no reason for doubting the sincerity of both these witnesses. The disagreement probably arose from hasty generalization. One is reminded of the wise Hawaiian saw, already noted, "Do not think that, your halau holds all the knowledge."

This hula took its name from the simple instrument that formed its musical accompaniment. This consisted of a single division of the long-jointed bamboo indigenous to Hawaii, which was left open at one end. (The varieties of bamboo imported from China or the East Indies have shorter joints and thicker walls, and will not answer the purpose, being not sufficiently resonant.) The joints used in the kaekeeke were of different sizes and lengths, thus producing tones of various pitch. The performer held one in each hand and the tone was elicited by striking the base of the cylinder sharply against the floor or some firm, nonresonant body.

On making actual trial of the kaekeeke, in order to prove by experience its musical quality and capabilities, the writer's pleasure was as great as his surprise when he found it capable of producing musical tones of great purity and of the finest quality. Experiment soon satisfied him that for the best production of the tone it was necessary to strike the bamboo cylinder smartly upon some firm, inelastic substance, such as a bag of sand. The tone produced was of crystalline purity, and by varying the size and length of the cylinders it proved possible to represent a complete musical scale. The instrument was the germ of the modern organ.

The first mele to be presented partakes of the nature of the allegory. a form of composition not a little affected by the Hawaiians:


A Hamakua au.
Noho i ka ulu hala.
Malihini au i ka hiki ana.
I ka ua pe’epe’e i pohaku.
5 Noho oe a li’u-li’u,
A luli-luli malie iho. p. 123

He keiki akamai ko ia pali;
Elima no pua i ka lima.
Kui oe a lawa
10 I lei no ku’u aloha;
Malama malie oe i ka makemake,
I lei hooheno no ke aloha ole.

Moe oe a ala mai;
Nana iho oe i kou pono.
15 Hai'na ia ka puana:
Keiki noho pali o Hamakua;
A waka-waka, a waka-waka.



It was in Hamakua;
I sat in a grove of Pandanus,
A stranger at my arrival,
A rock was my shelter from rain.
5 I found it a wearisome wait,
Cautiously shifting about.

There's a canny son of the cliff
That has five buds to his hand.
You shall twine me a wreath of due length,
10 A wreath to encircle my love,
Whilst you hold desire in strong curb,
Till love-touch thaws the cold-hearted.

When you rise from sleep on the mat,
Look down, see the conquest of love.
15 The meaning of this short story?
What child fondly clings to the cliff?
Waka-waka, the shell-fish.

The scene of this idyl, this love-song, mele hoipoipo, is Hamakua, a district on the windward side of Hawaii, subject to rain-squalls. The poet in his allegory represents himself as a stranger sitting in a pandanus grove, ulu hala (verse 2); sheltering himself from a rain-squall by crouching behind a rock, ua pe’epe’e pohaku (verse 4); shifting about on account of the veering of the wind, luli-luli malie iho (verse 6). Interpreting this figuratively, Hamakua, no doubt, is the woman in the case; the grove an emblem of her personality and physical charms; the rain-squall, of her changeful moods and passions. The shifting about of the traveler to meet the veering of the wind would seem to mean the man's diplomatic efforts to deal with the woman's varying caprices and outbursts.

He now takes up a parable about some creature, a child of the cliff--Hamakua's ocean boundary is mostly a precipitous wall--which he represents as a hand with five buds. Addressing it as a servant, he bids this creature twine a wreath sufficient for his love, kui oe a 

p. 124

lawa (verse 9), I lei no ku’u aloha (verse 10). This creature with five buds, what is it but the human hand, the errand-carrier of man's desire, makemake (verse 11)? The pali, by the way, is a figure often used by Hawaiian poets to mean the glory and dignity of the human body.

That is a fine imaginative touch in which the poet illustrates the power of the human hand to kindle love in one that is cold-hearted, as if he had declared the hand itself to be not only the wreath-maker, but the very wreath that is to encircle and warm into response the unresponsive loved one, I lei hooheno no ke aloha ole (verse 12).

Differences of physical environment, of social convention, of accepted moral and esthetic standards interpose seemingly impassable barriers between us and the savage mind, but at the touch of an all-pervading human sympathy these barriers dissolve into very thin air.


Kahiki-nui, auwahi a ka makani!
Nana aku au ia Kona,
Me he kua lei ahi b la ka moku;
Me he lawa uli e, la, no
5 Ku’u kai pa-ú hala-ká  c
I ka lae o Hana-maló; d
Me he olohe ili polohiwa,
Ke ku a mauna,
Ma ka ewa lewa e Hawaii.
10 Me he ihu leiwi la, ka moku,
Kou mauna, kou palamoa: f
Kau a waha mai Mauna-kea g
A me Mauna-loa, g
Ke ku a Maile-hahéi. h
15 Uluna mai Mauna Kilohana i
I ka poohiwi o Hu'e-hu'e. i

p. 125



Kahiki-nui, land of wind-driven smoke!
Mine eyes gaze with longing on Kona;
A fire-wreath glows aback of the district,
And a robe of wonderful green
5 Lies the sea that has aproned my loins
Off the point of Hana-maló.
A dark burnished form is Hawaii,
To one who stands on the mount--
A hamper swung down from heaven,
10 A beautiful carven shape is the island--
Thy mountains, thy splendor of herbage:
Mauna-kea and Loa stand (in glory) apart,
To him who looks from Maile-hahei;
And Kilohana pillows for rest
15 On the shoulder of Hu'e-hu'e.

This love-song--mele hoipoipo--which would be the despair of a strict literalist--what is it all about? A lover in Kahiki-nui of the softer sex, it would appear--looks across the wind-swept channel and sends her thoughts lovingly, yearningly, over to Kona of Hawaii, which district she personifies as her lover. The mountains and plains, valleys and capes of its landscapes, are to her the parts and features of her beloved. Even in the ocean that flows between her and him, and which has often covered her nakedness as with a robe, she finds a link in the chain of association.


124:a Auwahi (a word not found in any dictionary) is said by a scholarly Hawaiian to be au archaic form of the word uwahi, or uahi (milk of fire), smoke, Kahiki-nui is a dry region and the wind (makani) often fills the air with dust.

124:b Kua lei ahi. No Hawaiian has been found who professes to know the true meaning of these words. The translation of them here given is, therefore, purely formal.

124:c Pa-ú halaká. An expression sometimes applied to the hand when used as a shield to one's modesty; here it is said of the ocean (hat) when one's body is immersed in it.

124:d Hana-maló. A cape that lies between Kawaihae and Kailua in north Kona.

124:e Ewa lewá. In this reading the author has followed the authoritative suggestion of a Hawaiian expert, substituting it for that first given by another, which was elewa. The latter was without discoverable meaning. Even as now given conjectures as to its meaning are at variance. The one followed presents the less difficulty.

124:f Palamoa. The name of a virulent kupua that acted as errand-carrier and agent for sorcerers (kahuna ánaaná); also the name of a beautiful grass found on Hawaii that has a pretty red seed. Following the line of least resistance, the latter meaning has been adopted; in it is found a generic expression for the leafy covering of the island.

124:g Mauna-kea and Mauna-loa. The two well-known mountains of the big island of Hawaii.

124:h Maile-hahei. Said to be a hill in Kona.

124:i Kilohana and Hu'e-hu'e. The names of two hills in Kona, Hawaii.

Next: XVIII. An Intermission