Sacred Texts  Pacific  Index  Previous  Next 
Buy this Book at

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

p. 183


The hula pa-hua was a dance of the classical times that has long been obsolete. Its last exhibition, so far as ascertained, was in the year 1846, on the island of Oahu. In this performance both the olapa and the hoopaa cantillated the mele, while the latter squatted on the floor. Each one was armed with a sharp stick of wood fashioned like a javelin, or a Hawaiian spade, the o-ó; and with this he made motions, thrusting to right and to left; whether in imitation of the motions of a soldier or of a farmer could not be learned. The gestures of these actors were in perfect time with the rhythm of the mele.

The dance-movements performed by the olapa, as the author has heard them described, were peculiar, not an actual rotation, but a sort of half-turn to one side and then to the other, an advance followed by a retreat. While doing this the olapa, who were in two divisions, marked the time of the movement by clinking together two pebbles which they held in each hand.

The use of the pebbles after the manner of castanets, the division of the dancers into two sets, their advance and retreat toward and away from each other are all suggestive of the Spanish bolero or fandango. The resemblance went deeper than the surface. The prime motive of the song, the mele, also is the same, love in its different phases even to its most frenzied manifestations.


Pa au i ka ihe a Kane; a
Nana ka maka ia Koolau; b
Kau ka opua c ma ka moana.
Lu’u a e-a, lu’u a e-a, d
5 Hiki i Wai-ko-loa.
Aole loa ke kula
I ka pai-lani a Kane. e
Ke kane e ia no hoi ia
Ka hula pe-pe’e

p. 184

10 A ka hale ku’i.
Ku’i oe a lono Kahiki-nui;
Hoolei ia iluna o Kaua-loa,
Ka lihilihi pua o ka makemake.
Mao ole ke Koolau i ka lihilihi.
15 He lihi kuleana ia no Puna.
O ko’u puni no ia o ka ike maka.
Aohe makamaka o ka hale, ua hele oe;
Nawai la au e hookipa
I keia mahaoi ana mai nei o ka loa?
20 He makemake no au e ike maka;
I hookahi no po, le’a ke kaunu,
Ka hana mao ole a ke anu.
He anu mawaho, a he hu’i ma-loko.
A ilaila laua la, la’i pono iho.
25 Ua pono oe o kaua, ua alu ka moena;
Ka hana mau a ka Inu-wai:
Mao ole i ka nui kino.
Ku’u kino keia mauna ia ha’i.
E Ku, e hoolei la!
30 A ua noa!



I am smitten with spear of Kane:
Mine eyes with longing scan Koolau;
Behold the love-omen hang o’er the sea.
I dive and come up, dive and come up;
5 Thus I reach my goal Wai-ko-loa.
The width of plain is a trifle
To the joyful spirit of Kane.
Aye, a husband, and patron is he
To the dance of the bended knee,
10 In the hall of the stamping feet.
Stamp, till the echo reaches Kahiki;
Still pluck you a wreath by the way
To crown your fondest ambition:
A wreath not marred by the salt wind
15 That plays with the skirts of Puna.
I long to look eye into eye.
Friendless the house, you away;
Pray who will receive, who welcome,
This guest uninvited from far?
20 I long for one (soul-deep) gaze,
One night of precious communion;
Such a flower wilts not in the cold--
Cold without, a tumult within.
What bliss, if we two were together!
25 You are the blest of us twain:
The mat bends under your form.
The thirsty wind, it still rages,p. 185
Appeased not with her whole body.
My body is pledged to another.
30 Crown it, Ku, crown it.
Now the service is free!

Some parts of this mele, which is a love-song, have defied the author's most strenuous efforts to penetrate their deeper meaning. No Hawaiian consulted has made a pretense of understanding it wholly. The Philistines of the middle of the nineteenth century, into whose hands it fell, have not helped matters by the emendations and interpolations with which they slyly interlarded the text, as if to set before us in a strong light the stigmata of degeneracy from which they were suffering.

The author has discarded from the text two verses which followed verse 28:

Hai'na ia mai ka puana:
Ka wai anapa i ke kula.


Declare to me now the riddle:
The waters that flash on the plain.

The author has refrained from casting out the last two verses, though in his judgment they are entirely out of place and were not in the mele originally.


183:a Ihe a Kane. The spear of Kane. What else can this be than that old enemy to man's peace and comfort, love, passion?

183:b Koolau. The name applied to the weather side of an island; the direction in which one would naturally turn first to judge of the weather.

183:c Opua. A bunch of clouds; a cloud-omen; a heavenly phenomenon; a portent. In this case it probably means a lover. The present translation is founded on this view.

183:d Lu’u a e-a. To dive and then come up to take breath, as one does in swimming out to sea against the incoming breakers, or as one might do in escaping from a pursuer, or in avoiding detection, after the manner of a loon.

183:e A Kane and Ke kane. Instances of word-repetition, previously mentioned as a fashion much used in Hawaiian poetry. See instances also of the same figure in lines 13 and 14 and in lines 16 and 17.

Next: XXIV.--The Hula Pele