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

p. 207


The hula ku’i Molokai was a variety of the Hawaiian dance that originated on the island of Molokai, probably at a later period than what one would call the classic times. Its performance extended to the other islands. The author has information of its exhibition on the island of its name as late as the last quarter of the nineteenth century. The actors, as they might be called, in this hula were arranged in pairs who faced each other and went through motions similar to those of boxing. This action, ku’i, to smite, gave the name to the performance. The limiting word Molokai was added to distinguish it from another still more modern form of dance called ku’i, which will be described later.

While the performers stood and went through with their motions, marching and countermarching, as they are said to have done, they chanted or recited in recitative some song, of which the following is an example. This they did with no instrumental accompaniment:

He ala kai olohia, a
He hiwahiwa na ka la’i luahine,
He me’ aloha na’u ka makani hanai-loli, b
E uwe ana i ke kai pale iliahi.
5 Kauwá ke aloha i na lehua o Kaana. c
Pomaikai au i kou aloha e noho nei;
Ka haluku wale no ia a ka waimaka,
Me he makamaka puka a la
Ke aloha i ke kanaka,
10 E ho-iloli nei i ku’u nui kino.
Mahea hoi au, a?
Ma ko oe alo no.

p. 208



Precious the gift of heart's-ease,
A wreath for the cheerful dame;
So dear to my heart is the breeze
That murmurs, strip for the ocean.
5 Love slaves for wreaths from Kaana.
I'm blest in your love that reigns here;
It speaks in the fall of a tear--
The choicest thing in one's life.
This love for a man by his wife--
10 It has power to shake the whole frame.
Ah. where am I now?
Here, face to your face.

The platitudes of mere sentimentalism, when put into cold print, are not stimulating to the imagination; moods and states of feeling often approaching the morbid, their oral expression needs the reenforcement of voice, tone, countenance, the whole attitude. They are for this reason most difficult of translation and when rendered literally into a foreign speech often become meaningless. The figures employed also, like the watergourds and wine-skins of past generations and of other peoples, no longer appeal to us as familiar objects, but require an effort of the imagination to make them intelligible and vivid to our mental vision. If the translator carries these figures of speech over into his new rendering, they will often demand an explanation on their own account, and will thus fail of their original intent; while if he clothes the thought in some new figure he takes the risk of failing to do justice to the intimate meaning of the original. The force of these remarks will become apparent from an analysis of the prominent figures of speech that occur in the mele.


He inoa no ka Lani,
No Náhi-éna-éna;
A ka luna o wahine.
Ho’i ka ena a ka makani;
5 Noho ka la’i i ka malino--
Makani ua ha-aó;
Ko ke au i hale, ea.
Punawai o Maná, a
Wai ola na ke kupa
10 A ka ilio naná,
Hae, nanahu i ke kai;
Ehu kai nána ka pua,
Ka pua o ka iliau,

p. 209

Ka ohai o Mapépe, a
15 Ka moena we’u-we’u,
I ulana ia e ke A’e,
Ka naku loloa.
Hea mai o Kawelo-hea, b
Nawai la, e, ke kapu?
20 No Náhi-éna-éna.
Ena na pua i ka wai,
Wai au o Holei.



A eulogy for the princess,
For Náhi-éna-éna a name!
Chief among women!
She soothes the cold wind with her flame--
5 A peace that is mirrored in calm,
A wind that sheddeth rain;
A tide that flowed long ago;
The water-spring of Maná,
Life-spring for the people,
10 A fount where the lapping dog
Barks at the incoming wave,
Drifting spray on the bloom
Of the sand-sprawling ili-au
And the scarlet flower of ohai,
15 On the wind-woven mat of wild grass,
Long naku, a springy mattress.
The spout-horn, Kawelo-hea,
Asks, Who of right has the tabu?
The princess Náhi-éna-éna!
20 The flowers glow in the pool,
The bathing pool of Holei!

This mele inoa--name-song or eulogy--was composed in celebration of the lamented princess, Nahienaena, who, before she was misled by evil influences, was a most attractive and promising character. She was the daughter of Keopuolani and younger sister of Kamehameha III, and came to her untimely death in 1836. The name was compounded from the words na, the, áhi, fires, and énaéna, hot, a meaning which furnishes the motive to the mele.


207:a Kai olohia. A calm and tranquil sea. This expression has gained a poetic vogue that almost makes it pass current as a single word, meaning tranquillity, calmness of mind. As thus explained. it is here translated by the expression "heart's-ease."

207:b Makani hanai-loli. A wind so gentle as not to prevent the bêche de mer (loli), sea-anemones, and other marine slugs from coming out of their holes to feed. A similar figure is used in the next line in the expression kai pale iliahi. The thought is that the calmness of the ocean invites one to strip and plunge in for a bath.

207:c Kauwá ke aloha i na lehua o Kaana. Kaana is said to be a hill on the road from Keaau to Olaa, a spot where travelers were wont to rest and where they not infrequently made up wreaths of the scarlet lehua bloom which there abounded. It took a large number of lehua flowers to suffice for a wreath, and to bind them securely to the fillet that made them a garland was a work demanding not only artistic skill but time and patience. If a weary traveler, halting at Kaana, employed his time of rest in plaiting flowers into a wreath for some loved one, there would be truth as well as poetry in the saying, "Love slaves for the lehuas of Kaana."

208:a Punawai o Maná. A spring of water at Honuapo, Hawaii, which bubbled up at such a level that the ocean covered it at high tide.

209:a Ka ohai o Mapépe. A beautiful flowering shrub, also spoken of as ka ohai o Papi’o-huli, said to have been brought from Kahiki by Namaka-o-kaha’i.

209:b Kawelo-hea. A blowhole or spouting horn, also at Honuapo, through which the ocean at certain times sent up a column of spray or of water. After the volcanic disturbance of 1868 this spouting horn ceased action. The rending force of the earthquakes must have broken up and choked the subterranean channel through which the ocean had forced its way.

Next: XXVII.--The Hula Kieléi