Sacred Texts  Pacific  Index  Previous  Next 
Buy this Book at

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

p. 223


The dog took his part and played his enthusiastic role in the domestic life of every Hawaiian. He did not starve in a fool's paradise, a neglected object of man's superstitious regard, as in Constantinople; nor did he vie with kings and queens in the length and purity of his pedigree, as in England; but in Hawaii he entered with full heart of sympathy into all of man's enterprises, and at his death bequeathed his body a sacrifice to men and gods. It was fitting that the Hawaiian poet should celebrate the dog and his altogether virtuous and altruistic services to mankind. The hula ilío may be considered as part of Hawaii's tribute to man's most faithful friend, the dog.

The hula ilío was a classic performance that demanded of the actors much physical stir; they shifted their position, now sitting, now standing; they moved from place to place; indulged in many gestures, sometimes as if imitating the motions of the dog. This hula has long been out of commission. Like the two animal-hulas previously mentioned, it was performed without the aid of instrumental accompaniment.

The allusions in this mele are to the mythical story that tells of Kane's drinking revels on the heights about Waipi’o valley; how he and his fellows by the noise of their furious couching disturbed the prayers and rituals of King Liloa and his priests, Kane himself being the chief offender by his blowing on the conch-shell Kihapú, stolen from Liloa's temple of Paka’alana; its recovery by the wit and dramatic action of the gifted dog Puapua-lenalena. (See p. 131.)


Ku e, naná e!
Makole a o Ku!
Hoolei ia ka lei, b
I lei no Puapua-lenalena,
5 He lei hinano no Kahili, c
He wehiwehi no Niho-kú. d

p. 224

Kaanini ka lani, a uwé ka honua;
A aoa aku oe;
Lohe o Hiwa-uli, b
10 Ka milimili a ka lani.
Noho opua i ka malámaláma
Málama ia ka ipu. c
He hano-wai no Kilioe, d
Wahine noho pali o Haena.
15 Enaena na ahi o Kilauea, e
Ka haku pali o Kamohoalii. f
A noho i Waipi’o,
Ka pali kapu a Kane.
Moe ole ka po o he alii,
20 Ke kani mau o Kiha-pú.
Ukiuki, uluhua ke alii
Hoouna ka elele; g
Loaa i Kauai o Máno.
Kupueu a Wai-uli me Kahili;
25 A ao aku oe, aoa, h aoa a aoa.
Hana e o Kaua-hoa, i
Ka mea úi o Hanalei,
Hu'e’a kaua, moe i ke awakea,

p. 225

Kapae ke kaua o ka hoahanau! a
30 Hookahi no pua o ka oi;
Awili pu me ke kaio'e. b
I lei no Puapua-lenalena.
O ku’u luhi ua hiki iho la,
Ka nioi o Paka’a-lana. c
35 A lana ka manao, hakuko’i ’loko,
Ka hae mau ana a Puapua-lenalena,
A hiki i Kumu-kahi, d
Kahi au i noho ai,
A hiki iho la ka elele,
40 Inu i ka awa kau-laau o Puna. e
Aoa, he, he, hene!

The author of this mele, apparently under the sanction of his poetic license, uses toward the great god Ku a plainness of speech which to us seems satirical; he speaks of him as makole, red-eyed, the result, no doubt, of his notorious addiction to awa, in which he was not alone among the gods. But it is not at all certain that the Hawaiians looked upon this ophthalmic redness as repulsive or disgraceful. Everything connected with awa had for them a cherished value, In the mele given on p. 130 the cry was, "Kane is drunken with awa!" The two gods Kane and Ku were companions in their revels as well as in nobler adventures. Such a poem as this flashes a strong light into the workings of the Hawaiian mind on the creations of their own imagination, the beings who stood to them as gods; not robbing them of their power, not deposing them from the throne of the universe, perhaps not even penetrating the veil of enchantment and mystery with which the popular regard covered them, at the most perhaps giving them a hold on the affections of the people.



Look forth, god Ku, look forth!
Huh! Ku is blear-eyed!
Aye, weave now the wreath--
A wreath for the dog Pua-lena;
5 A halo plume for Kahili,
Choice garlands from Niho-kú.

p. 226

There was a scurry of clouds, earth groaned;
The sound of your baying reached
Hawaii the verdant, the pet of the gods;
10 A portent was seen in the heavens.
You were kept in a cradle of gourd,
Water-gourd of the witch Kilioe,
Who haunted the cliffs of Haena--
The fiery blasts of the crater
15 Touch not Kamoho-alii's cliff.
Your travel reaches Waipi’o,
The sacred cliff of god Pane.
Sleep fled the bed of the king
At the din of the conch Kiha-pú.
20 The king was tormented, depressed;
His messenger sped on his way;
Found help from Kauai of Máno--
The marvelous foster child,
By Waiuli, Kahuli, upreared
25 Your answer, a-o-a, a-o-a!--
'Twas thus Kauahoa made ready betimes,
That hero of old Hanalei
"Strike home! then sleep at midday!"
"God fend a war between kindred!"
30 One flower all other surpasses;
Twine with it a wreath of kai-o'e,
A chaplet to crown Pua-lena.
My labor now has its reward,
The doorsill of Pa-ka’a-lana.
35 My heart leaps up in great cheer;
The bay of the dog greets my ear,
It reaches East Cape by the sea,
Where Puna gave refuge to thee,
Till came the king's herald, hot-foot,
40 And quaffed the awa's tree-grown root.
A-o-a, a-o-a, he, he, hene!

The problem to be solved by the translator of this peculiar mele is a difficult one. It involves a constant readjustment of the mental standpoint to meet the poet's vagrant fancy, which to us seems to occupy no consistent point of view. If this difficulty arises from the author's own lack of insight, he can at least absolve himself from the charge of negligence and lack of effort to discover the standpoint that shall give unity to the whole composition; and can console himself with the reflection that no native Hawaiian scholar with whom he has conferred has been able to give a key to the solution of this problem. In truth, the native Hawaiian scholars of to-day do not appreciate as we do the necessity of holding fast to one viewpoint. They seem to be willing to accept with gusto any production of their old-time singers, though they may not be able to explain them, and though to us, in whose hearts the songs of the masters ever make music, they may seem empty riddles.

p. 227

The solution of this problem here furnished is based on careful study of the text and of the allusions to tradition and myth that therein abound. Its expression in the translation has rendered necessary occasional slight departures from absolute literalness, and has involved the supplying of certain conjunctive and explanatory words and phrases of which the original, it is true, gives no hint, but without which the text would be meaningless.

One learned Hawaiian with whom the author has enjoyed much conference persists in taking a most discouraging and pessimistic view of this mele. It is gratifying to be able to differ from him in this matter and to be able to sustain one's position by the consenting opinion of other Hawaiians equally accomplished as the learned friend just referred to.

The incidents in the story of Puapua-lenalena alluded to in the mele do not exactly chime with any version of the legend met with. That is not strange. Hawaiian legends of necessity had many variants, especially where, as in this case, the adventures of the hero occurred in part on one and in part on another island. The author's knowledge of this story is derived from various independent sources, mainly from a version given to his brother, Joseph S. Emerson, who took it down from the words of an intelligent Hawaiian youth of Kohala.

English literature, so far as known to the author, does not furnish any example that is exactly comparable to or that will serve as an illustration of this nonterminal rhyme, which abounds in Hawaiian poetry. Perhaps the following will serve the purpose of illustration:

’Twas the swine of Gadara, fattened on mast.
The mast-head watch of a ship was the last
To see the wild herd careering past.

[paragraph continues] Or such a combination as this:

He was a mere flat,
Yet flattered the girls.

Such artificial productions as these give us but a momentary intellectual entertainment. While the intellectual element in them was not lacking with the Hawaiians, the predominant feeling, no doubt, was a sensuous delight coining from the repetition of a full-throated vowel-combination.


223:a Makole. Red-eyed; ophthalmic.

223:b The wreath, lei, is not for the god, but for the dog Puapua-lenalena, the one who in the story recovered the stolen conch. Kiha-pú (verse 20), with which god Kane made night hideous and disturbed the repose of pious King Liloa (Moe ole ka po o ke alii, verse 19).

223:c Kahili. Said to be the foster mother of Puapua-lenalena.

223:d Niho-kú. Literally an upright tooth, was the name of the hill on which lived the old couple who were the foster parents of the dog.

224:a Kaanini ka lani, etc. Portents by which heaven and earth expressed their appreciation of the birth of a new prodigy, the dog Puapua-lenalena.

224:b Hiwa-uli. An epithet applied to the island of Hawaii, perhaps on account of the immense extent of territory on that island that was simply black lava; hiwa, black, was a sacred color. The term uli has reference to its verdancy.

224:c Ipu. Wai-uli, the foster father of the dog, while fishing in a mountain brook, brought up a pebble on his hook; his wife, who was childless and yearned for offspring, kept it in a calabash wrapped in choice tapa. In a year or two it had developed into the wonderful dog, Puapua-lenalena. The calabash was the ipu here mentioned, the same as the hano wai (verse 13), a water-container.

224:d Kilióe. A sorceress who lived at Haéna. Kauai, on the steep cliffs that were inaccessible to human foot.

224:e Ena-ena na ahi o Kilauea. "Hot are the fires of Kilauea." The duplicated word ena-ena, taken in connection with Ha-ena in the previous verse, is a capital instance of a form of assonance, or nonterminal rhyme, much favored and occasionally used by Hawaiian poets of the middle period. From the fact that its use here introduces a break in the logical relation which it is hard to reconcile with unity one may think that the poet was seduced from the straight and narrow way by this opportunity for an indulgence that sacrifices reason to rhyme.

224:f Kamoho-alii. The brother of Pele; his person was so sacred that the flames and smoke of Kilauea dared not invade the bank on which he reposed. The connection of thought between this and the main line of argument is not clear.

224:g Hoouna ka elele. According to one story Liloa dispatched a messenger to bring Puapua-lenalena and his master to Waipi’o to aid him in regaining possession of Kiha-pú.

224:h A no aku oe, aoa * * * . This indicated the dog's assent. Puapua-lenalena understood what was said to him, but could make no reply in human speech. When a question was put to him, if he wished to make a negative answer, he would keep silent; but if he wished to express assent to a proposition, he barked and frisked about.

224:i Hana e o Kaua-hoa. * * * No one has been found who can give a satisfactory explanation of the logical connection existing between the passage here cited and the rest of the poem. It treats of an armed conflict between Kauahoa and his cousin Kawelo, a hero from Oahu. which took place on Kauai. Kauahoa was a retainer and soldier of Ai-kanaka, a king of Kauai. The period was in the reign of King Kakuhihewa, of Oahu. Kawelo invaded Kauai with an armed force and made a proposition to Kauahoa which involved treachery to Kauahoa's liege-lord Ai-kanaka. Kauahoa's answer to this proposition is given in verse 28; Hu'e a kaua, aloe i ke awakea!--"Strike home, then sleep at midday!" The sleep at midday was the sleep of death.

225:a Kapae ke kaua o ka hoahanau! This was the reply of Kawelo, urging Kauahoa to set the demands of kinship above those of honor and loyalty to his liege-lord. In the battle that ensued Kauahoa came to his death. The story of Kawelo is full of romance.

225:b Kaio'e. Said to be a choice and beautiful flower found on Kauai. It is not described by Hillebrand.

225:c Ka nioi o Paka’a-lana. The doorsill of the temple, heiau, of Paka’a-lana was made of the exceedingly hard wood nioi. It was to this temple that Puapua-lenalena brought the conch Kiha-pú when he had stolen (recovered) it from god Kane.

225:d Kumukahi. See note e on p. 197.

225:e Awa kau-laau o Puna. It is said that in Puna the birds sometimes planted the awa in the stumps or in the crotches of the trees, and this awa was of the finest quality.

Next: XXXIII.--The Hula Pua’a