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

p. 233


The hula ohelo was a very peculiar ancient dance, in which the actors, of both sexes, took a position almost that of reclining, the body supported horizontally by means of the hand and extended leg of one side, in such a manner that flank and buttock did not rest upon the floor, while the free leg and arm of the opposite side swung in wide gestures, now as if describing the arch of heaven, or sweeping the circle of the horizon, now held straight, now curved like a hook. At times the company, acting in concert, would shift their base of support from the right hand to the left hand, or vice versa. The whole action, though fantastical, was conducted with modesty. There was no instrumental accompaniment; but while performing the gymnastics above described the actors chanted the words of a mele to some Old World tune, the melody and rhythm of which are lost.

A peculiar feature of the training to which pupils were subjected in preparation for this dance was to range them in a circle about a large fire, their feet pointing to the hearth. The theory of this practice was that the heat of the fire suppled the limbs and imparted vivacity to the motions, on the same principle apparently as fire enables one to bend into shape a crooked stick. The word kapuahi, fireplace, in the fourth line of the mele, is undoubtedly an allusion to this practice.

The fact that the climate of the islands, except in the mountains and uplands, is rarely so cold as to make it necessary to gather about a fire seems to argue that the custom of practising this dance about a fireplace must have originated in some land of climate more austere than Hawaii.

It is safe to say that very few kumu-hulas have seen and many have not even heard of the hula ohelo. The author has an authentic account of its production at Ewa in the year 1856, its last performance, so far as he can learn, on the public stage.


Ku oe ko’u wahi ohelo nei la, auwe, auwe!
Maka’u au i kau mea nui wali-wali, wali-wali!
Pe hoolewa nei, a lewa la, a lewa nei!
Minomino, enaena ka ia in kapuahi, kapuahi!
5 Nenea i ka la’i o Kona, o Kona, a o Kona!
Pohu malino i ke kai hawana-wana, hawana-wana!
He makau na ka lawaia nui, a nui e, a nui la!
Ke o-é nei ke aho o ka ipu-holoholona, holoholona!p. 234
Naná i ka opua makai e, makai la!
10 Maikai ka hana a Mali’o e, a Mali’o la!
Kohu pono ka inu ana i ka wai, a wai e!
Auwe, ku oe ko’u wahi ohelo nei la, ohelo nei la!


Ki-ó lele, ki-ó lele, ki-ó lele, e!
Ke mapu mai nei ke ala, ke ala e!
15 Ua malihini ka hale, ua hiki ia, ua hiki e!
Ho’i paoa i ka uka o Manai-ula, ula la, ula e!
Maanei oe, e ka makemake e noho malie, ma-li-e!
Ka pa kolonahe o ka Unulau mahope, ma-ho-pe!
Pe’e oe, a pe’e au, pe’e o ia la,
20 A haawe ke aloha i ke kaona, i ke kaona la!
Mo-li-a i ka nahele e, nahele la!
E hele oe a manao mai i ka luhi mua, a i-mua!
O moe hewa na iwi i ke alanui, ala-nui.
Kaapa Hawaii a ka moku nui, a nui e!
25 Nui mai ke aloha a uwe au, a uwe au.
Au-we! pau au i ka manó nui, manó nui!
Au-we! pau au i ka manó nui, manó nui!




Touched, thou art touched by my gesture, I fear, I fear.
I dread your mountain of flesh, of flesh;
How it sways, how it sways, it sways!
I'm scorched by the heat of this hearth, this hearth.
5 We bask in this summer of Kona, of Kona;
Calm mantles the whispering sea, the whispering sea.
Lo, the hook of the fisherman great, oh so great!
The line hums as it runs from the gourd, from the gourd.
Regard the cloud-omens over the sea, the sea.
10 Well skilled in his craft is Mali’o, Mali’o.
How grateful now were a draught of water, of water!
Pardon! thou art touched by thrust of my leg, of my leg!


Forth and return, forth and return, forth and return!
Now waft the woodland perfumes, the woodland perfumes.
15 The house ere we entered was tenant-free, quite free.
Heart-heavy we turn to the greenwood, the greenwood;
This the place, Heart's desire, you should tarry, should tarry,
And feel the soft breath of the Unulau, Unulau--
Retirement for you, retirement for me, and for him.
20 We'll give then our heart to this task, this great task,
And build in the wildwood a shrine, ay a shrine.
You go; forget not the toils we have shared, have shared,
Lest your bones lie unblest in the road, in the road.
How wearisome, long, the road ’bout Hawaii, great Hawaii!
25 Love carries me off with a rush, and I cry, I cry,
Alas, I'm devoured by the shark, great shark!

This is not the first time that a Hawaiian poet has figured love by the monster shark.

Next: XXXV.--The Hula Kilu