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


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p. 235


The hula kilu was so called from being used in a sport bearing that name which was much patronized by the alii class of the ancient régime. It was a betting game, or, more strictly, forfeits were pledged, the payment of which was met by the performance of a dance, or by the exaction of kisses and embraces. The satisfaction of these forfeits not unfrequently called for liberties and concessions that could not be permitted on the spot or in public, but must wait the opportunity of seclusion. There were, no doubt, times when the conduct of the game was carried to such a pitch of license as to offend decency; but as a rule the outward proprieties were seemingly as well regarded as at an old-fashioned husking bee, when the finding of the "red ear" conferred or imposed the privilege or penalty of exacting or granting the blushing tribute of a kiss. Actual improprieties were not witnessed.

The game of kilu was played in an open matted space that lay between the two divisions of the audience--the women being on one side and the men on the other. Any chief of recognized rank in the papa alii was permitted to join in the game; and kings and queens were not above participating in the pleasures of this sport. Once admitted to the hall or inclosure, all were peers and stood on an equal footing as to the rules and privileges of the game. King nor queen could plead exemption from the forfeits incurred nor deny to another the full exercise of privileges acquired under the rules.

The players, five or more of each sex, having been selected by the president, La anoano ("quiet day"), sat facing each other in the space between the spectators. In front of each player stood a conical block of heavy wood, broad at the base to keep it upright. The kilu, with which the game was played, was an oval, one-sided dish, made by cutting in two an egg-shaped coconut shell. The object of the player was to throw his kilu so that it should travel with a sliding and at the same time a rotary motion across the matted floor and hit the wooden block which stood before the one of his choice on the side opposite. The men and the women took turns in playing. A successful hit entitled the player to claim a kiss from his opponent, a toll which was exacted at once. Success in winning ten points made one the victor in the game, and, according to some, entitled him to claim the larger forfeit, such as was customary in the democratic

p. 236

game of ume. The payment of these extreme forfeits was delayed till a convenient season, or might be commuted--on grounds of policy, or at the request of the loser, if a king or queen--by an equivalent of land or other valuable possession. Still no fault could be found if the winner insisted on the strict payment of the forfeit.

The game of kilu was often got up as a compliment, a supreme expression of hospitality, to distinguished visitors of rank, thus more than making good the polite phrase of the Spanish don, "all that I have is yours."

The fact that the hula kilu was performed by the alii class, who took great pains and by assiduous practice made themselves proficient that they might be ready to exhibit their accomplishment before the public, was a guarantee that this hula, when performed by them, would be of more than usual grace and vivacity. When performed in the halau as a tabu dance, according to some, the olapa alone took part, and the number of dancers, never very large, was at times limited to one performer. Authorities differ as to whether any musical instrument was used as an accompaniment. From an allusion to this dance met with in an old story it is quite certain that the drum was sometimes used as an accompaniment.

Let us picture to ourselves the scene: A shadowy, flower-scented hall; the elite of some Hawaiian court and their guests, gathered, in accord with old-time practice, to contend in a tournament of wit and grace and skill, vying with one another for the prize of beauty. The president has established order in the assembly; the opposing players have taken their stations, each one seated behind his target-block. The tallykeeper of one side now makes the challenge. "This kilu," says he, "is a love token; the forfeit a kiss." An Apollo of the opposite side joyfully takes up the gauge. His tallykeeper introduces him by name. He plumes himself like a wild bird of gay feather, standing forth in the decorous finery of his rank, girded and flower-bedecked after the manner of the halau, eager to win applause for his party not less than to secure for himself the loving reward of victory. In his hand is the instrument of the play, the kilu; the artillery of love, however, with which he is to assail the heart and warm the imagination of the fair woman opposed to him is the song he shoots from his lips.

The story of the two songs next to be presented is one, and will show us a side of Hawaiian life on which we can not afford entirely to close our eyes. During the stay at Lahaina of Kamehameha, called the Great--whom an informant in this matter always calls "the murderer," in protest against the treacherous assassination of Keoua, which took place at Kawaihae in Kamehameha's very presence--a high chiefess of his court named Kalola engaged in a love affair with a young man of rank named Ka’i-áma. He was

p. 237

much her junior, but this did not prevent his infatuation. Early one morning she rose, leaving him sound asleep, and took canoe for Molokai to serve as one of the escort to the body of her relative, Keola, on the way to its place of sepulture.

Some woman, appreciating the situation, posted to the house and waked the sleeper with the information. Ka’iáma hastened to the shore, and as he strained his vision to gain sight of the woman of his infatuation the men at the paddles and the bristling throng on the central platform--the pola---of the craft, vanishing in the twilight, made on his imagination the impression of a hazy mountain thicket floating on the waves, but hiding from view some rare flower. He gave vent to his feelings in song:


Pua ehu kamaléna a ka uka o Kapa’a;
Luhi-ehu iho la b ka pua i Maile-húna;
Hele a ha ka iwi c a ke Koolau,
Ke puá mai i ka maka o ka nahelehele,
5 I hali hoo-muú, d hoohalana i Wailua.
Pa kahea a Koolau-wahine,
O Pua-ke’i, e-e-e-e!
He pua laukona e ka moe e aloh’ ai;
O ia moe la, e kaulele hou, f
10 No ka po i hala aku aku net.
Hoiho kaua a eloelo, e ka hoa, e,
A hookahi!



Misty and dim, a bush in the wilds of Kapa’a,
The paddlers bend to their work, as the flower-laden
Shrub inclines to the earth in Maile-húna;
They sway like reeds in the breeze to crack their bones--
5 Such the sight as I look at this tossing grove,
The rhythmic dip and swing on to Wailua.
My call to the witch shall fly with the breeze,
Shall be heard at Pua-ke’i, e-he, e-he!
The flower-stalk Laukóna beguiles man to love,
10 Can bring back the taste of joys once our own,

p. 238

Make real again the hours that are flown.
Turn hither, mine own, let's drench us with love--
Just for one night!

The unchivalrous indiscretion of the youth in publishing the secret of his amour elicited from Kamehameha only the sarcastic remark, "Couldn't he eat his food and keep his mouth shut?" The lady herself took the same view of his action. There was no evasion in her reply; her only reproach was for his childishness in blabbing.


Kálakálaíhi, kaha a ka La ma ke kua o Lehua;
Lulana iho la ka pihe a ke Akua; b
Ea mai ka Unulau c o Halali’i;
Lawe ke Koolau-wahine d i ka hoa la, lilo;
5 Hao ka Mikioi e ke kai o Lehua:
Puwa-i’a na hoa-makani f mai lalo, e-e-e, a.
I hoonalonalo i ke aloha, pe’e ma-loko;
Ha’i ka wai-maka hanini;
I ike aku no i ka uwe ana iho;
10 Pelá wale no ka hoa kamalii, c-e, a!



The sun-furrow gleams at the back of Lehua;
The King's had his fill of scandal and chaff;
The wind-god empties his lungs with a laugh;
And the Mikioi tosses the sea at Lehua,
5 As the trade-wind wafts his friend on her way--
A congress of airs that ruffles the bay.
Hide love 'neath a mask--that's all I would ask.
To spill but a tear makes our love-tale appear;
He pours out his woe; I've seen it, I know;
10 That's the way with a boy-friend, heigh-ho!

The art of translating from the Hawaiian into the English tongue consists largely in a fitting substitution of generic for specific terms. The Hawaiian, for instance, had at command scores of specific names for the same wind, or for the local modifications that were inflicted

p. 239

upon it by the features of the landscape. One might almost say that every cape and headland imposed a new nomenclature upon the breeze whose direction it influenced. He rarely contented himself with using a broad and comprehensive term when he could match the situation with special form.

The singer restricts her blame to charging her youthful lover with an indiscreet exhibition of childish emotion. The mere display of emotion evinced by the shedding of tears was in itself a laudable action and in good form.

This first reply of the woman to her youthful lover did not by any means exhaust her armament of retaliation. When she next treats of the affair it is with an added touch of sarcasm and yet with a sang frond that proved it had not unsettled her nerves.


Ula Kala’e-loa a i ka lepo a ka makani;
Hoonu’anu’a na pua i Kalama-ula,
He hoa i Ra la’i a ka manu-- b
Manu ai ia i ka hoa laukona.
5 I keke lau-au’a ia e ka moe;
E kuhi ana ia he kanaka e.
Oau no keia mai luna a lalo;
Huná ke aloha, pe’e maloko.
Ike 'a i ka uwe ana iho.
10 Pelá ka hoa kamalii--
He uwe wale ke kamalii.



Red glows Kala’e through the wind-blown dust
That defiles the flowers of Lama-ula,
Outraged by the croak of this bird,
That eats of the aphrodisiac cane,
5 And then boasts the privileged bed.
He makes me a creature of outlaw:
True to myself from crown to foot-sole,
My love I've kept sacred, pent up within.
He flouts it as common, weeping it forth
10 That is the way with a child-friend;
A child just blubbers at nothing.

To return to the description of the game, the player, having uttered his vaunt in true knightly fashion, with a dexterous whirl now sends his kilu spinning on its course. If his play is successful and the kilu strikes the target on the other side at which he aims, the

p. 240

audience, who have kept silence till now, break forth in applause, and his tally-keeper proclaims his success in boastful fashion:


A úweuwé ke kó'e a ke kae;
Puehuehu ka la, komo inoino;
Kakía, kahe ka ua ilalo.


Now wriggles the worm to its goal;
A tousling; a hasty encounter;
A grapple; down falls the rain.

It is now the winner's right to cross over and claim his forfeit. The audience deals out applause or derision in unstinted pleasure; the enthusiasm reaches fever-point when some one makes himself the champion of the game by bringing his score up to ten, the limit. The play is often kept up till morning, to be resumed the following night. a

Here also is a mele, which tradition reports to have been cantillated by Hiiaka, the sister of Pele, during her famous kilu contest with the Princess Pele-ula, which took place at Kou--the ancient name for Honolulu--on Hiiaka's voyage of return from Kauai to her sister's court at Kilauea. In this affair Lohiau and Wahine-oma’o contended on the side of Hiiaka, while Pele-ula, was assisted by her husband, Kou, and by other experts. But on this occasion the dice were cogged; the victory was won not by human skill but by the magical power of Hiiaka, who turned Pele-ula's kilu away from the target each time she threw it, but used her gift to compel it to the mark when the kilu was cast by herself.


Ku’u hoa mai ka makani kuehu-kapa o Kalalau, b
Mai na pali ku’i c o Makua-iki,
Ke lawe la i ka haka, d a lilo!
A lilo o-e, la!
5 Ku’u kane i ka uhu ka’i o Maka-pu’u,
Huki iluna ka Lae-o-ka-laau; e
Oia pali makaa-ole f olaila.
Ohiohi ku ka pali o Ulamao, e-e!
A lilo oe, la!

p. 241



Comrade mine in the robe-stripping gusts of Lalau,
On the up-piled beetling cliffs of Makua,
The ladder * * * is taken away * * * It is gone!
Your way is cut off, my man!
5 With you I've backed the uhu of Maka-pu’u,
Tugging them up the steeps of Point-o’-woods,
A cliff that stands fatherless, even as
Sheer stands the pall of Ula-mao--
And thus * * * you are lost!

This is but a fragment of the song which Hiiaka pours out in her efforts to calm the fateful storm which she saw piling up along the horizon. The situation was tragic. Hiiaka, daring fate, defying the dragons and monsters of the primeval world, had made the journey to Kauai, had snatched away from death the life of Lohiau and with incredible self-denial was escorting the rare youth to the arms of her sister, whose jealousy she knew to be quick as the lightning, her vengeance hot as the breath of the volcano, and now she saw this feather-head, with monstrous ingratitude, dallying with fate, calling down upon the whole party the doom she alone could appreciate, all for the smile of a siren whose charms attracted him for the moment; but, worst of all, her heart condemned her as a traitress--she loved him.

Hiiaka held the trick-card and she won; by her miraculous power she kept the game in her own hands and foiled the hopes of the lovers.


Ula ka lani ia Kanaloa, a
Ula ma’ema’e ke ahi a ke A’e-loa. b
Pohina iluna i ke ao makani,
Naue pu no i ka ilikai o Makahana-loa, c
5 Makemake i ka ua lihau. d
Aohe hana i koe a Ka-wai-loa; e
Noho a ka li’u-lá i ke kula.
I kula oe no ka makemake, a hiki iho,
I hoa hula no ka la le’ale’a,
10 I noho pu me ka uahi pohina. f

p. 242

Hina oe i ka Naulu, a noho pu me ka Inuwai. b
Akahi no a pumehana ka hale, ua hiki oe:
Ma’ema’e ka luna i Haupu. c
Upu ka makemake e ike ia Ka-ala.
15 He ala ka makemake e ike ia Lihu'e; d
Ku’u uka ia noho ia Halemano. e
Maanei oe, pale oe, pale au,
Hana ne’e ke kikala i ka ha’i keiki.
Hai'na ka manao--noho i Waimea,
20 Hoonu’u pu i ka i’a ku o ka aina. f
E kala oe a kala au a kala ia Ku, Ahuena. g



Kanaloa tints heaven with a blush,
'Tis the flame of the A’e, pure red,
And gray the wind-clouds overhead.
We trudge to the waters calm of Kahana--
5 Heaven grant us a favoring shower!
The work is all done on the farm.
We stay till twilight steals o’er the plain
Then, love-spurred, tramp o’er it again,
Have you as partner in holiday dance--
10 We've moiled as one in the gray smoke;
Cast down by the Naulu, you thirst.
For once the house warms at your coming.
How clear glow the heights of you Haupu!
I long for the sight of Ka-ala,
15 And sweet is the thought of Lihu'e,
And our mountain retreat, Hale-mano.
Here, fenced from each other by tabu,
Your graces make sport for the crowd.
What then the solution? Let us dwell
20 At Waimea and feast on the fish
That swarm in the neighboring sea,
With freedom to you and freedom to me,
Licensed by Ku and by Ahu-éna.

p. 243

The scene of this idyl is laid in the district of Waialua, Oahu, but the poet gives his imagination free range regardless of the unities. The chief subjects of interest that serve as a trellis about which the human sentiments entwine concern the duties of the fisherman, who is also a farmer; the school for the hula, in which the hero and the heroine are pupils; and lastly an ideal condition of happiness which the lovers look forward to under the benevolent dispensation of the gods Ku and Ahuena.

Among the numerous relatives of Pele was one said to be a sister, who was stationed on a bleak sun-burnt promontory in Koolau, Oahu, where she supported a half-starved existence, striving to hold soul and body together by gathering the herbs of the fields, eked out by unsolicited gifts of food contributed by passing travelers. The pathetic plaint given below is ascribed to this goddess.


Mao wale i ka lani
Ka leo o ke Akua pololi.
A pololi a moe au
O ku’u la pololi,
5 A ola i kou aloha;
I na’i pu no i ka waimaka e uwe nei.
E uwe kaua, e!



Engulfed in heaven's abyss
Is the cry of the famished god.
I sank to the ground from faintness,
My day of utter starvation;
5 Was rescued, revived, by your love:
Ours a contest of tears sympathetic--
Let us pour out together our tears.

The Hawaiian thought it not undignified to express sympathy (aloha-ino) with tears.


237:a Pua ehu kamaléna (yellow child). This exclamation is descriptive of the man's visual impression on seeing the canoe with its crowd of passengers and paddlers, in the misty light of morning, receding in the distance. The kamaléna is a mountain shrub having a yellow flower.

237:b Luhi ehu iho la. Refers to the drooping of a shrub under the weight of its leaves and flowers, a figure applied to the bending of the paddlemen to their work.

237:c Hele a ha ka iwi. An exaggerated figure of speech, referring to the exertions of the men at their paddles (ha, to strain).

237:d I hali hoomú. This refers in a fine spirit of exaggeration to the regular motions of the paddlers.

237:e Pua laukona. A kind of sugar-cane which was prescribed and used by the kahunas as an aphrodisiac.

237:f Kaulele hou. To experience, or to enjoy, again.

238:a The picture of the sun declining, kaha, to the west, its reflected light-track, kala kalaihi, furrowing the ocean with glory, may be taken to be figurative of the loved and beautiful woman, Kalola, speeding on her westward canoe-flight.

238:b Akua. Literally a god, must stand for the king.

238:c Unulau. A special name for the trade-wind.

238:d Koolau-wahine. Likewise another name for the trade-wind, here represented as carrying off the (man's) companion.

238:e Mikioi. An impetuous, gusty wind is represented as lashing the ocean at Lehua, thus picturing the emotional stir attending Kalola's departure.

238:f The words Puwa-i’a na hoa makani, which literally mean that the congress of winds, na hoa makani, have stirred up a commotion, even as a school of fish agitate the surface of the ocean, puwa-i’a, refer to the scandal caused by Ka’i-ama's conduct.

239:a Kala’e-loa. The full name of the place on Molokai now known as Kala’e.

239:b La’i a ka manu. Some claim this to be a proper name, La’i-a-ka-manu, that of a place near Kala’e. However that may be the poet evidently uses the phrase here in its etymological sense.

240:a The account above given is largely based on David Malo's description of the game kilu. In his confessedly imperfect list of the hulas he does not mention the hula kilu. This hula was, however, included in the list of hulas announced for performance in the programme of King Kalakaua's coronation ceremonies.

240:b Ka-lalau (in the translation by the omission of the article ka, shortened to Lalau). A deep cliff-bound valley on the windward side of Kauai. accessible only at certain times of the year by boats and by a steep mountain trail at its head.

240:c Pala ku’i. Ku’i means literally to join together, to splice or piece out. The cliffs tower one above another like the steps of a stairway.

240:d Haka. A ladder or frame such as was laid across a chasm or set up at an impassable place in a precipitous road. The windward side of Kauai about Kalalau abounded in such places.

240:e Lae-o-ka-laau. The southwest point of Molokai. on which is a light-house.

240:f Makua-ole. Literally fatherless, perhaps meaning remarkable, without peer.

241:a Kanaloa. One of the four great gods of the Hawaiians, here represented as playing the part of Phœbus Apollo.

241:b A’e-loa. The name of a wind whose blowing was said to be favorable to the fisherman in this region.

241:c Makahana-loa. A favorite fishing ground. The word ilikai ("skin of the sea") graphically depicts the calm of the region. In the translation the name aforementioned has been shortened to Kahana.

241:d Lihau. A gentle rain that was considered favorable to the work of the fisherman.

241:e Ka-wai-loa. A division of Waialua, here seemingly used to mean the farm.

241:f Uahi pohina. Literally gray-headed smoke. It is said that when studying together the words of the mele the pupils and the kumu would often gather about a fire, while the teacher recited and expounded the text. There is a possible allusion to this in the mention of the smoke.

242:a Naulu. A wind.

242:b Inu-wai. A wind that dried up vegetation, here indicating thirst.

242:c Haupu. A mountain on Kauai, sometimes visible on Oahu in clear weather. (See note e, p. 229, on Haupu.)

242:d Lihu'e. A beautiful and romantic region nestled, as the Hawaiians say, "between the thighs of the mountain," Mount Kaala.

242:e Hale-mano. Literally the multitude of houses: a sylvan region bound to the south western flank of the Konahuanni range of mountains, a region of legend and romance, since the coming of the white mau given over to the ravage and desolation that follow the free-ranging of cattle and horses, the vaquero, and the abusive use of fire and ax by the woodman.

242:f I'a ku o ka aina. Fish common to a region; in this place it was probably the kala, which word is found in the next line, though in a different sense. Here the expression is doubtless a euphemism for dalliance.

242:g Ku, Ahuena. At Waimea, Oahu, stood two rocks on the opposite bluffs that sentineled the bay. These rocks were said to represent respectively the gods Ku and Ahuena, patrons of the local fishermen.

Next: XXXVI.--The Hula Hoo-na-ná