The Coming Of The Rauparaha Poem by Arthur Henry Adams

The Coming Of The Rauparaha

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BLUE, the wreaths of smoke, like drooping banners
From the flaming battlements of sunset
Hung suspended; and within his whare
Hipe, last of Ngatiraukawa's chieftains,
Lay a-dying! Ringed about his death-bed,
Like a palisade of carven figures,
Stood the silent people of the village—
Warriors and women of his hapu—
Waiting. Then a sudden spilth of sunlight
Splashed upon the mountain-peak above them,
And it blossomed redly like a rata.
With his people and the twilight pausing;
Withering to death in regal patience,
Taciturn and grim, lay Hipe dying.
Shuddering and green, a little lizard
Made a ripple through the whare's darkness,
Writhing close to Hipe! Then a whisper
On the women's dry lips hesitated
As the ring of figures fluttered backwards;
“ 'T is the Spirit-Thing that comes to carry
Hipe's tardy soul across the waters
To the world of stars!” And Hipe, grimly,
Felt its hungry eyes a-glitter on him;
Then he knew the spirit-world had called him;
Knew the lizard-messenger must hasten,
And would carry back a soul for answer.

Twenty days in silence he had listened,
Dumb with thoughts of death, and sorely troubled
For his tribe left leaderless and lonely.
Now like sullen thunder from the blackness
Of the whare swept a voice untinctured
With a stain of sickness; and the women,
Breaking backwards, shrieked in sudden terror,
“ 'T is the weird Thing's voice, the greenish lizard,
All-impatient for the soul of Hipe!”
But the warriors in the shadow straightened
Drooping shoulders, gripped their greenstone meres,
And the rhythmic tumult of the war-dance
Swept the great pah with its throbbing thunder:
While their glad throats chanted, “E, 't is Hipe!
Hipe's voice that led us in the battle;
Hipe, young, come back to lead us ever!”
“Warriors and women of my hapu,”
Whirled the voice of Hipe from the darkness,
“I have had communion with the spirits;
Listen while I chant the song they taught me!
“I have seen the coming end of all things,
Seen the Maori shattered 'neath the onrush
Of the white-faced strangers. Like the flashing
Of the Sun-God through the ranks of darkness,
Like the Fire-God rippling through the forest,
Like the winter's silent blight of snowflakes—
Lo, the strange outbreak of pallid blossoms!—

Sweeps this surging wave of stranger-faces,
Frothing irresistibly upon us.
“Lo, the Pakeha shall come and conquer;
We have failed; the Gods are angry with us.
See, the withered autumn of our greatness!
“Old ancestral myths and sacred legends
That we deemed immortal—(priest and wizard
Died, and yet their stories, like a river,
Through the long years ran on, ever changeless!)—
Shall be buried; and the names long given
To each hill, and stream, and path and gully,
Shall be like a yesterday forgotten,
Blown like trembling froth before the sea-breeze.
“And the gods that people all our islands—
This great sea of presences immortal,
Living, real, alert for charm or evil,
Hurrying in every breeze, and haunting,
Heavy-winged, the vistas of the forest,
Deluging the daylight with their presence,
Teeming, flooding, brimming in the shadows—
Shall be banished to their spirit-regions,
And the world be lorn of gods and lonely.
“And the Maori shall no long time linger
Ere, a tardy exile, he shall journey
To the under-world. Yet he shall never
Break before this influx, but shall fight on

Till, a mangled thing, the tide o'erwhelm him.
And my tribe, the mighty Ngatiraukawa,
Had they left one worthy chieftain only
Who could lead my people on to victory,
Who could follow where my feet have trodden,
Might yet rear their name into a pillar
Carved with fame, until their stubborn story
From the mists of legend broke tremendous.
Flaming through the chilly years to follow
With a sunset-splendour, huge, heroic!
“Yes, the time is yours to rear a nation
From one conquering tribe, the Ngatiraukawa;
But my pah is leaderless and lonely;
I am left, the last of Maori chieftains;
And the gods have called me now to lead them
In their mighty battles! There is no one
Worthy now to wield my dying mana!”
So he ceased, and tremulous the silence
Sighed to voice in one long wail of sorrow.
So; it was the truth that Hipe taught them:
None was left to lead them on to victory;
None could follow where his feet had trodden.
Then by name old Hipe called the chieftains—
Weakling sons of that gaunt wrinkled giant,
Stunted saplings blanching in the shadow
Of the old tree's overarching greatness.
One by one he called them, and they shivered,

For they knew no answer to his question,
“Can you lead my people on to victory?
Can you follow where my feet have trodden?”
One by one a great hope burned within them,
And their feeble hearts beat fast and proudly;
One by one a chill of terror took them,
And the challenge on their lips was frozen.
Then the old chief in his anger chaunted
Frenziedly a song of scorn of all things,
And the frightened people of the village—
Warriors and women of his hapu—
Quavered into murmurs 'neath the whirlwind
Of his lashing words; and then he fretted
Into gusts of anger; and the lizard
Made a greenish ripple in the darkness,
Shuddering closer to him. And the people
Bending heard a whisper pass above them,
“Is there none to lead you on to victory,
None to follow where my feet have trodden?”
Lo, a sudden rumour from the edges
Of the silent concourse, where the humblest
Of the village crouched in utter baseness—
There among the outcasts one leapt upright,
Clean-limbed, straight and comely as a sunbeam.
Eager muscles clad in tawny velvet,
Eyes aflash with prescience of his power,
Yet a boy, untried in warriors' warfare,

Virgin to the battle! And untroubled
Rang a daring voice across the darkness,
“Yes, my people, one there is to lead you;
I dare point you on to fame and victory,
I dare tread where Hipe's feet have trodden.
Yea,” and prouder sang the voice above them,
“I can promise mightier fame unending;
I shall lead where Hipe dared not tempt you;
I shall make new footprints through the future—
I, the youth Te Rauparaha, have spoken!”
On the boy who braved them stormed the people,
Swept with fear and anger, and they clamoured,
“Who so proudly speaks, though not a chieftain?
Rank and name and fame he has none; how then
Dare he lead when sons of chieftains falter?”
But the boy leapt forward to the whare,
Clean-limbed, straight and comely as a sunbeam,
Eager muscles clad in tawny velvet,
Eyes aflash with prescience of his power,
Swinging high the mere he had fashioned
Out of wood, and carven like a chieftain's—
Aye, and with the toy had slain a foeman!
Flinging fiery speech out like a hailstorm,
“If ye choose me chieftain I shall lead you
Down to meet the white one on the sea-coast,
Where his hordes shall break like scattered billows
From our wall of meres. Him o'erwhelming,

I shall wrest his flaming weapons from him,
Fortify for pah the rugged island
Kapiti; then like a black-hawk swooping
I shall whirl upon the Southern Island,
Sweep it with my name as with a tempest,
Overrun it like the play of sunlight,
Sigh across it like a flame, till Terror
Runs before me shrieking! And our pathway
Shall be sullen red with flames and bloodshed,
And shall moan with massacre and battle!
“Quenching every foe, beneath my mana
Tribe shall stand with tribe, till all my nation
Like a harsh impassive wall of forest
Imperturbably shall front the strangers;
And with frown inscrutable shall wither
All this buzz and stir of stinging insects
That persist about us; then our islands
Garlanded with peace are ours for ever!
“Then the name of me, Te Rauparaha,
And the tribe I lead, the Ngatitoa,
Shall be shrined in sacred myth and legend
With the glamour of our oft-told prowess
Wreathed about them! Think, we shall be saviours
Of a race, a nation! And this island
We have sown so thick with names—each hillock,
Glen and gully, stream and tribal limit—
Shall for ever blossom like a garden

With the liquid softness of their music!
And the flute shall still across the evening
Lilt and waver, brimming with love's yearning!
And the exiled gods and banished spirits
Shall steal back to people all our islands
With their sea of presences immortal,
Living, real, alert for charm or evil,
Hurrying in every breeze and haunting,
Heavy-winged, the vistas of the forest,
Deluging the daylight with their presence,
Teeming, flooding, brimming in the shadows,
Till the world, a tawny world of gladness,
Shall no more of gods be lorn and lonely!
I, the youth Te Rauparaha, have spoken!”
Hipe heard, and, dying, cried in triumph,
“Warriors and women of my hapu,
He shall lead you, he, Te Rauparaha!
He shall do the things that he has promised.
He may fail; but think how grand his failure!
He alone can lift against the tempest
That proud head of his, and hugely daring,
God-like, hugely fail, or hugely conquer!”
Still he spoke, but suddenly the lizard
Made a greenish ripple through the darkness,
And was gone! Upon the long lone journey
To Te Reinga and the world of spirits
It had started with the soul of Hipe!

Then the plaintive wailing of the women
Quavered through the darkness, and a shudder
Took the slaves that in a horror waited
For the mercy of the blow to send them—
Ah! the sombre, slowly-stepping phalanx—
To the twilight world with Hipe's spirit.

Arthur Henry Adams

Arthur Henry Adams

Lawrence / New Zealand
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