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Ballads   By: (1850-1894)

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BALLADS BY ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON

Contents: The Song of Rahero Dedication The Slaying of Tamatea The Venging of Tamatea Rahero Notes The Feast of Famine The Priest's Vigil The Lovers The Feast The Raid Notes Ticonderoga The Saying of the Name The Seeking of the Name The Place of the Name Notes Heather Ale Heather Ale Note Christmas At Sea

THE SONG OF RAHERO A LEGEND OF TAHITI

TO ORI A ORI

Ori, my brother in the island mode, In every tongue and meaning much my friend, This story of your country and your clan, In your loved house, your too much honoured guest, I made in English. Take it, being done; And let me sign it with the name you gave.

TERIITERA.

I. THE SLAYING OF TAMATEA

It fell in the days of old, as the men of Taiarapu tell, A youth went forth to the fishing, and fortune favoured him well. Tamatea his name: gullible, simple, and kind, Comely of countenance, nimble of body, empty of mind, His mother ruled him and loved him beyond the wont of a wife, Serving the lad for eyes and living herself in his life. Alone from the sea and the fishing came Tamatea the fair, Urging his boat to the beach, and the mother awaited him there, "Long may you live!" said she. "Your fishing has sped to a wish. And now let us choose for the king the fairest of all your fish. For fear inhabits the palace and grudging grows in the land, Marked is the sluggardly foot and marked the niggardly hand, The hours and the miles are counted, the tributes numbered and weighed, And woe to him that comes short, and woe to him that delayed!"

So spoke on the beach the mother, and counselled the wiser thing. For Rahero stirred in the country and secretly mined the king. Nor were the signals wanting of how the leaven wrought, In the cords of obedience loosed and the tributes grudgingly brought. And when last to the temple of Oro the boat with the victim sped, And the priest uncovered the basket and looked on the face of the dead, Trembling fell upon all at sight of an ominous thing, For there was the aito {1a} dead, and he of the house of the king.

So spake on the beach the mother, matter worthy of note, And wattled a basket well, and chose a fish from the boat; And Tamatea the pliable shouldered the basket and went, And travelled, and sang as he travelled, a lad that was well content. Still the way of his going was round by the roaring coast, Where the ring of the reef is broke and the trades run riot the most. On his left, with smoke as of battle, the billows battered the land; Unscalable, turreted mountains rose on the inner hand. And cape, and village, and river, and vale, and mountain above, Each had a name in the land for men to remember and love; And never the name of a place, but lo! a song in its praise: Ancient and unforgotten, songs of the earlier days, That the elders taught to the young, and at night, in the full of the moon, Garlanded boys and maidens sang together in tune. Tamatea the placable went with a lingering foot; He sang as loud as a bird, he whistled hoarse as a flute; He broiled in the sun, he breathed in the grateful shadow of trees, In the icy stream of the rivers he waded over the knees; And still in his empty mind crowded, a thousand fold, The deeds of the strong and the songs of the cunning heroes of old.

And now was he come to a place Taiarapu honoured the most, Where a silent valley of woods debouched on the noisy coast, Spewing a level river. There was a haunt of Pai. {1b} There, in his potent youth, when his parents drove him to die, Honoura lived like a beast, lacking the lamp and the fire, Washed by the rains of the trade and clotting his hair in the mire; And there, so mighty his hands, he bent the tree to his foot So keen the spur of his hunger, he plucked it naked of fruit. There, as she pondered the clouds for the shadow of coming ills, Ahupu, the woman of song, walked on high on the hills... Continue reading book >>




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