Bold Hinemoa

O gracious muse, I wish to sing
Of another culture, another place
Far removed from the Hellenic ring
Bringing forth a refreshing new face
In the land of the long, white cloud
Lived a people, brave, fierce and proud

Most adventuresome mariners the world has known
They ventured forth to discover new lands to settle
They furiously paddled or sailed wherever they were blown
Valiant warriors and women testing their mettle
O’er the vast Pacific in their hand-hewn canoes
Seeking new lands with something to gain and everything to lose

What did these people do in their walkers
As they sought, landed on the tree-ferned island
They were not writers, they were avid talkers
A rich oral tradition was created by this band
They came ultimately to the haven of far-away Aotearoa
And through them comes the tale of bold Hinemoa

From the whispering of winds, the murmuring of tides
From the voices of the earth herself, comes this daughter of a chief
Her love for this warrior valiantly she hides
This love has already caused her great grief
With skin bronzed by the sun and brown long-flowing tresses
Her many proposals have never met with successes

Dwelling on the shores of Lake Rotorua, she hears the sound
Of the flute flowing o’er the waters of the isle in the distance
With the possessor of the flute she longs to be bound
In solitary dance she moves with unfailing persistence
As her tears flow, she wails a longing lament
While dreaming of a far off, hoped-for heavenly event

Hinemoa visualizes his tattooed face, his body broad
His straight dark hair drawn up in a tight, topknot
Cinched together with a whalebone comb, he awed
The young maiden and inspired this love story, the plot
Of which goes on and on without end with Hinemoa’s yearning
Never ceasing, never decreasing, her heart is on fire, burning

For Tutanekai, she remembered the tribal gathering where their eyes
First met, not a word had been spoken between them since
But they had declared their love under the clear, cerulean skies
Through secret messages carried by friends, to her father she evinced
Her thoughts, her love for this man, a warrior who had no match
Like a shooting star she would let him capture, clasp, catch

Her, but her father was vehement in his denial of such a union
He’s not a true-blooded prince but the adopted son of the ruler,
Choose one of his step-brothers, I would sanction this communion
I will not discuss this issue again till your senses are calmer and cooler
The chief bars all canoes from the shore, removed from the beach
Tutanekai seems to become further and further out of reach

The history of her people is one of migration
A small but tiring journey she now faces
She has not the whales, dolphins or seals to help, in desperation
She ties together six hollow gourds and places
These in the water, and holding on to them
She begins her epic-making, nighttime swim

Having taken off her cloak of multi-colored kiwi feathers
Nude in the moonlight she trod the moon’s white path as she tread
Dreaming her endless dream that they would soon be together
As she looked through the approaching mist to his island up ahead
She has made her decision, she has acted on her last hope
They’ll be together or she’ll die trying to attain the ultimate goal to elope

No one had seen her leave, she had not been missed at her home
This night of all nights she will perish or know the fulfillment
The marvel of her dream her vision, like Venus rising out of the foam
She could see Mokoia, just a glimpse, a glint
On the surface of the water, her destination, weak but resolute
She continued to swim in her grandest but grave pursuit

Till suddenly she felt the sharp stones of the rocky shore
She dragged herself up on Tutanekai’s land, she had made
The crossing, silent she crept but her spirits did soar
She couldn’t believe she was here but no one came to her aid
She had made her decision in haste, not sharing it with anyone
Before the first gleam of dawn, she must find shelter, she’d won

But primarily she needed sleep from her great ordeal
Stumbling around the island, she discovered a cave, warm
Many hot springs bubbling up inside, a few sea gulls squealed
As she took a few branches to cover herself with, away from harm
She fell into an instant, deep sleep so exhausted was she
Dreamed of meeting her love later this day surprising him with glee

Awakened by someone gathering water in a calabash nearby
She cried out, I need a drink, I am thirsty, recognizing her love’s servant
She drank all the water and threw the gourd down with a sigh
Breaking it, the servant exclaimed my master will beat me, with fervent
Wail, he ran away only to return, a new calabash which Hinemoa again
Drank from, broke, causing great commotion which brought in the end

Tutaneki running, his huge whalebone club to teach this patupairehe
A lesson but much to his dismay instead of a fairy he beholds
His beloved, her nudeness shining iridescently, like a gleam off the sea
He stops dumbfounded, shy, as Hinemoa begins to unfold
The tale of her journey across the wave-filled lake
I have come to be with you, my lord, you can take

Me or send me back, whatever your wont, whatever your wish
As before him she stands so full of love for only him
He goes forward and takes her into his arms, the golden fish
The dream envisioned, the cup of happiness overflowing its brim
Enwrapping her in his mantle as if they were already one
I claim you for my bride here and now before everyone

He who does not agree I will fight to the death was his decree
A challenge was made that no one dared to meet
So ferocious his force to keep the maiden that he was guaranteed
Her father relented, held a great wedding feast, their life now complete
This tale of true love has been told through the ages
In all the tribes of Aotearoa, in the works of all sages

by Sandra Robert

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