TALES OF BANKS PENINSULA: PENINSULA STORIES IN VERSE


CHRISTCHURCH,  2009

 PENINSULA STORIES IN VERSE

AKAROA

I

Where do sunbeams brightest glisten,

Mid intricacies of shade; Where does love-lorn Tui 1 listen

To its mate in leafy glade; Where, when earliest spring is waking

From its sleep each leaflet's fold, Do the zephyrs, gently shaking,

Pave the Kowhai's 2 roots with gold. Where, with melody surprising,

Does the Bell-bird 3 welcome day, Ere the golden sun, arising,

Makes the night-mists pass away; Where do great Koninis,4 laden

With their million berries store, Purple lips of many a maiden?

'Tis in lovely Akaroa.

II

Where do mighty tree-clad mountains

Solemn guard the vales below, Giving birth to many a fountain,

Where in winter lies the snow. Where do great Totaras,5 flinging

Bronzed foliage to the sky,

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1. The Tui, or parson-bird, one of the honey-Backers peculiar to New Zealand.

2. The Kowhai is a native acacia, that in spring ia covered with a profusion of golden blossoms. 

3. The Bellbird, or moko moko, another New Zealand honey-sucker, that always welcomes the dawn with a strangely clear and deep note, like a bell. 

4. The Konini is the giant Fuchsia of New Zealand, whose numberless purple berries are the delight of birds and children. 

5. The Totara is a pine with golden or bronze coloured foliage, of great beauty. It grows to an enormous size.

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Rest a thousand songsters, singing

Hymns of rapture ere they fly Where are giant Willows1 growing,

From Napoleon's distant grave; Where are creeks for ever flowing,

Giving verdure as they lave; Where do sunclad wavelets wander

To Zealandia's fairest shore, In embracing, growing fonder?

'Tis in lovely Akaroa.

III

Where do sunsets' rays of glory, Gold and purple raiment, throw

O'er the hills2 renowned in story

In the Maori long ago. Where does wild Clematis, 3 flinging

Tendrils o'er the boughs below, Cover sprays, where birds are singing,

With a cloak of purest snow; Where, in wild, sequestered valley,

Grows the wondrous Nikau  palm4, Forming ever verdant alley,

Where there is eternal calm. Where are silver fern5 trees spreading

Fairy fronds of beauty pure, Aromatic fragrance shedding ?

'Tis in lovely Akaroa.

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1. The weeping Willows growing in Akaroa are all said to have sprung from A slip brought by a French- man from Napoleon's tomb at St. Helena. They are of enormous size. 

2. The hills around Akaroa were the scenes of many a renowned Maori conflict. 

3. The wild Clematis, with snowy blossoms fully a foot in circumference, is of marvellous beauty. 

4.The Nikau palm grows only in the most sequestered and sheltered valleys. 

5. The silver fern-tree's fronds are a brilliant green above, and pure silver underneath. 

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IV

Where, when storms are raging madly,

'Neath the bitter tempest's blast, Does the sailor enter gladly,

Finding peaceful seas at last; Where does the Titoki's1 glory

Blaze with scarlet many a glade, Sheltered from nor'-wester's2 fury

By the pine tree's3 tasselled shade. Where are feet for ever pressing

Wondrous ferns4 of beauty rare, Robed in Nature's choicest dressing,

Ever fresh and passing fair; Where, when from the world we sever,

Seeking peace for evermore, Should we choose to rest forever?

'Tis in lovely Akaroa.

Silas Wegg                         

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1. The Titoki is the native Ash. It bears masses of scarlet berries like gigantic raspberries. 

2. The nor'-westers are hot winds in Akaroa, and wither vegetation. 

3. The native bush consisted originally principally of gigantic pines.

4. The ferns in Akaroa are of marvellous variety and beauty. 

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OUR JUBILEE

The years roll on in this new land that gems the Southern Sea,

As many an aged pioneer can prove right wearily. Men that shaped out the future for the thousands of their race,

Who needed sore in crowded homes a new abiding place.

They taught this stubborn earth to smile with Europe's plants and flowers;

They made the primal rocks reveal a Danae's golden showers;

They bridged the flood, they drained the swamp, they tore the forest down,

And made the golden corn to smile where waved the tussock brown.

Nor they alone the victory won, for by their sides there stood

Full many an angel of the wild, a heroine of the wood,

Who urged them forth to high emprise, or where misfortune fell,

Would many a word of peace and hope and gentlest comfort tell;

Who, like the rata, when the pine is tottering to its fall,

Still held them in strong loving bands and made them tower o'er all;

And should not they who reap the toil of all those early days,

Give to the veterans their need of due and hard earned praise?

Remember in luxurious days the trials of the past,

And trumpet forth these heroes' deeds with no uncertain blast.

Tis more than fifty years ago that Waitemata heard

That this fair haven Akaroa had beautiful appeared

 To sons of the fair land of joy, of chivalry and song,

Who meant to seize its favoured shores, and hold them firm and strong.

Then all the Viking spirit rose in that small British band:

What ! Should they lose this favoured isle, this lovely southern land?

Perish the thought !

Should England's might like this be trampled down?

A gem lost from her diadem, a jewel from her crown!

So on her mission of emprise the Britomart was sent;

True Argonauts were those brave hearts who in the vessel went,

For sure they searched not vainly, and the fruit their wanderings bore

Was not a single golden fleece, but many a million more!

We know the end with high result the British dart was sped,

And in the race for empire, our doughty champions led.

They gained our shores; and loud the cheers that rang across our seas

As old St. George's glorious cross flew bravely in the breeze.

A greater or a happier day Zealandia never saw,

Than this, which bound to English rule her loveliest

Southern shore, but there has been one victory since as great in thinkers' eyes:

It brought no riches in its train, no vast material prize,

Yet was a triumph for our laws, a glory to our land,

That ne'er can fade while Britain's sons hold France's loving hand.

 The men who came to claim the soil whom we had deemed our foes

Settled our shores, and speedily fresh rivalry arose.

The rivalry of industry, the striving each to prove

Supremacy in deeds of toil, of kindness, and of love;

And after working side by side for many a weary day,

At last the further time came round when they were called to say:

Will ye be France or Britain's sons? ye know us now fall well.

O noble was the answer that from their brave lips fell,

" We know you, and we love you,” and this is our reply:

Together we will fight or fall, together live or die."

And now that fifty years are past since that old faithful band

Raised the proud standard of our Queen upon this fertile strand,

We seek to brand it for all time a landmark of our race,

So that when, in the distant years, historians shall trace

The records of the early days, when first this land of flowers

Was rendered by a daring deed for all the ages ours.

They can point out the sacred spot where first our standard braved

The winds that hover o'er the shores our peaceful waters laved;

Still tell how France and Britain here forgot the feuds of old,

And hand in hand, and heart to heart did lovingly enfold.

Silas Wegg.                                        


THE LEGEND OF ONAWE

Land of the forest and the hill,

Land of tall fern and tussock brown

Where lake-like waters, calm and still,

Reflect the crags that o'er them frown;

Where mighty monsters of the deep

The Taniwhas1 of ancient story

 Watched their grim infants' happy sleep

Beneath the Southern planets' glory

 Land of tall pine, of graceful vines,

Where Tuis gurgle in the shade;

Where, in white wreaths, Clematis twines,

And Kaka screams in ferny glade.

How many a tale of passion past

Thy rocks could tell, if speech were given,

Of heroes struggling to the last,

Of dire revenge, of races driven

From this fair home their last hopes riven

 

Where the proud waves come swelling high

Up Whangaroa's2 Harbour fair,

 A peak mounts startling to the sky,

With base like some gigantic pear.

Sternly it meets the advancing tide,

And bids the crested horses stay.

The conquered waters, baulked, divide,

And form on either either side a bay;

And there, in those wild days of yore,

The Waka Maori3 floated light,

And many a dusky maiden saw

Her lover on some starry night,

And each read in the other's eyes

The old , old story, that never dies.

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1. Before the advent of the whalers. Akaroa Harbour was the constant resort of the cow whales with their calves

2. Whangaroa is the real name of Akaroa. 

3. Waka Maori: Maori canoe.

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Lost is the time in ages dim,

Since this stern peak first gained the name

From wise Tohunga's1 visions grim,

That placed it high in Maori fame.

Onawe! Home of him who holds

The mighty winds that restless sweep;

Who bids them in their treacherous folds

Engulph the wanderers o'er the deep,

Or curbs their restless course to calm ,

Or lets the gentle zephyr play

The wearied mariner to charm,

And waft him on his watery way.

 

Home of the Spirit of the Wind !

Where the dread Atua f held his sway,

When luckless mortal sought to find

Him whom the winds alone obey,

A dreadful voice, in accents deep,

Would call from out the rocky steep,

“What want you here? Begone! Begone!"

And lucky he if, e'er the morn,

The winds had spared from vengeance dour

One who had braved the Atua's2 power.

 

The ages passed, and from the North

The restless Pakeha races came;

Their cannons belched loud thunders forth.

The Taniwha's gigantic frame,

Pierced by their lances, gave its life;

And trees were felled, and a new light,

Foreboding change and peace from strife,

Dawned on the ancient Maori night.

Then those stern gods, whose bloody reign

Had lasted from the ages past,

Saw that the struggle must be vain,

And that their power had gone at last,

For the blind faith that long had spread

Its shelter o'er them was no more;

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1. Tohunga: Maori priest or prophet. 

2. Atua: Maori God. 

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And once that faith in creeds is dead,

Their might is gone, their rule is o'er.

 

Yet lingered in his storied place,

Onawe's spirit; though despair;

In windy tempests men might trace,

That showed the Atuas of the air

Were restless in their ancient hold,

Which ne'er again would faith enfold.

At last, upon a fatal day,

A young Ngai Tahu1 warrior came,

And fired a musket in his play!

A shudder shook the mountain's frame;

A mighty tempest swept the deep:

The great waves rolled, the thunders pealed,

And dusky vapours sullen sweep

And hide the heavens with livid shield.

 

And o'er the summit of the storm

The Atua's voice came stern and high,

And shadow of a mighty form,

Rose God-like towards the darkened sky.

“I go!" the giant spirit cried.

Never again will Atua's cry

 Be borne on Whangaroa's tide

To warn of stormy danger nigh.

But e'er I fly, Ngai Tahu hear:

Thy faithless race has dared profane

My sacred shrine, once held so dear,

With murderous offspring of the brain

Of that new race that swept away

The records of the ages past.

Deluded Maori! Thy brief day

Is setting, and the shadows vast

Close o'er Ngai Tahu's hapless head,

Till it is numbered with the dead!

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1. Ngai Tahu: The tribe that held the Peninsula at the time of its first being visited by Europeans. 

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Here, on Onawe's fated strand,

The last poor remnant of thy race

Shall struggle for their fathers' land.

And coming Pakehas will trace

The mighty earthworks raised in vain

Against the conquering Northern train.

 

The tempest ceased, the spirit fled;

Once more the radiant sunbeams shed

Their glories over earth and sea;

And the fierce tribe that long had stood

Owners of land, and wave and wood,

Knew well the Atua's prophecy

Was true, and that Ngai Tahu's race

Should quickly fall from power and place,

And, conquered, fighting die!

 

True was the Atua's warning dread

E'er fifty summer suns had shed

Their rays upon Onawe's head,

The fierce Te Rauparaha1 came,

And Ngatitoa’s2 warriors bold

Stormed fierce Ngai Tahu's storied hold

And left them scarce a name!

And where the Atua once had reigned,

The dreaded Northern warriors drained

The life-blood of their foes.

But even now, when feuds are o'er,

And peace reigns on the tranquil shore,

The Maori chieftain shows

Tho mighty earthworks of the past

Where brave Ngai Tahu made the last

Great struggle for their land

And, fighting with their Northern foes,

Found in grim death their last repose

On fair Onawe's strand!

Silas Wegg

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1.  Rauparaha: The Wellington chief who conquered the Ngai Tahu.

2. Ngati Toa: The name of Rauparaha's tribe. 

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THE LEGEND OF GOUGH'S BAY

Where thy dark surge, Okeruru,1 rolls to its deafening ending,

Smiting the rolling sand and the base of the cliffs of obsidian

There stood the fated few, the last of the pride of Ngai Tahu.2

News had been brought in the evening that mad Ngatiawas’ 3 dread warriors,

Full of revenge and hate, had found the pass through Waimomo,

And waited the coming of eve to sweep them to utter oblivion.

Then spake Paihora, the chieftain, last of Arikis' 4 relations,

Spoke to the trembling forty all that were left of the Hapu

Take our remaining treasures; take our Pounamou meres; 5

Take the tikis, 6 that symbol the Atuas that once were protectors;

Take the teeth of the shark, the mats of flax and of feathers;

Take our choicest treasures, the wealth of our tottering hapu

Place in the wakas7 of Hiwi, the wakas that ply the wai Maori.8

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1. Okeruru is the Maori name of Gough's Bay. 

2. The Ngai Tahu were the dominant tribe on the Peninsula. 

3. The Ngati Awa were Northern natives, who, under Rauparaha, drove the Ngai Tahu, first to the remote Bays, like Okeruru, and then almost annihilated them.

4.The Ariki was the supreme chief. 

5. Greenstone clubs. 

6. Amulets, supposed to give peculiar lack to the wearer. 

7. Canoes. 

8. Fresh water. 

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“And you, oh, mothers of chieftains, Ohine, Rau-pau-te, Aroha!

Take the treasures, and hide, from the spoilers of fell Ngatiawa.

"Say the sacred spells that will hide from the sight of Ngatoi;

"Burn the sacred fire that will make the tapu so mighty,

"That Atuas of earth and of caverns, A-tuas of air and of ocean

"All of those that are left of the fallen Gods of Ngai Tahu

"Shall watch with their terrible eyes the treasure bequeathed to their keeping.

"When the Ariki had spoken, forth went the mothers of chieftains,

Gathered the treasures, and placed them, into the wakas of Hiwi;

Fastened the two together with strong Korari1 most holy;

Took their paddles and started, up from the sea to the valley,

Singing the sacred songs, the songs of the mightiest Tohungas.

Then Paihora gathered the remnant of weeping Ngai Tahu;

Placed in the wai ti,2 wakas, the wakas that sail on the ocean;

Launched in the deadened surf, that moaned at the loss of the Hapu,

Gaining the open sea, in search of a haven of safety.

Vain the fugitives' hopes! for the taniwha’s3 dread of Ngatoi,

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1. A kind of Fla x. 

2. Salt water. 

3, Sea monsters. Certain chiefs were supposed to Lava the power of calling them to their assistance. 

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Taniwhas mighty, and dread, Rangitiras1 of monsters misshapen,

That loved Ngatiawa and hated, the children of fated Ngai Tahu,

Stopped the beat of their paddles, held their blades in the water.

Vain the strain of their muscles! Vain their pride and their courage!

Ngatiawa is coming! Ngatiawa has conquered!

Nothing left them but death, or slavery bitter and hopeless!

 But the treasures were saved from the foe, for the mighty spells had been spoken

To hide for ever from men, till a fair haired child of Ngai Tahu

Should come in the far off times, and claim the wealth of her people.

Well the Atuas2  have guarded thy hidden treasures,

Ngai Tahu! Mighty the tapu 3 that covers the place where the wakas are lying.

Oft has the Pakeha searched in the stream, in the cave, in the forest;

but safe as the holy grail from the eyes of the base and the guilty,

 Lie the buried wakas of Hiwi, the treasure of fallen Ngai Tahu.

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1.  Mighty one - Chiefs.

2. Gods.

3. Spells.