Wellington City Libraries

Te Matapihi Ki Te Ao Nui

Song of Whanake

Whanake was the supreme chief of Ngati-Ira tribe of this district, at the commencement of this present century (1800s). Whanake lived at Onehunga, a small flat on the beach under Whitireia, and opposite Te Tiku-a-Papa, the reef of rocks in the entrance to the Porirua harbour. He was the father of Te Kekerengu. This is a favourite song with the Maori and is known by the tribes from Murihiku to the Arawa country, and from Taranaki to Te Matau-a-Maui. Source: Journal of the Polynesian Society, vol. 39 (3), translated by Percy Best.

This is a tale of a certain canoe, called Te Rau-o-Te-Kaho which drifted away to the ocean during a great storm in the days of old. On the awakening of a certain old man in the early morn, he went to look at his canoe at the mooring place, but on his arrival, behold! it was gone. His eyes stared wildly and his heart leaped within him. Then this old man climbed to the top of a certain high hill named Whitireia. And he raised his voice and lamented as he went. On arriving at the summit he looked out upon the great ocean. Gazing intently across the waters, far away where the sky hangs down, he beheld his canoe disappearing in the distance, and flashing in the foam of the billows.

Then arose his sacred song to lure his canoe back to him.
(te reo Maori)

O, I of little thought, O thoughtless me,
For Te Rau-o-Te-Kaho lying there below.
'Twas I who brought they hither,
As a guardian for myself,
And to adorn my landing place.
O, thou churlish one, never to reveal
Thou wert about to glide away.
My heart leapt within me
As I ascended Whitireia, (1)
Where rest the beams of sun and moon.
I extended my hands to the ocean,
Which stretches from far Hawaiki
And surrounds Aotea.
On beholding you glistening far away,
By incantations I rebuke the earth and heavens,
And by the progeny of Tangaroa (2)
Are you guided to land.
From the spaces of heaven and earth,
The voices of Uru and Ngangana (3)
Are heard on high.
I charm the way o'er which may canoe passes;
Caught and borne onwards by Tu, (4)
Tu moving swiftly above the recovered treasure,
Above the many resting places
Above the distant sun-path
That floats high in the heavens.
I extend my hands
To the space-dwelling bird legion,
To the Great Bird of Tane.
Draw it towards me!
Draw it to my side!
Gone is my anxiety
I touch it, I hold it, I have it.

Behold! his canoe was recovered. Thy work! O Prayer, that returned his canoe to him form the Great Ocean of Kiwa. (5)

Notes
1. Whitireia - the Maori name of Mount Cooper, at Porirua Heads. Also, Whitireia - the path of the sun and moon in the heavens.
2. Tangaroa - the Maori Neptune.
3. Uru and Ngangana - two very ancient deified ancestors known throughout
Polynesia.
4. Tu - one of the principal gods of the Maori pantheon, the God of War.
5. Te Mona-nui-a-Kiwa - the Great Ocean of Kiwa - a name for the Pacific Ocean, much used in poetry

Korero o te Wa I Raraunga I Rauemi I Te Whanganui a Tara I Whakapapa