The Polynesian creator put on earth hogs, dogs, and reptiles. There were many kinds of dogs in their mythology, including the “large dog with sharp teeth,” and the “royal dog of God.” Among reptiles was Moo, a terrible dragon living in caverns above and beneath the sea, who was dreaded above all dangers. He was to them the monster that guarded the Hesperides garden, and the beast that St. George slew; but as the common lizard was the largest reptile in Polynesia, this, too, was an heirloom from another land. In the old Havaii—probably Java—they must have known those fierce crocodiles that I have seen drag down a horse drinking in the river at Palawan, and noted swimming in the open sea between Siassi and Borneo.
The chief and Brooke and I sat in the shade of the etoa-trees, and conversed about these ancient stories. Fixed in the mind of the race by the repetition of ages, they are the most difficult of all errors to erase, and the professors of this wisdom stamp it upon the heart and brain of the child in almost indelible colors, and make it tabu, sacrilege, or treason to deny its verity. Half a century ago repairs became necessary to Mohammed’s tomb at Medina, and masons were asked to volunteer to make them, and submit to beheading immediately after. There was no lack of desirous martyrs. One descended into the mausoleum, finished the task, and, reaching the air again, knelt, turned his face toward Mecca, and bent his head for the ax. The Mussulman keepers of the tomb justified their act, as, the forbidding telling the truth about religion and government, about war and business, is justified. Their words were:
“We picture those places to ourselves in a certain manner, and for the preservation of our holy religion, and the safety of society, there must not be any one who can say they are otherwise.”
It was noon when Brooke and I—Tetuanui having gone to instruct his gang—plunged into the sea in front of the chefferie, and laughed in the joy of the sweet hour. He had written lines of beauty that interpreted our humor:
Tau here, Mamua,
Crown the hair, and come away!
Hear the calling of the moon,
And the whispering scents that stray
About the idle warm lagoon.
Hasten, hand in human hand,
Down the dark, the flowered way,
Along the whiteness of the sand,
And in the water’s soft caress
Wash the mind of foolishness,
Mamua, until the day.
Spend the glittering moonlight there,
Pursuing down the soundless deep
Limbs that gleam and shadowy hair;
Or floating lazy, half-asleep.
Dive and double and follow after,
Snare in flowers, and kiss, and call,
With lips that fade, and human laughter
And faces individual!
Well this side of Paradise! ...
There ’s little comfort in the wise.