Ballads eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 65 pages of information about Ballads.
Why do you bend aside?  Wherefore steer to the seaward?” thus she panted and cried.  Never a word from the oarsman, toiling there in the dark; But right for a gate of the reef he silently headed the bark, And wielding the single paddle with passionate sweep on sweep, Drove her, the little fitted, forth on the open deep.  And fear, there where she sat, froze the woman to stone: 
Not fear of the crazy boat and the weltering deep alone;
But a keener fear of the night, the dark, and the ghostly hour,
And the thing that drove the canoe with more than a mortal’s power
And more than a mortal’s boldness.  For much she knew of the dead
That haunt and fish upon reefs, toiling, like men, for bread,
And traffic with human fishers, or slay them and take their ware,
Till the hour when the star of the dead {1o} goes down, and the morning air
Blows, and the cocks are singing on shore.  And surely she knew
The speechless thing at her side belonged to the grave. {1p}

It blew
All night from the south; all night, Rahero contended and kept
The prow to the cresting sea; and, silent as though she slept,
The woman huddled and quaked.  And now was the peep of day. 
High and long on their left the mountainous island lay;
And over the peaks of Taiarapu arrows of sunlight struck. 
On shore the birds were beginning to sing:  the ghostly ruck
Of the buried had long ago returned to the covered grave;
And here on the sea, the woman, waxing suddenly brave,
Turned her swiftly about and looked in the face of the man. 
And sure he was none that she knew, none of her country or clan: 
A stranger, mother-naked, and marred with the marks of fire,
But comely and great of stature, a man to obey and admire.

And Rahero regarded her also, fixed, with a frowning face,
Judging the woman’s fitness to mother a warlike race. 
Broad of shoulder, ample of girdle, long in the thigh,
Deep of bosom she was, and bravely supported his eye.

“Woman,” said he, “last night the men of your folk —
Man, woman, and maid, smothered my race in smoke. 
It was done like cowards; and I, a mighty man of my hands,
Escaped, a single life; and now to the empty lands
And smokeless hearths of my people, sail, with yourself, alone. 
Before your mother was born, the die of to-day was thrown
And you selected:- your husband, vainly striving, to fall
Broken between these hands:- yourself to be severed from all,
The places, the people, you love—­home, kindred, and clan —
And to dwell in a desert and bear the babes of a kinless man.”


Introduction.—­This tale, of which I have not consciously changed a single feature, I received from tradition.  It is highly popular through all the country of the eight Tevas, the clan to which Rahero belonged; and particularly in Taiarapu, the windward peninsula of Tahiti, where he lived.  I have heard from end to end two versions; and as many as five different persons have helped me with details.  There seems no reason why the tale should not be true.

Project Gutenberg
Ballads from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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