Ballads eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 65 pages of information about Ballads.
On the grades of the sacred terrace, the driveller woke to fear,
And the hand of the ham-drooped warrior brandished a wavering spear. 
And Rua folded his arms, and scorn discovered his teeth;
Above the war-crowd gibbered, and Rua stood smiling beneath. 
Thick, like leaves in the autumn, faint, like April sleet,
Missiles from tremulous hands quivered around his feet;
And Taheia leaped from her place; and the priest, the ruby-eyed,
Ran to the front of the terrace, and brandished his arms, and cried: 
“Hold, O fools, he brings tidings!” and “Hold, ’tis the love of my heart!”
Till lo! in front of the terrace, Rua pierced with a dart.

Taheia cherished his head, and the aged priest stood by,
And gazed with eyes of ruby at Rua’s darkening eye. 
“Taheia, here is the end, I die a death for a man. 
I have given the life of my soul to save an unsavable clan. 
See them, the drooping of hams! behold me the blinking crew: 
Fifty spears they cast, and one of fifty true! 
And you, O priest, the foreteller, foretell for yourself if you can,
Foretell the hour of the day when the Vais shall burst on your clan! 
By the head of the tapu cleft, with death and fire in their hand,
Thick and silent like ants, the warriors swarm in the land.”

And they tell that when next the sun had climbed to the noonday skies,
It shone on the smoke of feasting in the country of the Vais.


In this ballad, I have strung together some of the more striking particularities of the Marquesas.  It rests upon no authority; it is in no sense, like “Rahero,” a native story; but a patchwork of details of manners and the impressions of a traveller.  It may seem strange, when the scene is laid upon these profligate islands, to make the story hinge on love.  But love is not less known in the Marquesas than elsewhere; nor is there any cause of suicide more common in the islands.

{2a} “Pit of Popoi.”  Where the breadfruit was stored for preservation.

{2b} “Ruby-red.”  The priest’s eyes were probably red from the abuse of kava.  His beard (ib.) is said to be worth an estate; for the beards of old men are the favourite head adornment of the Marquesans, as the hair of women formed their most costly girdle.  The former, among this generally beardless and short-lived people, fetch to-day considerable sums.

{2c} “Tikis.”  The tiki is an ugly image hewn out of wood or stone.

{2d} “The one-stringed harp.”  Usually employed for serenades.

{2e} “The sacred cabin of palm.”  Which, however, no woman could approach.  I do not know where women were tattooed; probably in the common house, or in the bush, for a woman was a creature of small account.  I must guard the reader against supposing Taheia was at all disfigured; the art of the Marquesan tattooer is extreme; and she would appear to be clothed in a web of lace, inimitably delicate, exquisite in pattern, and of a bluish hue that at once contrasts and harmonises with the warm pigment of the native skin.  It would be hard to find a woman more becomingly adorned than “a well-tattooed” Marquesan.

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Ballads from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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