Added: 2016-08-23

Thomson (3)

"Ate-a-renga-hokan iti poheraa"


(2) hokan/horau: for these types of substitution in Thomson's publication, see De Laat 2014:25-26.

(5) upwards: apparently the parents are standing in the same place as the parent in text T2: on the edge of the cliff above the entrance of the cave.

(8) Lit.: "What is your little sister doing/going to do, o friend?"

(15) hare: the previous lines have located the place of seclusion at 'Ana O Keke, therefore hare should be interpreted as "dwelling place" and not as a reference to the special houses which also once existed.

(15) nire: it is proposed that somewhere in the process of type-setting the "r" was dropped. Thomson's wordlist (1891:551) has an entry "Virgin: Nire", but the word does not appear in any of Ure Vaeiko's other recitations. It is therefore possible that Ure Veaiko was misunderstood or that neru had become transformed into nire.  The explanation "virgin", however, clearly points to the secluded girls. An alternative interpretation for moni is mo nei (compare text T2, line 22): "because of this she will be admired".

reappear: alt.: "be praised" (cf. Fuentes 1960:727: hakahíti: "to exalt").

(16) Miru festival: this is an important link between the neru and the tribe of the Miru. 'Ana O Keke is located on Poike's north coast and according to Lee (1992:115), "the distribution of fishhook designs suggests that, in earlier times, one clan, probably the Miru, controlled the entire north coast, including the northern half of the Tupahotu and the Poike Peninsula."

This text was collected by Thomson and Salmon with Ure Vaeiko chanting from a photograph of tablet Mamari (Thomson, 1891:515). It was published under the title "Ate-a-renga-hokan iti poheraa", which, apart from the headings "Love Song" and "Native Love Song", is left unexplained. When the obvious transcription or printing errors in hokan are corrected, this can be read as ate a renga horau iti pohe raa: "Song of a pretty girl – moving slowly and longing for the sun".

Although the song has several details which clearly point to the neru, it has met with a similar fate as the text on the previous page (T2). When Routledge showed Thomson's text to her Easter Island informants, it "was laughed out of court as being merely a love-song which everyone knew" (1919:248). Fischer (1997a:101) describes it as "an interesting example of a typical popular song on Rapanui in the 1880s" and Guy (1999c) has commented in a similar vein: "Even allowing for the typographical mistakes, the text is suspect: the sound 'f' does not exist in the language of Easter Island, and verse 11 [here line 15 MdL] (horoa moni e fahiti) looks like straight Tahitian, with nothing to do with Salmon's translation: horo'a = gift, to give; moni = money; e = which, that; fa'ahiti = to announce, to pronounce, i.e. perhaps 'Give money for reading out [this tablet]' ".

The reaction to Routledge's inquiry is understandable as she had made it clear that she was seeking information about possible rongorongo texts. Although almost all knowledge of the script had been lost at that point in time, rongorongo was still revered as an important part of the ancestral culture. For this reason, the informants could not imagine a direct connection between the contents of the tablets and what they deemed to be a common love song. This only shows that at the time the chant's connection to the neru was no longer understood. This knowledge had probably been already lost at the time of its first notation. If Ure Vaeiko was still aware of its real theme, he was careful not to reveal it to his visitors.

However, the simple fact that the song had undergone some changes and was only partially understood in the late 19th and early 20th century, does not mean that it can be simply dismissed as an entirely modern fabrication. Salmon, the man who was both taking notes and translating in 1886 was a Tahitian who understood the Rapanui language as it was then used, but he could not have been well acquainted with the ancient traditions.  

Song about a pretty girl,

moving slowly and longing for the sun.

How that pretty girl is crying,

that "crippled bird"!

Is that "fair one" shouting upwards to (her) parents?

When it reaches (them),

(it) is distorted and confused, o friend!

What is going to happen to your little sister, o friend?

Because (she) is alone, taboo and abandoned, o friend,

this life (of hers) knows no happiness,o friend!

Alas! How that little "hen" is crying and longing!

What is going to happen to your little sister, o friend?

(Your) little sister is crying

in that place of seclusion,

in that place of seclusion for virgins!

(But) (she) will reappear at the Miru festival,

when (you) will meet again,

when (you) will meet again,

when (she) will be set free!

Ate-a-renga- (-)  

hokan iti poheraa /

Ka tagi, Renga-a- (-)  

manu – hakaopa; /  

Chiu runarame a ita metua. /  

Ka ketu te na (-)  

iro hihi – O te hoa! /

Eaha ton tiena – e te hoa – e! /   

Ita haga ta poapatu – O te hoa! /

Kahii te riva forani – O te hoa – e! /

Auwe ka tagi ati – u – a – iti iti. /

Eha ton tiena – e ta hoa – e. /   

Ta hi tiena   

ta have. / Horoa

ita have. Horoa moni e  

fahiti; / Ita ori miro; /

Ana piri atu; /    

Ana piri atu; /

Ana taga atu.

ate a renga

horau 'iti pohe raa  

ka tangi renga a  

manu haka-opa  

kiu runga ra mea ki te matua

ka ketu tena

hiro hihi o te hoa   

he aha to'ou teina e te hoa e

i tahanga tapua patu o te hoa

kai 'ite riva ora nei o te hoa e  

aue ka tangi ati uha 'iti'iti  

he aha to'ou teina e te hoa e

tangi teina

i te hare huru a

i te hare huru a mo nire   

haka-hiti i te 'ori Miru  

ana piri atu

ana piri atu   

ana tanga atu  

Text Thomson






















This fully accounts for "Tahitianisms" such as 'ori. "dance", for Rapanui koro, "festival", and a few obscurities in the text. It is not necessary to assume that the recitations of Ure Vaeiko were heavily contaminated as the 83-year old man already had been an adult long before any Tahitian influence reached the island. There is also no basis for the conjecture that he threw in a couple of popular love songs under the influence of a few drinks or – even worse – that near the end of an hours-long session he suddenly started demanding money from his visitors. Are we to believe that he did this by cleverly inserting it (in Tahitian!) into a chant he was reciting which he subsequently – without having been answered or paid – simply resumed?

Whether Ure Vaeiko was ignorant of the exact meaning of what he was reciting is of lesser importance than whether he produced a more or less faithful rendition of the original text. The fact that he was not able to clarify the meaning to Salmon suggests the first but does not necessarily preclude the latter. The reconstruction that is attempted here shows that the chant was indeed a "love song", as it was labeled in the publication. However, it has nothing of the apparent modernity claimed by casual observers. Instead it appears to be a well-crafted piece of original Rapanui poetry about a girl spending her days against her will in a remote cave and it reflects the same melancholic mood as one finds in other examples of this type of text. The fact that such a coherent reconstruction is possible shows that Ure Vaeiko may have delivered a text that was largely intact. Whether the chant – because of its connection to the neru cult – is of considerable age, remains an open matter. To be sure, even if it could be established that the text dates back to pre-missionary times, this would not imply in any way that it was ever part of a tablet inscription.

Fig. 1

The muddy surroundings of 'Ana O Keke