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TAHITIAN HIMENES. 9
tune, with genuine native words (the meaning of which we had better not inquire), or it may be a Scriptural story versified, and sung to an air originally imported from Europe, but so completely Tahitianised that no mortal could recognise it, which is all in its favour ; for the wild melodies of this isle are beyond measure fascinating. After one clause of solo, other voices strike in— here, there, everywhere—in harmonious chorus. It seems as if one section devoted themselves to pouring forth a rippling torrent of Ra, ra, ra-ra-ra ! while others burst into a flood of La, la, la-la-la Some confine their care to sound a deep booming bass in a long-continued drone, somewhat suggestive (to my appreciative Highland ear) of our own bagpipes. Here and there high falsetto notes strike in, varied from verse to verse, and then the choruses of La and Ra come bubbling in liquid melody; while the voices of the principal singers now join in unison, now diverge as widely as it is possible for them to do, but all combine to produce the quaintest, most melodious, rippling glee that ever was heard. Some himènes have an accompaniment of measured hand-clapping, by hundreds of those present. It is curious in its way, chiefly as a triumph of perfect time, but I do not think it attractive. The clear mellifluous voices need no addition; and as they ring out suddenly and joyously, in the cool evening, I can imagine no sound more inspiriting. To-night our party received a pleasant addition, the queen's two sisters, Moetia and Prie, having driven over from Papeete, on their way to join their mother, Mrs Salmon, who, as high chiefess of the next district, is to receive her daughter to-morrow morning. All the time I have been writing to you, there have been occasional bursts of himène singing, and of the far less musical accompaniment of the Upaupa ; but now quiet reigns, so I may as well sleep while I can. Good-night.
MATAIEA, PAPEookIRI, Tuesday, 16th.
This morning we were all astir at 5 A.M., and had early coffee on the cool verandah. All the luggage was started by 6 o'clock, and then I had a quiet hour's sketching from beneath one of the great iron-wood trees (casuarina). At 7 o'clock our procession started; every one cheery and good-tempered; on every side hearty greetings—“Yarra na! Yarra na " and sounds of careless laughter, and merry voices. There is certainly a great charm in this pretty liquid language, and in the gentle affectionate manner of the people, who seem to be overflowing with genial kindliness.
EXQUISITE FOLIAGE. 11
As usual, our path lay through such bowers of endlessly varied foliage as to form one continuous panorama of delight. No painter's brush could produce such infinite shades of green as are here multiplied, from the delicate tender hues of the silky young banana-leaves, ranging through every description of dark-green and bright-green, bluegreen and sunlit yellow, till the eye is fain to rest on the sombre hair-like foliage of the iron-wood trees, which grow on the very brink of the sea, their long tresses literally drooping to the water.
We passed through plantations of coffee, not closeclipped as in Ceylon, but growing tall and rank, and overshadowed by cocoa-palms, yet loaded with bright scarlet berries. The coffee shrubs are here made to do double duty, and serve as props for the vanilla, which is trained to creep all over them, its fragrant pods intermingling with the coffee cherries.
The broad road of soft green turf next led us through groves of luxuriant bread-fruit trees with large pale-green fruit, dark mango-trees and orangetrees alike laden with their half-ripe crop, and here and there we passed a fragrant rose-apple tree, the fruit of which tastes exactly like the scent of roses. But of all heavenly perfumes, commend me to the blossom of the Tahitian chestnut, a noble forest-tree, with rich dark foliage, standing out in strong relief from the cool grey-greens of the hybiscus, with the lemon-coloured blossoms, which clothes the base of the mountains. Beyond that belt of cool shadow the great green hills tower in strange fantastic form, seamed by deep valleys, down which pour crystal streams, so numerous that the sparkling air seems to re-echo the musical voice of many waters. Every weird fantastic rock-pinnacle is draped by clinging vines, infinite in their variety, and all alike lovely; and the clear sunlight playing on the golden green of the mountain-summits, tells that even there, the same wealth of all things beautiful abounds. This was the panorama that rose on our left hand as we drove along the shore. On our right, like a silver shield, lay the calm glittering lagoon, reflecting, as in a mirror, the grand masses of white cloud, and bounded by the long line of breakers, flashing as they dashed on the barrier-reef. Beyond these lay outspread the vast Pacific, its deep purple flecked with white crests, telling how briskly the trade-winds blew outside. And far on the horizon, the rugged peaks of Moorea rose, clear and beautiful, robed in ethereal lilac. Far above our heads the light fronds of the cocoa-palm interlaced, forming a fairy canopy, through which we looked up to the clearest blue heaven. I think it must be a cold unthankful heart that could so look up, without some echo of the Benedicite—
HOW TO MAKE ARROWBOOT-STRAW. 13
“O ye mountains and hills, O ye seas and floods, O all ye green things upon the earth, Bless ye the Lord ' praise Him and magnify Him for ever.”
Two hours' drive brought us to Papara, where a very grand reception awaited the young king and queen. Mrs Salmon, the queen's mother, had assembled all her vassals in most imposing array; and a double row of himène singers lined the road, singing choruses of congratulation, taken up alternately on the right hand and on the left. The effect was very pretty. Many relations of the family had also assembled to greet their royal kinsfolk.
Very quaint handsome tiputas were presented to the king and the admiral. These are ceremonial garments, reaching from the neck to the knee, made from the fibre of bread-fruit bark, and covered with flowers and twists of the glossy arrowroot fibre, each stitched on separately. To the queen, the admiral, and myself, were presented most lovely crowns of the same silvery arrowroot; while for the gentlemen were provided garlands and necklaces of fragrant white or yellow blossoms, and charming hats of white bamboo fibre, manufactured by the ladies and their attendants.
I may as well tell you how the lovely arrowroot fibre is obtained. It is the inner coating of the flower-stalk, which is a hollow stem like that of hemlock, and grows to a height of about four feet.