Ballads

Page 02

Of these was Rahero sprung, a man of a godly race; And inherited cunning of spirit and beauty of body and face. Of yore in his youth, as an aito, Rahero wandered the land, Delighting maids with his tongue, smiting men with his hand. Famous he was in his youth; but before the midst of his life Paused, and fashioned a song of farewell to glory and strife.

House of mine (it went), house upon the sea, Belov'd of all my fathers, more belov'd by me! Vale of the strong Honoura, deep ravine of Pai, Again in your woody summits I hear the trade-wind cry.

House of mine, in your walls, strong sounds the sea, Of all sounds on earth, dearest sound to me. I have heard the applause of men, I have heard it arise and die: Sweeter now in my house I hear the trade-wind cry.

These were the words of his singing, other the thought of his heart; For secret desire of glory vexed him, dwelling apart. Lazy and crafty he was, and loved to lie in the sun, And loved the cackle of talk and the true word uttered in fun; Lazy he was, his roof was ragged, his table was lean, And the fish swam safe in his sea, and he gathered the near and the green. He sat in his house and laughed, but he loathed the king of the land, And he uttered the grudging word under the covering hand. Treason spread from his door; and he looked for a day to come, A day of the crowding people, a day of the summoning drum, When the vote should be taken, the king be driven forth in disgrace, And Rahero, the laughing and lazy, sit and rule in his place, Here Tamatea came, and beheld the house on the brook; And Rahero was there by the way and covered an oven to cook. {1c} Naked he was to the loins, but the tattoo covered the lack, And the sun and the shadow of palms dappled his muscular back. Swiftly he lifted his head at the fall of the coming feet, And the water sprang in his mouth with a sudden desire of meat; For he marked the basket carried, covered from flies and the sun; {1d} And Rahero buried his fire, but the meat in his house was done.

Forth he stepped; and took, and delayed the boy, by the hand; And vaunted the joys of meat and the ancient ways of the land: - "Our sires of old in Taiarapu, they that created the race, Ate ever with eager hand, nor regarded season or place, Ate in the boat at the oar, on the way afoot; and at night Arose in the midst of dreams to rummage the house for a bite. It is good for the youth in his turn to follow the way of the sire; And behold how fitting the time! for here do I cover my fire." - "I see the fire for the cooking but never the meat to cook," Said Tamatea.--"Tut!" said Rahero. "Here in the brook And there in the tumbling sea, the fishes are thick as flies, Hungry like healthy men, and like pigs for savour and size: Crayfish crowding the river, sea-fish thronging the sea." - "Well it may be," says the other, "and yet be nothing to me. Fain would I eat, but alas! I have needful matter in hand, Since I carry my tribute of fish to the jealous king of the land."

Now at the word a light sprang in Rahero's eyes. "I will gain me a dinner," thought he, "and lend the king a surprise." And he took the lad by the arm, as they stood by the side of the track, And smiled, and rallied, and flattered, and pushed him forward and back. It was "You that sing like a bird, I never have heard you sing," And "The lads when I was a lad were none so feared of a king. And of what account is an hour, when the heart is empty of guile? But come, and sit in the house and laugh with the women awhile; And I will but drop my hook, and behold! the dinner made."

So Tamatea the pliable hung up his fish in the shade On a tree by the side of the way; and Rahero carried him in, Smiling as smiles the fowler when flutters the bird to the gin, And chose him a shining hook, {1e} and viewed it with sedulous eye, And breathed and burnished it well on the brawn of his naked thigh, And set a mat for the gull, and bade him be merry and bide, Like a man concerned for his guest, and the fishing, and nothing beside.

Ballads Page 03

Robert Louis Stevenson

Free Books in the public domain from the Classic Literature Library ©

Robert Louis Stevenson
Classic Literature Library

All Pages of This Book