The Nacreous Oughts

12 March 2004

"James Cowan, in The New Zealand Wars (1922 - 23) provided a sample of this 'glossalalia,' taken from Te Ua's notebook, 'Ua Rongopai' ('The Gospel of Ua'), the single surviving textual source for Pai Marire:

Kira, wana, ti, tiri, wha – Teihana!
Rewa, piki rewa, rongo rewa, tone, piki tone – Teihana!
Rori, piki rori, rongo rori, puihi, piki puihi – Teihana!
Rongo puihi, rongo tone, hira, piki hira, rongo hira – Teihana!
Mauteni, piki mauteni, rongo mauteni, piki niu, rongo niu –Teihana!
Nota, no te pihi, no te hihi, noriti mino, noriti, koroni – Teihana!
Hai, kamu, te ti, oro te mene, rauna te niu – Teihana!
Hema, rura wini, tu mate wini, kamu te ti – Teihana!

And Cowan provided a 'translation' into English:

Kill, one, two, three four – Attention!
River, big river, long river, stone, big stone – Attention!
Road, big road, long road, bush, big bush – Attention!
Long bush, long stone, hill, big hill, long hill –- Attention!
Mountain, big mountain, long mountain, big staff, long staff – Attention!
North, north-by-east, nor'-nor'-east, nor'-east-by-north, north-east, colony – Attention!
Come to tea, all the men, round the niu – Attention!
Shem, rule the wind, too much wind, come to tea – Attention! (41)

The chant could as easily be 'translated' into Maori ('Patu, tahi, rua, toru, wha – E tu!/Awa, awa nui, awa roa, pohatu, pohatu nui . . .' ), because, although only Maori sounds are used, all the words are transliterated from English words (except for 'niu' which Cowan translates as 'staff' and then leaves to stand as niu, the mast-like pole used as centrepiece in Pai Marire ritual, although 'niu' could, in fact, be a transliteration of 'news', appropriating the 'good news' of the Bible to other ends) and, moreover, the word order is English rather than Maori. Glossalalia is often used to describe a divine babble (Babel) of incomprehensible sounds, whereas this chant of Te Ua's has a lot of rhyme (echoing of other sounds) and not a little reason. It is written in an amalgam language, a language of 'no such world', or perhaps, more accurately, one might say of 'a new world'."
From an essay by Murray Edmond.

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