‘Auhea Wale ‘Oe e ka ‘Ō‘ō

An Essay by Kīhei de Silva

Haku mele:  Unknown ("The people of Kaua‘i").

Date of composition:  April (?) 1871.

Sources:  1) Mary Kawena Pukui Collection; Nathan Nāpōkā translation.  2) Roberts Collection, Bk.14:80, Bishop Museum Archives; Pukui translation.  3) Queen Emma Collection, Folder AH6, Hawai‘i State Archives. 

Our text: From the Pukui Collection as taught by Mrs. Patience Namaka Bacon in March 1996.

It took Queen Emma nearly a decade to recover from the double “flight” of her son and husband in 1862 and 1863.  Her debilitating, nearly overwhelming sorrow worried her people no end.  They were well-versed in the stages of Hawaiian grief: they expected an initial period of numbness followed by a longer period of active, expressive mourning.  They were prepared for the painful, but ultimately positive, working-through of a whole “conglomerate of emotions”:  protest, hostility, apathy, restless energy, intense yearning.  And they looked forward to seeing in her the growth of maha, the calm acceptance and fond recollection that would mark the gradual lifting of death’s oppressive weight (Pukui, Nānā i ke Kumu, I:132-147).  But Emma failed to respond in expected fashion.  In 1865, she was still lost in a state of trance-like sorrow described by her friend Robert Crichton Wyllie, minister of foreign relations for the kingdom, as a “dejection deep and dangerous” (Korn, The Victorian Visitors, 193; News from Moloka‘i, lxii).  With the support of the new king, her brother-in-law Lot Kapuaiwa Kamehameha, Emma’s people resorted to the traditional remedy for extended, unresolved grief: ho‘olana, literally “to float or send away” (Pukui, 142).  In May of that year, they sent her off on a year-long tour of Europe and the United States in the hope that the “novel scenes and exotic customs of England, France, Italy, and Germany might arouse Queen Emma’s normal cheerfulness and restore her to her eager and still youthful self” (News, xlii-xliii).  

Although Alfons Korn is quick to pronounce the results of Emma’s trip as “precisely” what her people had hoped for (News, xliii), her people’s own record – that of mele composed for the subsequent travels of their beloved queen – suggests that Emma’s complete and re-focused return to the world of the living did not take place until an early 1871 expedition to the Kilohana lookout of Mt. Wai‘ale‘ale.  On December 31, 1870, Emma took up residence in a small, out-of-the-way cottage perched on a bluff above Lāwa‘i Kai on the south shore of Kaua‘i (Forbes, Queen Emma and Lawai, 4).  Her vacation, which was to last until April 1871, was probably part of Lot Kamehameha’s ongoing campaign to divert his sister-in-law from melancholy: his ho‘olana therapy had not ended after Emma’s return from Europe and North America; it included additional, shorter trips to Hawai’i, Maui, and now Kaua‘i (Williamson, “Hawaiian Songs in Political Campaigns,” in Directions in Traditional Pacific Literature, 141-144).  Lot had been to Kaua‘i in 1851 and had climbed Wai‘ale‘ale on a pig hunting expedition; Emma knew of this trip (letter from Emma to Lot, 3-11-1881, Emma Collection, NA-3, Hawai‘i State Archives), and it is likely that the king’s ascent served as precedent for her own.  

Emma’s expedition was intended to involve an elderly guide, a few of Emma’s retainers, and perhaps a handful of Waimea’s “notables.”  News of the trip spread quickly, however, and by the time the group assembled in Waimea, “it had swelled to about a hundred persons.  Men, women, and children, hula girls, retainers, and musicians stretched along the trail for nearly half a mile” (Forbes, 5).  The first leg of the three-day climb was great fun, and the group stopped frequently to enjoy spontaneous performances by Emma’s po‘e hula (hula people; Joesting, Kaua’i, The Separate Kingdom, 204).  By the second night, however, the frolicking entourage was reduced to an exhausted, mud-sodden, shivering band.  Still a half-day’s march from Kilohana, they built a make-shift platform of branches to elevate themselves somewhat from the bog in which they were forced to camp, lit a moss-kindled fire, and huddled together, shoulder-to-shoulder, in a pathetic circle of human discomfort. 

At least 18 mele were composed in commemoration of Emma’s ascent to Kilohana; the most thoughtful of these identify Emma’s behavior on this soggy second night as the emotional turning-point of both the trip and her battle with melancholy.  According to these mele, it was here at ‘Aipō bog that the woman whose physical and spiritual strength had been the object of everyone’s concern and solicitation became again the queen whose energy and good cheer gave new life to all in her company.  Fueled by compassion for her dejected ‘ōhua (retainers, entourage), she led them in modern songs, chanted traditional mele for them, and moved among them with words of gentle encouragement (Joesting, 204).

  1. I ke anu o Aipo      

    In the cold of  ‘Aipō

    We embraced the fire

    As if it were a blanket of that upland.

    Oh how we loved her voice

    As it called affectionately,

    “Where are all of you?

    There is warmth right here with me.”

  2. Puili i ke ahi la      

  3. A i kapa o ia uka la.       

  4. Ka leo ka mea aloha      

  5. I ka heahea ana mai       

  6. “Ma hea mai oukou?      

  7. Ma anei mai ka mehana.”     

  8. [Text excerpted from “A Kilohana o Kalani” in Mary Kawena Pukui’s Hulas of Kaua‘i, 9-14-1936:42-45; my translation.]

The warmth of Emma’s voice and her buoyancy of spirit worked a complementary transformation on the huddled Hawaiians: under her ministrations, that disjointed circle of water-logged travelers became a courageous flock of birds eager for the new day and the prospect of fashioning lei of love and victory for their re-born ali‘i.

  1. Lea kulou a Emalani      

    Emma acknowledges with delight

    The cold of ‘Aipō.

    Her voice is a loving thing,

    Its hospitality calling nigh:

    “Where are you folks?

    Warm companionship is right here.”

    The ascent was overheating,

    All the way to Kukala-a-ka-manu.

    But it is here that Chiefess reposes,

    In the misty-faced lehua shade

    The lehua is a lei of mischief,

    Sectioned with pa‘iniu.

    Daring is the flock of birds

    As it gathers mokihana berries

    To fashion a lei for the woman

    ‘Emalani is her name.

  2. Ke anu o Aipo       

  3. O ka leo ka mea aloha       

  4. Kaheahea ana mai     

  5. “Ma hea mai oukou?       

  6. Ma anei ma ka mehana             

  7. Ka piina nei ikiiki                        

  8. Kukala-a-ka-manu        

  9. Hoomaha aku o Kalani               

  10. I ka lehua makanoe                

  11. Lehua lei apiki                         

  12. Pauku me ka painiu

  13. E lalama ka nui manu                

  14. I ka ohi hua mokihana               

  15. I lei no ka wahine

  16. No Emalani no he inoa.

  17. [Text excerpted from “A Kilohana o Kalani,” in Helen Roberts’ Ancient Hawaiian Music, 297; translation by Lokomaika‘i Snakenburg and Kīhei de Silva.]

Nature, in sympathetic response to the rejuvenation of Emma and her people, mirrored the party’s new-found radiance: dawn arrived quickly, the heavy mist lifted, the last section of trail grew solid underfoot, and the awesome panorama of Kaua‘i’s north shore unfolded below them. 

  1. Oki pau ka hana a ka wahine

    Wondrous is the Queen’s prowess

    At reaching the very top

    The summit of Maunahina

    There she gazed at the Ko‘olau cliffs

    The beautiful expanse of Hanalei

    The sandy stretch of Mahamoku

    Naue reaching into the sea

    And the waters of Lumaha‘i

    The Heavenly One wishes to go back

    For the mist is gathering on the cliffs

    We call to you, sit quietly and listen

    Kaleleonālani is your name.

  2. Kau pono iho i ka wekiu

  3. Ka panepoo o Maunahina

  4. Ike i ka pali Koolau

  5. Ka waiho nani a Hanalei

  6. One halii o Mahamoku               

  7. Oni ana o Naue i ke kai

  8. O ka wai o Lumahai

  9. E huli hoi o Kalani       

  10. Ua ku ka ohu i na pali

  11. Hea aku makou, hoolai oe

  12. Kaleleonalani he inoa.        

  13. [Text excerpted from “Ka Uka o Kilohana ka Anoi,” Roberts Collection, Bk. 2:80-91, Bishop Museum Archives; Pukui    translation.]

Within a week of her descent from Wai‘ale‘ale (on the evening of January 29, 1871), Emma was honored at a feast to which “all Waimea” was invited (Forbes, 7).  As was customary on such occasions, the queen received a ho‘okupu of mele hula that had just been composed in memory of the Kilohana trip.  Although we have no list of the mele performed at this gathering, the three surviving versions of “Ka Uka o Kilohana ka Anoi” (HEN III:275-277; Roberts 2:80-91, Ke Au Okoa, Feb. 16, 1871) are excellent candidates for inclusion:  they contain the clarity of description, wealth of detail, and accuracy of geography typical of immediate, first-hand poetic accounts.  They also contain traces of the symbolism of spiritual rebirth that characterize a later, more artistically structured batch of Kilohana chants, chants that include the longer versions of “A Kilohana o Kalani” (HMS M.72:42-45, Roberts 18:114-118, Ancient Hawaiian Music, 295-7), “A Kilohana Makou” (HMS M5:185-186), and “A i Waimea o Kalani” (Pukui Collection).  That the earliest Kilohana poets had already begun to treat the ascent as a spiritual victory is evident in Emma’s own correspondence.  In a 2-1-1871 letter to her mother, for example, Emma acknowledges the impact of her own behavior at ‘Aipō and touches on the significance with which the haku mele were beginning to invest it: her ascent to Kilohana was fast becoming a metaphor of her recovery, of her resilient spirit, and of the enduring, reciprocal love that she shared with her people.

At our feast for the "cold skin," the locals were told of the honor of huddling together with the Queen in this cold and terrible weather on the mountain, her endurance, and the experience has been something of a boast for all the people accompanying me, their huddling together with their beloved Queen being a royal wreath for them.

[Emma to Fanny, 2-1-1871, Emma Collection, NA7, Hawai‘i State Archives.]

After the feast, Emma returned to Lāwa‘i and resumed various gardening, tree planting, and irrigation projects at her newly renamed home: Mauna Kilohana.  The poetic celebration of that trip, however, was far from over.  Emma’s supporters, even those in Honolulu, continued to share information about the Queen’s remarkable vitality, the spectacular view from Kilohana, and the bond of love that had been forged on the mountain trail (Emma to Fanny, 3-1-1871, NA7, HSA). Their accounts of the Kilohana ascent inspired at least two subsequent “waves” of creativity.  The first of these can be characterized as restructured mele that have an emotional, non-linear focus.  Instead of taking us up the mountain in proper geographic sequence, a chant like Hiram Kahanawai’s “A Kilohana Makou” begins with the view of Kilohana, backtracks to the ‘Aipō campgrounds, and emphasizes the spiritual transformation that begins around the Tuesday night fire and bursts into full bloom with Wednesday morning’s breath-taking vistas.  These chants lack the narrative immediacy of the first set of compositions; they are cast in a more symbolic mold and give evidence of what the English Romantic poets have called “strong feelings recollected in tranquility” – in short, they are after-the-fact chants that have been carefully crafted to mark Emma’s heroic return to health and leadership.  

The final wave of ascent-inspired mele consists of “spin-offs”:  compositions that demonstrate little first-hand knowledge of the Kilohana story and that instead use Emma’s trip as a springboard for original expressions of love for the queen.  The series of chants contributed to Helen Roberts by P.K. Kuhi of Kalihikai, Kaua‘i (Bk14:74-81) provides excellent examples of this mele type.  Kuhi’s “A Kilohana la / I ke ala kuhikuhi lima” (76), for example, begins with stock phrases derived from its Kilohana predecessors but concludes with a “fantasy tour” (since Emma did not actually follow this route) of the Naue-to-Waimea coastline; the closing references to the firebrands of Nu‘alolo and Makuaiki, to the long-armed activities of Mānā’s god of mirages, and to Waimea fish “so tame as to be touched by man” infuse this Kaleleonālani chant with a sense of personal devotion that runs contrary to the public nature of its opening.  So, too, with “No Waialeale ke Aloha” (80-81), where the familiar opening “Ui ae nei no Emalani / Auhea oukou a pau,” gives way, like the descending mist it describes, to an expression of profound sympathy:

  1. Noe wale mai ke aloha       

    Grief descends like fog

    For her mate has gone

    And their beloved royal child

    Child born from Kaleleonālani.

  2. O kona koolua ua hala

  3. Me ka lei alii o laua       

  4. Mai loko Kaleleonalani        

  5. [Roberts Bk.14:80-81.  Kawena Pukui translation.]

“‘Auhea Wale ‘Oe e ka ‘Ō‘ō,” the competition hula of the kahiko portion of our Miss Aloha Hula presentation, belongs to this same Kuhi collection and represents, in our opinion of course, the high point of the final wave of Kilohana-inspired compositions.  The mele is offered in farewell to the queen as she leaves Lāwa‘i to return to her Nu‘uanu, ‘Oahu, home.  The chant dispenses entirely with the stock phrases and Wai‘ale‘ale place-names common to its neighbors in Kuhi; instead, it opens with a loving address that is at once an expression of loneliness and a request for attention: “‘Auhea wale ‘oe”(Where are you, please listen).  The chant compares Emma to the precious ‘ō‘ō, associates her rank and beauty with the perfumed fragrance of the equally precious sandalwood forests of the uplands, delights in the fact that she has chosen to share her company with the people of Kaua‘i, and concludes with a simple prayer: “may the memory of love shared on this visit travel home with you to Hānaiakamalama [Emma’s “Summer Palace” at Nu‘uanu] and, in fact, be your constant companion in all the peaceful days that lie ahead.” 

The graceful charm of this parting expression of aloha nearly obscures the fact that “‘Auhea Wale ‘Oe e ka ‘Ō‘ō” speaks of permanence and transience, and of Emma’s need to find the one in a life undermined by the other.  The ‘ō‘ō and ‘iliahi of the first two verses are more than metaphors of Emma’s station, beauty, and character; they are reminders of the impermanence of that which she held most dear.  The naue mai and huli ho‘i of the next two verses are more than a record of Emma’s journey to and from Kaua‘i; they reenact the sad sequence of union and separation, arrival and departure, for which Emma named herself Kaleleonālani.  Against this backdrop of sweet-sad experience, the poet does more than bid fond farewell to his queen; he gently reminds her that love is the one companion capable of bringing lasting peace to her life.  In the context of Emma’s travel chants and Kilohana re-awakening, this aloha is defined by loving memories of those now gone and by a deep commitment to the ongoing reciprocal love that she shared with her people.  Our poet suggests that this aloha – when properly cared for, when made a close and constant companion – will shore up the ruins of Emma’s life and grant the serenity for which her po‘e had prayed so long.  

The subtle sentiments and carefully crafted elegance of “‘Auhea Wale ‘Oe e ka ‘Ō‘ō” attracted our attention some years ago when we were researching “A i Waimea ‘o Kalani,” another Emma composition belonging to her Kilohana literature.  We were so taken with the piece that we presented it as the concluding oli to a dance performance for Emma that included “Kalalea” (“Nani wale ku‘u ‘ike ‘ana”) and “A i Waimea;” and we presented it again as a simple exit hula to a Lāwa‘i-inspired performance that included “Kaulu” and “Nani Lāwa‘i.”  One can imagine our delight, then, when two of our kumu hula graduates – Kahulu Kaiama and Māhealani Chang – excitedly phoned home from a midday break in hula workshop they were attending to tell us that Mrs. Patience Bacon was teaching their class “‘Auhea Wale ‘Oe e ka ‘Ō‘ō.”

That workshop was conducted on March 16, 1996, under the auspices of the Kalihi-Pālama Culture and Arts Society, Inc.  Mrs. Bacon was assisted by Nathan Nāpōkā and Lehua Hulihe‘e.  Kahulu and Māhealani then taught “‘Auhea Wale ‘Oe e ka ‘Ō‘ō” to Māpu, and in August we went to Camp Naue, Kaua‘i, where Kahulu, Māhealani, and Māpu taught the dance to the top class of our hālau, a group that includes Kēhau Enos, our ‘elele, our delegate, in this year’s Miss Aloha Hula competition.  Kēhau’s performance (as well as the voice and ipu beat that accompany it) represents our best effort to present the mele as it was shared by Mrs. Bacon. 

The text of “‘Auhea Wale ‘Oe e ka ‘Ō‘ō” as transcribed below is that used in Mrs. Bacon’s 1996 workshop and identified as belonging to the Mary Kawena Pukui Collection; I have taken the liberty of adding to it the diacritical marks that help us, as students of the language, to pronounce and begin to make sense of the mele, and I take full responsibility for any doors of interpretation that those marks might close.  Although Mrs. Bacon’s text is accompanied by a Nathan Nāpōkā translation, I have provided, instead, the Kawena Pukui translation that appears in Helen Roberts’ manuscript collection (Bk.14:80;  Bishop Museum Archives).  Where Nāpōkā’s translation is more literal and terse ("To the upland belongs the fragrance of the sandalwood / (You) adorn the leaves of the forest”), Pukui’s is more poetic and transition-sensitive (“In the upland the fragrance of sandalwood / Perfumes the leaves of the trees”).  The first helps to validate our basic understanding of the mele (“Look toward Hānaiakamalama / Take care of the love within / A close companion of yours”); the second leads us to speculate over matters of historical context and kaona (“Then return to Hānaiakamalama / And keep our love with you / May it be your constant companion”).

In addition to Mrs. Bacon’s text, we know of two other versions of “‘Auhea Wale ‘Oe e ka ‘Ō‘ō”: that version given to Roberts (14:80) by P.K. Kuhi of Hanapepe, Kaua‘i, and that which appears in the Queen Emma Collection, Folder AH6, of the Hawai‘i State Archives.  All are remarkably similar; the Roberts/Kuhi text differs in its use of tense and directional markers in the first line of the third verse: “E naue ana oe i anei” (Kuhi-Roberts) as opposed to “Ua naue mai oe i anei” (Pukui-Bacon).  The Roberts and State Archives versions end by honoring the name Nalanielua while Pukui’s honors ‘Emalani.  All versions were, of course, composed for Emma; the different endings are the result of the mele being given to Emma’s goddaughter, Nalanielua Jones, whose Hawaiian name is itself an Emma sobriquet. 

‘Auhea Wale ‘Oe e ka ‘Ō‘ō

‘Auhea wale ‘oe e ka ‘ō‘ō

Where are you, ‘ō‘ō bird

Sweet voiced bird of the forest.

In the upland, the fragrance of sandalwood

Perfumes the leaves of the trees.

Come over here with me

And remain until evening comes.

Then return to Hānaiakamalama

And keep our love with you.

May it be your constant companion

While peace is with you in the world.

This ends our praise, and may all hear

The name of ‘Emalani.

Manu leo nahe o ka uka.

No uka ke ‘ala ‘iliahi

Kāhiko i ka lau lā‘au.

Ua naue mai ‘oe i ‘ane‘i

A kau i ke ano ahiahi.

Huli ho‘i i Hānaiakamalama

Mālama ‘ia iho ke aloha.

I hoa pili no ko kino

La‘i ai ka nohona o ke ao.

Ha‘ina ka puana i lohe ‘ia

‘O ‘Emalani nō he inoa.


‘Ō‘ō.  Unfortunately the poignancy of the ‘ō‘ō as a symbol of beauty, rank, and impermanence has only increased over time.  When Emma made her Wai‘ale‘ale ascent, the prized ‘ō‘ō population of Alaka‘i was still thought of as healthy; it was only in the first decades of this century that note was made of the birds’ increasing scarcity.  “By 1928 they were talked about as rare.  By 1960 a survey could find only twelve of them, and by the 1980s they were down to two and then to one...” (Gavan Daws, Hawai'i the Islands of Life, Honolulu 1988:107).  What was once a living creature with symbolic connotations is now a symbol of staggering loss for which there is no living equivalent. 

Manu leo nahe.  The voice of the ‘ō‘ō is described as a “loud, mellow whistle.”  Bird catchers had a relatively easy task of attracting the ‘ō‘ō to their snares since it responded readily to human imitation of its call (Joesting, 3).  Daws (104) describes the last known Kaua‘i ‘ō‘ō as it answered its own tape-recorded voice:

The ‘ō‘ō was photographed not long ago, in silhouette, alone.  Its solitary song was tape-   recorded from up close and played back in the forest the next day.  The ‘ō‘ō, this lone black bird, flew to the source of the song and found nothing but a single, wingless black machine, singing.

Many of the mele written for Emma’s Kilohana ascent emphasize the warmth and encouragement of her ‘ō‘ō-like voice, especially on the last, miserably cold night spent huddled around a campfire just short of the lookout itself.

  1. O ka leo ka mea aloha

    Her voice is a loving thing

    Calling hospitably to us

    “Where are you folks? --

    Come here where there is warm companionship”

  2. Kaheahea ana mai      

  3. Ma hea mai oukou       

  4. Maanei ma ka mehana          

  5. [Roberts, 297; de Silva-Snakenburg translation.]

‘Iliahi.  In 1792 Vancouver reported that sandalwood “is easily procured, as the mountains of Atoowai [Kaua‘i]...abound with the trees from which it is produced” (Joesting, 49).  In the 1820s, at the height of the sandalwood harvesting frenzy, “Waimea was practically the sole port of departure for sandalwood vessels stopping at Kaua‘i, and the wood had to be carried there by human beings.  The mountains behind Waimea yielded great quantities of wood, but it was a walk of many miles to the seaside village” (Joesting, 49).  By the 1830s, Kaua‘i’s ‘iliahi forests had been stripped bare, but commoners were still being ordered to search out every last tree in an “effort to pay for merchandise received by the chiefs years earlier as credit” (Joesting, 89).  As applied to Emma, the ‘iliahi becomes a symbol of someone valued and rare: of an ali‘i, perhaps, whose relationship to her people was not fouled by abuse and greed.

Naue.  A technique employed in several of the more indirect Kilohana mele is the “naue” pun: the word is used as a verb (“to move”), but its impact as a place-name is unavoidable.  Indeed, naue is one of the most resonant words in the lexicon of Emma’s travel mele; it evokes memories of early, happy visits to Kaua‘i with her husband and son (as in “Nani Wale Nā Hala”), and it tempers that innocent joy with the more mature perspective of Kilohana.  Life is naue; it moves along; it sometimes sways, trembles, and quakes.

Huli ho‘i. This line marks a turning point in the poem: allusions to the Kilohana trip are left behind, and the poet expresses a more personal kind of devotion and loyalty to his queen.  This shift in geography and point of view is characteristic of many Emma poems contributed by P.K. Kuhi to the Roberts Collection, but this is perhaps the most subtly crafted of those transitions.

‘O ‘Emalani nō he inoa.  The Roberts and State Archives versions of the chant offer a different concluding line: “Nalanielua he inoa.”  According to Flora Woods Jones, an intimate friend of Emma’s during the queen’s long widowhood, the name Nālanielua was another of Emma’s personal names that referred to the passing of “the two lanis,” her husband and son.  Emma gave the name to Mrs. Jones’ first daughter when Emma agreed to become the girl’s godmother.  Nalanielua Jones (who later became Mrs. Nalani Coleman of Hollywood, California) was subsequently given Emma’s travel chant “‘Auhea Wale ‘Oe e ka ‘Ō‘ō,” and the final line of the chant was changed in honor of the name that godmother and goddaughter had come to share.  (Unpublished memoirs of Maude and Flora Jones in the keeping of The Daughters of Hawai‘i at Hānaiakamalama, Nu‘uanu.)

© Kīhei de Silva 1997.  All rights reserved.
This essay was first published in Hālau Mōhala ‘Ilimaʻs 1997 Merrie Monarch Fact Sheet. 

It is offered here in slightly revised and updated form.