He Wehi no ka Lāhui

An Essay by Kīhei de Silva



Haku Mele:  “Haku ia no ke aloha aina e Miss Kekoaohiwaikalani, Puahaulani Hale, Honolulu, February 10, 1893.” Published in Ka Leo o ka Lahui, 16 February 1893.


Music:  Kapalai‘ula de Silva, January 2012.


Our text:  Edited and arranged from the original by Kapalai‘ula de Silva; translated by Kīhei de Silva.  





This mele lāhui was composed by Ellen Kekoaohiwaikalani Wright Prendergast on the same day that she composed “Kaulana nā Pua” [1] (February 10, 1893), and it was published in John Ailuene Bush’s loyalist Hawaiian language newspaper Ka Leo o ka Lahui on February 16, a week before the same newspaper’s publication of its first version [2] of Prendergast’s considerably more famous mele.


We have chosen “He Wehi no ka Lāhui” as the ka‘i and ho‘i for “Kaulana nā Pua” because it brings a beautiful and long-forgotten mele back into the consciousness of our people, because it alerts us to the fact that “Kaulana nā Pua” was not a lonely voice in the wilderness but, in fact, one of more than fifty mele lāhui written and published in the first five months of 1893, and because it gives us the chance to pair the two same-day Prendergast compositions in a single performance 119 years later.


“He Wehi no ka Lāhui” opens with a call to the descendants of the warriors of old – the mamo of the ‘I, Mahi, and Palena” – to join as one in loyalty to their homeland and to the pono – the harmony, balance, justice, righteousness, good – of the ‘āina as embodied in the crown and queen. As the fires of Ka Wahine uphold the sacred cliffs of Kīlauea, so should we burn with love and support for the sands of our birth. Although the world has been shaken by something incomprehensible and our status as “Ainaike” (enlightened land) trampled underfoot, the lāhui must persist in holding fast to its taproot, its mole.


  1. Na pali kapu ao Kilauea           

  2. Ua paa i ke ahi a ka Wahine       

  3. O ke aiwaiwa o ke ao nei           

  4. Nana e hooni puni ka honua       

  5. Ike ia Hawaii a he moku nui       

  6. I ke oi ana iho paa i ka mole       

  7. Keehi kulana i Ainaike           


  8. The sacred cliffs of Kīlauea

  9. Are held fast by the fires of the Woman

  10. The incomprehensible mystery of today

  11. Is that which shakes the earth

  12. Hawaii is seen as a large island

  13. Persisting in holding to its taproot

  14. While status is trampled at Ainaike


The mele then devotes itself to descriptions of the unforgettable streams, mountains, breezes, forests, flowers, fragrances, and birds that make our home seem like a Garden of Eden and a promised land of flowing milk and honey – especially to the eyes of the “eagles from the east”:


  1. Na wai e ole a e makahehi           

  2. Na manu Aido o ka Hikina mai           

  3. I ka ike o ka nani me ka hemolele       

  4. Aina o ka meli me ka waiu           

  5. E kahe ana ia me ke aliali           

  6. Me he wai hou ala no Helemona           

  7. Kona mau kuahiwi a he kilakila           

  8. He molale i ka maka ke ike aku           

  9. Ka makani kepa hoi a he aheahe       

  10. Kona mau kapakai a he malie           

  11. Na ulu laau a he uliuli               

  12. O kona mau pua e popohe ana           


  13. Who could deny the fascination

  14. Of the eagles of the east

  15. Upon seeing the flawless beauty

  16. Of this land of honey and milk

  17. Flowing clearly

  18. As if they were the new waters of Helemona

  19. Her mountains so tall

  20. And unobstructed to the eyes when viewed

  21. The turning breezes blowing so gently

  22. And her shores so tranquil

  23. The deep green forests

  24. And her flowers blooming perfectly


These descriptions are reminiscent of Lorenzo Lyons’ “Hawai‘i Aloha” (“aheahe makani,” “kualono aloha,” “kahawai ‘olinolino,” “māla pua nani”), and they run for more than 20 lines before concluding with the imagery of horizon-cloud and rainbow, pearl and diamond necklace:


  1. Ka opua ua hoi ua haaheo       

  2. O ke anuenue e pipio ana       

  3. O ka oi no ia i kau ike       

  4. Aole ona lua e like ai.       


  5. He momi i loaa ma luna mai   

  6. A he lei kaimana no ka lahui   


  7. The horizon cloud has returned with pride

  8. The rainbow is arching

  9. In my eyes, it is unrivaled, supreme

  10. There is nothing that can compare


  11. It is a pearl received from above

  12. And a diamond lei for the people


The sentiment here seems innocuous, the hyperbole inoffensive, and the jewelry western, but Prendergast’s subtext is just short of incendiary: Lili‘u is the life-bringing ‘ōpua cloud; the proud day of her return to the throne will be marked by rainbows of royal presence and divine sanction; she is the incomparable, supreme leader with whom none can compare; her return will crown the land, nation, and people in splendor that can only be communicated to the usurpers in their own language of acquisition – pearls and diamonds – but for the lāhui, this crown is much more than western regalia; it is pono itself.  


Prendergast’s nature descriptions are lush and lengthy, and they distract the casual reader from her ambiguous, ironic undertones of defiant loyalty.  But our reading of the text suggests that the central metaphor of her wehi (her lei of adorning words) is the return of the wehi kalaunu to Lili‘u and a return of the wehi ‘āina to queen and lāhui.  When Liliu regains the crown, the nation will again be draped, as will she, in unrivaled splendor. All are bound to each other in a mutually dependent relationship that defies western explanation while making perfect sense to those who would “kupa‘a i ka pono o ke kalaunu” and “kāko‘o i ke one hānau.”


“He Wehi no ka Lāhui” was originally composed in late 19th century ku‘i fashion: 26 couplets of more-or-less regular length and rhythm, ending with the formulaic “Ha‘ina.” Because there is no music for the song (that we have been able to find) and because it is much too long for singing in most performance venues, we have edited and given it voice in a hīmeni-style setting of five paukū (of four lines each) and three hui (of four, four, and three lines each). This is not the song’s complete text, but we think that it honors the intent of the original and puts back in our ears most of a mele that has languished unheard for much too long.


Ka‘i


He inoa kēia no ka lāhui

This is a name song for the Hawaiian people           

The progeny born of the land

The blossoms, the children, the descendants

Of the ‘Ī, of the Mahi and the Palena


Arise and attend to the call

To my prayer for Hawai‘i

O nation-race that defends its security

Be steadfast in the pono of the Crown


hui:

The sacred cliffs of Kīlauea

Are held fast by the fire of the Woman

May you be of one heart, held by love

To guard the sands of your birth


The deep green forests 

And her flowers blooming perfectly

Hers is a cool, liquid fragrance

That memory cannot forget


The sound of birds calling sweetly

Sipping the lehua blossom

Hers is an elegant appearance

As attractive as a dove


hui:

The horizon cloud has returned with pride

The rainbow is arching

In my eyes, she is unrivaled, supreme

There is no one who can compare.




I will boast with pride

On behalf of the land of my birth

It is a pearl received from above

And a diamond necklace for the people


hui:

Tell the story of the famed adornment

A mele lāhui, a nationalist song, for Hawai‘i 

          

Nā ēwe hānau o ka ‘āina       

Nā pua, nā mamo, nā ‘ōiwi       

A ka ‘Ī, a ka Mahi me ka Palena       


E ola e lohe i ka welina           

Ka‘u kānaenae no Hawai‘i       

Lāhui mālama i ka maluhia       

Kūpa‘a i ka pono o ke Kalaunu       


hui:

Nā pali kapu a‘o Kīlauea       

Ua pa‘a i ke ahi a ka Wahine       

Ho‘okahi pu‘uwai o ke aloha       

Kako‘o i kou one hānau           


Nā ulu lā‘au a he uliuli           

‘O kona mau pua e popohe ana       

A he waianuhea kona ‘a‘ala       

E poina ‘ole ai ka ho‘omana‘o       


Ka leo o nā manu e hoene ana       

Mūkīkī ana i ka pua lehua       

A he nani hiehie kona hi‘ona       

He nohea me he manu nūnū ala       


hui:

Ka ‘ōpua ua ho‘i ua ha‘aheo       

‘O ke ānuenue e pipi‘o ana       

‘O ka ‘oi nō ia i ka‘u ‘ike           

‘A‘ole ona lua e like ai.           


Ho‘i


Kaena ana au me ka ha‘aheo       

No ku‘u ‘āina i hānau ai           

He momi i loa‘a ma luna mai       

A he lei kaimana no ka lāhui       


hui:

Ha‘ina e ka wehi i kaulana       

He mele lāhui no Hawai‘i.   



Notes


1. Or the song now known as “Kaulana nā Pua.” Prendergast originally published it under the titles “He Ohu no ka Poe Aloha Aina,” “He Inoa no na Keiki o ka Bana Lahui,” and “He Lei no ka Poe Aloha Aina.”   


  1. 2.It took Ka Leo o ka Lahui four tries to print the complete, 20-line text of the mele; the initial, February 24

version omitted the song’s 15th and 16th lines (“Ua ola/lawa makou i ka pohaku / I ka ai kamahao o ka aina”), and the texts of May 10 and 11 omitted the four-line roll call of islands.





© Kīhei de Silva, 2012.  All rights reserved.

This essay was first published in Hālau Mōhala ‘Ilimaʻs 2012 Merrie Monarch Fact Sheet. 

It is offered here in slightly revised and updated form.