A poem by William Arthur Dunkerley

Where the great green combers break in thunder on the barrier reefs,--
Where, unceasing, sounds the mighty diapason of the deep,--
Ringed in bursts of wild wave-laughter, ringed in leagues of flying foam,--
Long lagoons of softest azure, curving beaches white as snow,
Lap in sweetness and in beauty all the isles of Owhyhee.

Land more lovely sun ne'er shone on than these isles of Owhyhee,
Spendthrift Nature's wild profusion fashioned them like fairy bowers;
Yet behind--below the sweetness,--underneath the passion-flowers,
Lurked grim deeds, and things of horror, grisly Deaths, and ceaseless Fears,
Fears and Deaths that walked in Darkness, grisly Deaths and ceaseless Fears.

Mauna Loa--Mona Lo-ah.



On the slope of Mauna Loa, in the pit of Kilauea,
In the lake of molten lava, in the sea of living fire,
In the place of Ceaseless Burnings, in her home of Wrath and Terror,
Dwelt the dreadful goddess Pélé--Pélé of the Lake of Fire;
Pélé of the place of torment, Pélé of the Lake of Fire.

In the dim far-off beginnings, Pélé flung the islands up
From the bottom of the ocean, from the darksome underworld;
Built them for a house to dwell in, built them for herself alone,
So she claimed them and their people, claimed them as her very own,
And they feared her, and they worshipped--
Pélé, the Remorseless One.

But, at times, when she lay sleeping, underneath the lake of fire,
They forgot to do her reverence, they forgot the fiery one;
Then in wrath the goddess thundered from the Lake of Ceaseless Burnings,
Flamed and thundered in her anger, till the very skies were red,
Poured black ruin on the island, shook it to its rocky bed.

Then in fear the people trembled and bethought them of their sins,
And the great high priest of Pélé came like Death down Mauna Loa,
Came to soothe the awful goddess, came to choose the sacrifice,
Chose the fairest youth or maiden, pointed with a deadly finger,
Led them weeping up the mountain, victims to the Lake of Fire.

On the snowy beach of coral, youths and maidens full of laughter,
Flower-bedecked and full of laughter, sported gaily in the sun;
Up above, the slender palm-trees swung and shivered in the trade-wind,
All around them flowers and spices,--red hibiscus, sweet pandanus,
And behind, the labouring mountain groaned and growled unceasingly.

"Sea and sunshine,
Care is moonshine,
All our hearts are light with laughter.
We are free
As sun and sea,
What care we for what comes after?"


"Life was sweet before Love found her,
In his faery bowers.
Life is sweeter,
And completer,
Since he found her,
There, and crowned her
With his fadeless flowers."

"Love sought long before he found her,
Ne'er was love like ours!
Long he sought her,
E'er he caught her.
But he found her
There, and bound her
With his fadeless flowers."

"Gaily sporting,
Pleasure courting,
Nought know we of care or sorrow.
We are free
As sun and sea,
What care we what comes to-morrow?"

Louder still and louder, Pélé roars within her lake of fire,
And the youths and maidens trembling look in fear up Mauna Loa,
Dreading sight of that grim figure stalking down the mountain side;
For when Pélé claims her victims none the summons may avoid.
Pélé calls for whom she chooses--whom she chooses goes,--and dies.

See! He comes! They start in terror. There, along the mountain side,
Death comes stalking, slowly, surely,--Pélé must be satisfied.
Which among them will he summon, with his dreadful pointing finger?
All their hearts become as water, all their faces blanch with fear,
Deaths they suffer in the waiting, while dread Death draws near.

Now he stands in dreadful menace, seeking with a baleful eye
For the sweetest and the fairest--for the meetest sacrifice.
"Choose, O choose!"--they cry in terror; "choose your victim and be gone,
For we each die deaths while waiting, till dread Pélé's choice be known!
Choose your victim, Priest of Pélé, choose your victim and be gone!"

Slowly points the dreadful finger, marks the newly-wedded bride;
All the rest, save one, fall from her, as the living from the dead.
From the first of time's beginnings Pélé ne'er has been gainsayed;
Pélé chooses whom she chooses, each and all the choice abide,
For the common good and safety,--Pélé must be satisfied!

Still the mountain reels and shudders, still the awful thunders peal,
Like a snake the ruthless finger holds them all in terror still;
One is there whose life is broken, parted from his chosen bride,
But the threatening finger, heedless of the lives it may divide,
Lights upon a tiny maiden,--Pélé must be satisfied!

Slow, the grim high-priest of Pélé turns to climb the mountain side;
Slow, the victims turn and follow,--Pélé must be satisfied.
And the rest shrink, dumb and helpless, daring not to lift an eye,
And beyond, the labouring mountain cracks and belches living fires,
Till the island reels and shudders at dread Pélé's agonies.

But a greater one than Pélé walked the mountain side that day;--
To them, climbing, dumb and dim-eyed--like a flash of heavenly flame,
Swift and bright as saving angel, fair Kapiolani came,
Swiftly as a saving angel, gleaming like a heavenly flame,
Thirsting like a sword for battle, fair Kapiolani came.

Radiant with the faith of martyrs, all aglow with new-born zeal,
Burning to release the people from the bondage and the thrall,
From the deadly thrall of Pélé, from the ever-threatening doom,
From the everlasting menace, from the awful lake of fire,
Like a bright avenging angel fair Kapiolani came!

"Hear me now, you priest of Pélé, and ye men of Owhyhee!
Hearken! ye who cringe and tremble, at the sound of Kilauea,
Fearful of the wrath of Pélé, fearful of the lake of fire!--
Priest, I say there is no Pélé! Pélé is not--never was!
Pélé lives but in your legends--there is only one true God!"

"Curséd, thrice accurséd, you who thus great Pélé do defy,
Here, upon her sacred mountain, of a surety you shall die!
Pélé, mighty Pélé, Vengeance! Strike her with thy dreadful doom!
So let every scoffer perish!--Pélé! Pélé! Pélé! come!"
And Kapiolani answered--"Pélé! Pélé! Pélé! come!"

Loud the mountain roared and thundered; shuddered all who heard and saw,
Dauntless stood Kapiolani, dauntless with her faithful few.
"Come!" she cried again. "Come, Pélé! Smite me with thy dreadful doom!
I am waiting, mighty Pélé!--Pélé! Pélé! Pélé! come!"
And the mountain roared and thundered;--but the goddess did not come.

"Hearken, Priest! You have deceived us. All your life has been a lie,
Black your heart is, red your hands are, with the blood of those who die.
All these years you have misled us with your awful threats of doom.
Now it ends! I do defy you, and your goddess I defy.
Pélé, is not, never has been. All your worship is a lie.

"I will climb your sacred mountain. I will dare your lake of fire.
I will eat your sacred berries. I will dare your goddess there,
There and then to wreak her vengeance, then and there to come in fire,
And with awful burnings end me, now and for eternity;
But if Pélé does not end me, then her worship ends this day."

Then the great high priest of Pélé turned to fiery Kilauea.
"Come!" he said, "the goddess calls you!"--and they climbed the mountain side,
Up the slopes of Mauna Loa, to the hell of Kilauea,
With the bright blue sky above them, with the blazing sun above them,
While the mountain shook beneath them, and its head was wrapped in fire.

Fearful, hopeful, all the people crept along the shaking path,
Hardly breathing at their daring, thus to brave dread Pélé's wrath,
Bending low lest she should see them, breathing soft lest she should hear,
Certain that Kapiolani would be sacrificed that day,
To the vengeance of the goddess, to the anger of Pélé.

"As little child
On mother's breast,
O rest, my heart,
Have rest!
Who rests on Him
Is surely blest.
So rest, my heart,
Have rest!
As warrior bold
His foes among,
Be strong, my heart,
Be strong!
Who rests on Him
Shall ne'er go wrong.
Be strong, my heart,
Be strong!"

Thus, Kapiolani, dauntless, singing softly as she went,
With a face as calm and fearless as a child on pleasure bent,
Climbed the side of Mauna Loa, to the dreadful lake of fire,
While the mountain shook and thundered, while the people blanched and shuddered,
Climbed to Halé-Mau-Mau,--to the dreadful lake of fire.

All the people waited trembling, stood afar off pale and trembling,
While Kapiolani, fearless, climbed up to the lake of fire,
With the fiery glow all round her, with a heavenly light about her.
Shining with a radiance brighter than since time began had shone
From the Lake of Ceaseless Burnings, from the dreadful lake of fire.

"Here," she cried, "I pluck your berries, Pélé,--and I give you none!
See! I eat your sacred berries, Pélé,--and I give you none!
Pélé, here I break your tabus! Come, with all your dreadful fires!
Burn me, Pélé! I defy you!--Pélé! Pélé! Pélé! come!"
Come now, Pélé, or for ever own that you are overcome!

"Pélé comes not. Is she sleeping? Is she wandering to-day?
Is she busy with her burnings? Has the goddess nought to say?
Hear me, friends!--There is no Pélé! One true God alone there is.
His, this mountain! His, these burnings! You, and I, and all things,--His!
Goodness, Mercy, Loving-Kindness, Life Eternal--all are His!

"From this day, let no man tremble, when he feels the mountain shake!
From this day, no man or maiden shall be killed for Pélé's sake!
From this day, we break the thraldom of the dreadful lake of fire.
From this day, we pass for ever from the scourge of Pélé's rod.--
From this day, Thou, Lord Jehovah, be our one and only God!"

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