1854 - Richardson, J. The First Christian Martyr of the New Zealand Church - CHAPTER I, p 5-14

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  1854 - Richardson, J. The First Christian Martyr of the New Zealand Church - CHAPTER I, p 5-14
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The First Christian Martyr of the New Zealand Church.


OH would that I might dwell by Taupo's lake,
And gaze on its magnificence; or read
On its reflected page the wond'rous skill
Of an Almighty Hand; or roam amid
The lofty cliffs; or scale the dizzy heights
Of Tongoriro's mist envelop'd cone;
Or peer into its dark and yawning caves. --
But stay the rash desire; for, lo! from out
Each dark defile, on whirlwind's wings propell'd,
Descending fast, the angry tempest roars;
The dense and darken'd forest creaks, but yields
A stubborn homage to its ruthless pow'r.
No longer Taupo's lake in beauty smiles,
Its dark and troubled waters madly roll
In wondrous turmoil. The cautious Mao'ri,
By sad experience taught, and, thus forearm'd,
Has beach'd his bark, and, with averted eye,
Seeks his sequestered glen. --

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Before me lies expanded, in length six leagues,
And with a breadth scarce less, this fickle lake.
At its southern end Waikat'o enters
From afar, bearing beneath its dark expanse
The elements which boiling springs and lakes
Sulphurous have pour'd within its bosom;
On either side stand cliffs, gaunt sentinels,
Breasting th'impetuous stream. On Taupo's
Southern shore, embower'd 'mid treacherous hills..
Te Rapa lies. Above, beyond, around,
The signs of nature's throes are thickly strew'd.
From off a hill hard by the snow-capp'd cone
Of Tongariro's lofty peak is seen,
His hoary head uprais'd eight thousand feet;
Forests of matchless beauty, cloth'd in green,
Close girt him round, from profanation's touch
The holy mount protecting; from within
Deep sounds of awful import rise; anon,
The mutter'd groan, the harsh and savage growl,
The hollow tone of dark despair. Scatter'd,
In dark abraded blocks, or molten mass,
Lie lava, once pour'd forth in liquid form
From Tongariro, or, from one still more
Majestic, though more silent now than death,
The roaring Ru'apahu. --
Conceal'd beneath the lichen and the moss
Boil many a spring, whence vapours rise
To life destructive. From Egmont seated
On Taranaki's lovely coast, a queen

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Of beauty, to Edgecombe's mount, far distant
T'ward the eastern shore, range, in order
Scarce intermitted, volcano, geyser,
And signs of vast internal agony.
For many a mile are fields of liquid mud,
Of hard vibrating surface; from frightful
Caverns but precarious guard. Above
Projecting may be seen the carved posts
Which once enclos'd a village, now no more;
At midnight's silent hour, with stealthy tread,
The evil spirit op'd the jaws of earth,
And to the regions of the dead convey'd
A tribe renown'd. The air with shrieks was rent
And suppliant cries, as boiling masses
Of earth's elements, exulting clasp'd
The quiv'ring members of once boastful man. 1
These strange vicissitudes too truly told
Of man's inconstancy, and well portray'd
The changing aspect of the human mind.
Be such my theme, though tremulous my flight. --
In time unknown, but, without doubt, remote,
Long ere the billows of the southern sea
Had forc'd the isles asunder, a frail bark
Convey'd across the main from Hawaikee
A wandering tribe. Arts, form, and language,
All combin'd, declare resemblance close
To the more northern Polynesian race.
Distinct from this, another class exists,

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Which Australasian kindred clearly shews, 2
But never to the seat of power rise.
High reverence does the Mao'ri pay
To Mau'i and his brother, to whose skill
They owe the land's emergence from the deep.
E'Panu shares their love; his thoughtful care
The sweet Koomeera brought from distant shores.
Though mortals once, they now exist endow'd
With superhuman power.
No idol stains their creed, nor will they bend
The knee to aught but At'ua divine.
Essence immortal, immaterial shade!
Stooping to man's infirmity he takes.
In faith's extended view, material forms;
The flying cloud, the soaring bird, the dull
And sluggish lizard, each and all,
As fertile fancy suits, or need suggests. 3
With power infinite for good or ill,
Hovering around, existing, though unseen,
Are agencies ethereal, the souls
Of mortal men from bodies disenthrall'd.
The future, which to the mind enlarg'd
By reason's pure and bright effulgence
Bears compensation full for present woes,
And re-attunes the symphony of Heaven,
To them gleams darkly, if it gleam at all:
Their future but the present amplified.
Their joys the same, their sorrows not unlike
The keen emotions of the passing hour.

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Th'enfranchis'd spirit "does but dive in death,
"Dives from the sun in fairer day to rise,
"The grave his subterranean road to bliss."
No longer to earth's surface closely bound,
It springs aloft, and swiftly cleaves its way
To where the north cape bold confronts the sea,
Thence plunging into the depths unfathomable,
The monsters of the deep, affrighted, yield
A ready passage to a neighb'ring isle.
Emerging thence its essence it divides,
Each part embody'ng in a mortal eye,
The one remains terrestrial joys to seek,
And revel in the luxuries of war;
The other, free as ether, upward bounds,
And in the galaxy of heaven's orbs,
Assumes its place a bright and glitt'ring star.
But not on all is such a noble end
Conferr'd; this destiny divine is given
To chiefs alone; the common herd
Existing, die; and, dying, never rise.
Such were the thoughts of God and man they brought
From distant lands: such the cheerless hope
To nerve the heart in danger's troubled hour,
Its guide in doubt, its solace in despair,
And in the fearful agonies of death
Its rod, its staff, its stingless victory. -- 4
But to return. Borne on the gentle wings
Of favouring winds, full many an hour,
And many an anxious day had pass'd

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In dark conjecture: oft the straining eye
Had swept the wide expanse, and pierc'd the gloom
That mantled night; oft the eye upturn'd
Had gaz'd on Pleiades, their chieftain's home,
Imbibing from their mild and steady light
A soothing hope, a calm reposing faith.
No frowning cloud, nor exhalation dense,
The pure transparency of heaven dimm'd;
The stars in all their brilliancy divine
In ether swam; the planets glittering
Figurately spoke of life's alternate shade;
The rising moon, enrob'd in roseate hues,
Impatient leap'd the boundaries of earth,
And with a rich and lavish hand bestow'd
Its clear and silv'ry beams on all around.
Omen auspicious, harbinger of peace. --
Far in the distant west, a lurid light
Bursts on the astonished view; silent
They gaze, and each from each inquiring asks,
By rapid interchange of speechless thought,
Whence comes this strange appearance? They gaze,
From Cynthia rising in the distant east
T"ward th' opposing west, and fancy paints
In glowing tints a cloud reflecting back
Its borrowed beams. Bright and brighter still
The meteor shines with intermitting light,
While o'er the main reverberating sounds
Are tremulously borne. Hours onward roll.
The moon her zenith reach'd; with haste declin'd,

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And parts the briny wave; night reassumes
Her dark domain, and clouds of sable hue
Obscure the brightness of the host of heav'n.
Thoughts, emulous of Nature's dreary garb,
Enthrall the mind and ev'ry ray expunge. --
Dominion short retain'd. The rising sun
Gleams 'mid dissolving clouds, and richly tints
The snow-capp'd tops of distant central hills;
While, not remote, in liquid fire involv'd,
With fierce and deaf'ning shout, and breathing steam
From ev'ry pore vast Rangitoto foams.
Leaving its sulphur cones behind, they steer
T' wards the north, where, with fascinating smile,
The Bay of Islands undulating slopes,
Clad in the verdant hue of early spring.
Scarce had they leap'd from off their fragile bark
Than on their bended knees, with grateful hearts,
They pour the notes of deep impassion'd praise;
Recalling all the watchful care, the love
Divine, which, 'mid the ocean's trackless waste,
Had safely guided to a land of rest.
A council quickly form'd as quick decides
The land to search; they start by diverse routes;
And quick return. The forest dark and dense
No passage gives; festoon'd and interloop'd
In ev'ry form, at ev'ry varying height,
The treach'rous parasite declines to yield:
Below, a tangled web of mesh-like roots
Arrests the steps, and all advance denies.

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One pair alone, dauntless and undeterr'd,
Their weary way pursue, and southward trend
Until they reach the liquid chain of springs
To fury lash'd by fierce internal flame.
Affrighted they return, their perils tell,
And tell of wonders passing human thought.
Deep in the dark recesses of the wood
Mistrustful, though alone; or perch'd aloft
On overhanging hills; or screen'd beneath
The green mosaic, might, at times be seen,
Though but as a vision of the night,
Forms much akin to human, but, in height
The height of man exceeding, with coat of hair,
And arms prolong'd; traditionally view'd,
As ruined relics of a bygone race.
Amid the lofty pines, or, on the edge
Of mountain streams, gigantic bipeds brows'd
To whom in size the ostrich, now supreme,
Can scarce compare. Gliding through brake and reed,
In solitary gloom, strange reptiles roam'd,
The fabled dragon scarce less awe inspired. 5
Fain would I linger here and lightly sketch
Conjecture's dim surmise, from whence and when
These races sprang; and tell of one vast land
Of which the South Sea Isles but fragments are
Of lofty Alpine ranges deep submerged.
But other scenes invite, and scenes on which
My mind untrammell'd fondly loves to dwell. --
Unnoted centuries pass; Man proudly claims

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By right divine, dominion o'er the beast,
And they, by instinct taught, allegiance yield,
Their haunts desert, and scarcely leave a trace
To mark they once were masters of the land.
Man occupies the void thus timely made,
And reigns supreme amid its hills and dales.
Would that he rightly viewed the power thus gain'd
And turned his strength to subjugate the beast;
But once the warlike spirit roused, he spurns
The gentle arts of peace, and slothful gleans
The earth's spontaneous fruits; the hunter's fire,
Insatiate burns against his fellow man. --
The human tide now ebbs towards decay. --
Strangers from distant climes the ocean plough
In mighty ships and anchor off the coast.
The gallant Cook unfurls the British flag
And claims, as civilization ever claims
Against a barbarous race, a prior right;
This right he pressed, not at the cannon's mouth,
But by the kindly offices of love.
Such friendly acts were not without effect,
And promise gave of rich and plenteous fruit.
But, as the smallest spark may raise a flame
That oceans cannot quench; so, one rash word
From Furneaux's crew, or one misconstrued act
Inflamed their slumbering ire; the past,
With all its kindly feelings, is forgot,
And man, embruted, revels deep in blood. --
Again I take my stand, and gaze intent

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On passing scenes. --Whence comes that piercing shriek?
Whence rise those feeble moans? is that the cry
Of woman's agony?--Alas! too true.
The sound falls dead on unresponding hearts,
And not a chord vibrates to mercy's call.
Strange contrast this. When first we view'd the coast,
A prostrate feeble tribe our vision met
In grateful adoration lowly bent;
But now, within that circling host there lies
A quiv'ring corpse, clasp'd in the puny arms
Of helpless infancy; while, with downcast
Eyes and frenzied look, fast bound to trees
Contiguous to the spot, are swarthy men
Who oft have "braved the battle and the breeze,"
And ne'er have quail'd before their fellow man.
They view the crackling flame, the scarce cold limbs
Asunder torn; and fear, before unknown,
Usurps their minds. Their respite short indeed;
The war-club gleams on high, and swiftly falls
On their devoted heads; the stranded ship
In desolation weeps, amid its shrouds
The howling gale a requiem sadly sings. ---
1   The Lake of Taupo is situated in the centre of the northern island of New Zealand, and at about the middle of the line of volcanic and igneous action. In the immediate neighbourhood are the volcanoes of Ruapahu and Tongariro, the former of which is extinct. Thermal springs are in great abundance, as are also miniature volcanic ranges formed by the mud and sand ejected by them. A space of two square miles is represented by Dr. Dieffenbach as covered by these springs, the whole area being separated by a thin crust from subterranean caverns. Nothing daunted however by so dangerous a proximity, the natives use the boiling water for cooking their food, and not unfrequently pay the penalty of their temerity by a hot bath of an undesirable temperature. The lakes Rotu-Mahana, and Roturu'a, are represented as surpassingly beautiful, especially the former, which is considered to present one of the grandest views that can well be conceived. Tongariro, so often mentioned in this narrative, is about 7000 feet in height, its cone, according to Mr. Bidwell, springing 1500 feet from a hollow amphitheatre; around are magnificent mountains with snow-capped tops, having the peculiar perpendicularity of side characteristic of New Zealand hills. Tongariro has been subsequently examined by Mr. Dyson, who has lately ascended it despite its being tap'ued. On both occasions the ascent was made without the knowledge of the natives. The rivers Whanganu'i and Waikat'o take their rise in this neighbourhood.
2   The meagreness of our information respecting the origin of the islands of New Zealand, and of their antiquity, fortunately does not involve the necessity of our accepting the poetic fiction of the Mao'ri who asserts that they are indebted to Mau'i and his brother for having hooked them, while engaged in piscatory recreations, from the bottom of the sea.

It has been supposed that the vast congeries of islands lying in the South Pacific were at one time united in a widely extended continent, amid whose valleys those gigantic bipeds roamed of whose existence the fossil deposits of New Zealand afford such abundant evidence; and that the present islands are but the lofty ranges which intersected it, or the peaks which stood boldly forth from its surface. The appearance of some fossil beds in very nearly the same level on the northern shore of Cook's Straits and the south eastern coast of the middle island, would indicate, according to an eminent geologist, that these islands, at a period antecedent to man's appearance on them, were united, their separation having been apparently effected either by volcanic action, strong oceanic currents, or the heavy gales which blow transversely across them. The Ma'oris have a tradition that their ancestors came in two canoes from the eastward, one party doubling the North Cape, while the other settled on the eastern shore. Whatever truth there may be in this, it is certain that they are of Malay extraction. Migration evidently started from the westward; and whether it advanced step by step, and island by island, to New Zealand; or across Behring's Straits and thence southerly down the Continent of America and across to Eastern Island where it reached the eastern limits of the east winds; or stretched at once towards the Sandwich Islands and thence southerly, it is impossible to decide; the difficulties attending each supposition have been smoothed down by their respective advocates, and the plausibilities eloquently enlarged on.

Perhaps one of the most extraordinary customs existing among the New Zealanders is their mode of saluting friends by rubbing noses; the custom is not, however, confined to these islands, for, in the remote north, at Hotham's inlet, in latitude 66.48 north and 160.30 west, Commander Maguire, of H. M.'s Ship Plover, writes thus of an Esquimaux Chief:-- "He afterwards passed his hand down his stomach several times expressive of great friendship, and then fixed his forehead against mine, and used it as a fulcrum to rub noses several

times, a ceremony not very agreeable in his heated state from singing." If this extract present a curious coincidence between two races so remote from each other, a no less striking coincidence maybe observed in some other points between the New Zealander and the North American Indians. Miss Bremer in her late work, "The Homes of the New World," which I had the pleasure of perusing after these pages had gone to press, has the following remarks:--

"The Indian grave was a chest of bark laid upon a couple of planks supported by four posts standing underneath a tree golden with autumnal tints. It is thus that the Indians dispose of their dead, till the flesh is dried off the bones, when these are interred either in the earth or in caves with funeral dances and songs."

The Indians "believe that the spirit after death still lingers for a time near those earthly precincts which it had just left, and that it continued to be still, in a certain manner, akin to earth; that it wanders over vast plains in the clear cold moonlight; and finally it arrives at a great chasm in the earth, on the other side of which lies the land of the blessed, where there is an eternal spring and rich hunting grounds abundantly supplied with game. The Indian's idea of reward and punishment after death is merely the reflex of their earthly joys and misfortunes. They believe in a spirit of spirits called Manitou, who is without peculiar moral attributes; in a number of lesser divinities; in a transformed divinity in the forest, in stones, or animals. They seek to propitiate Manitou by gifts and sacrifices. The mediators between themselves and Manitou are their so called medicine men, who by means of the knowledge of the mysteries of nature and the power of magic are considered able to invoke spirits, to avert misfortunes, to heal sickness, and to obtain the fulfilment of human wishes. These men are highly esteemed among the Indians, and are both their priests and physicians." As regards religion, they are represented as unwilling to "listen to a doctrine which is diametrically opposed to that which constitutes their heathenish virtue and happiness."

I almost imagined, when reading these passages, that I had inadvertently taken up a volume on New Zealand, for even the language here used bears occasionally a close resemblance to that which has been employed in the text, or in these notes. There appears even to the ordinary observer of the present day two distinct classes of inhabitants in New Zealand, the one, in intellectual developement and physical conformation, approaching the European, and designated according to Dr. Dieffenbach, Ma'ori (Aboriginal); the other evidently of Mongolian extraction, having the dark complexion, full lip, prominent cheek bone, and curly hair of the negro; while, a third class is spoken of by the author of a "Leaf from the Natural History of New Zealand" as, in the opinion of the natives, still residing in the central mountain ranges, and viewed by them as relics of the sparsely scattered inhabitants who formerly occupied the soil. Native tradition tells of three distinct immigrations; perhaps represented by these distinct classes. It is worthy of note, that the Mongolian class, though not permitted to become chiefs, are not regarded as inferior, or in the same degraded light that the present Australian negroes are.

It is sufficient for the present purpose to state, that the existence of tattoing or a disfiguring scarification of the skin, of circumcision in some of the islands, of the immolation of the wife on the death of her husband as in Tiger island, of human sacrifices on a chieftain's demise, of chewing betel, of a similarity in the names of trees, of a similitude in physical conformation, of tabooing or making holy persons and things, and of their language, all combine to fix a close affinity between the Ma'ori and the Sandwich Islanders, who equally claim Maui and his brother as important characters in their history, and generally with the Malayan race as particularly exemplified, according to Mr. Nicholas, in the fact of the three chief divinities of the Batta Tribe of Sumatra and of the New Zealanders having precisely the same functions ascribed to them.
3   "Whatever may have been the simple elementary truths which the New Zealanders brought with them in their immigration, oral tradition, for they had no other medium of communication", has most signally failed in transmitting any clear conception of them to the present generation. A fact of so much significancy may well rivet our affection to that inspired record which exhibits, at the present moment, as well defined a transcript of the Divine Mind as our ancestors of bygone centuries possessed. The current of truth flows to us undiluted by human invention and undistorted through human infirmity; and we need not, in order fully to understand its sacred page, either the testimony of even the holiest men, though contemporaneous with the early Church, or the commentaries of living expositors, though such testimony as historic evidence, and such comments as elucidatory of ancient manners and customs have, their highly important uses. Could one of the pilgrim Fathers, who centuries since landed in New Zealand, ascertain the religions faith of the present generation of his descendants, we might easily conjecture his astonishment on learning its imputed parentage. Mr. Nicholas, as quoted by the author of the "New Zealander," represents the present inhabitants as believing that a Triune Deity co-operated in the creation of man; and that the woman "Hevee" (Eve) was formed by a rib taken from man; combining this belief with their custom of infant baptism by sprinkling, and the continuance of the soul for three days with the body of a deceased person, we may reasonably imagine that if we could trace back this faith and practice to the fountain head, we should at length arrive at the Bible as the source from whence they sprang. It appears that a deity termed At'ua is, or rather was, a general object of religious veneration; he is considered to be immaterial in his nature but capable of assuming material forms; unlike the Christian's God, he is represented as chiefly exercising himself in the infliction of evil, and, being endowed with omnipotence and omnipresence, is a constant source of terror. His attributes have been deified, and though supplication will in the hour of need be addressed to such subordinate deities, still it is urged that prayer is not made to them, as the mind passes beyond and centres itself in the First great Cause, and to Him alone is prayer offered, even though a visible material object or an invisible conception be the medium of approach. A similar justification is offered by the Heathen who bows down to wood and stone; it is hard to say that such a spiritual abstraction, as in the latter case of the two, may not exist. It is also believed that occasionally a particular deity takes up his residence in a chief; while deceased chieftains have been admitted into the order of deities. However, we have an eminent authority for the assertion, that if image worship or idolatry did at all exist, it was confined to the neighbourhood of the Whanganui river alone.
4   If obscurity he the characteristic of the ideas entertained of the Deity by the New Zealanders, their notions respecting man and his destiny are equally clouded. It appears to be a pretty general belief that immortality is confined to the higher classes alone, the lower perishing as the beasts of the field; and that the soul has a complex existence, being embodied in the eyes, the left, in particular, being highly distinguished and finally assuming a position in the heavens. This immortality appears to be susceptible of annihilation (a species of mortal immortality), should the left eye be eaten. The departed soul in one or other of its divided essences, or as an undivided invisible spirit, is capable of operating either for the benefit or injury of mankind.
5   Judging from the appearance of the central parts of the northern island, where almost impenetrable forests, extending for 60 or 70 miles, still exist, and from the surface soil of most of the hills in the middle island, we can have no difficulty in accepting the native tradition that the country was formerly covered with continuous forests of gigantic trees. Mr. Mantell, applying the scale of proportions given by Professor Owen to some bones discovered in New Zealand, is of opinion that gigantic bipeds at one time existed in great numbers throughout the country, some of which were 10 or even 12 feet high, exceeding by one third the height of the tallest ostrich. Tradition also speaks of lizards of an enormous size having formerly existed, and it is also affirmed that a species of wild man inhabited the Tararu'a range, who is described to have been as tall as a man, covered with long hair, and as having very long arms.

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