Home  »  Poems of Places An Anthology in 31 Volumes  »  Song of the Tonga-Islanders

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Oceanica: Vol. XXXI. 1876–79.

Polynesia: Tonga (Friendly) Islands

Song of the Tonga-Islanders

By Lord Byron (1788–1824)

(From The Island)

HOW pleasant were the songs of Toobonai,

When summer’s sun went down the coral bay!

Come, let us to the islet’s softest shade,

And hear the warbling birds! the damsels said:

The wood-dove from the forest depth shall coo,

Like voices of the gods from Bolotoo;

We ’ll cull the flowers that grow above the dead,

For these most bloom where rests the warrior’s head;

And we will sit in twilight’s face, and see

The sweet moon dancing through the tooa tree,

The lofty accents of whose sighing bough

Shall sadly please us as we lean below;

Or climb the steep, and view the surf in vain

Wrestle with rocky giants o’er the main,

Which spurn in columns back the baffled spray.

How beautiful are these, how happy they,

Who, from the toil and tumult of their lives,

Steal to look down where naught but ocean strives!

Even he too loves at times the blue lagoon,

And smooths his ruffled mane beneath the moon.

Yes—from the sepulchre we ’ll gather flowers,

Then feast like spirits in their promised bowers,

Then plunge and revel in the rolling surf,

Then lay our limbs along the tender turf,

And, wet and shining from the sportive toil,

Anoint our bodies with the fragrant oil,

And plait our garlands gathered from the grave,

And wear the wreaths that sprung from out the brave.

But lo! night comes, the Mooa wooes us back,

The sound of mats is heard along our track;

Anon the torchlight-dance shall fling its sheen

In flashing mazes o’er the Marly’s green;

And we too will be there; we too recall

The memory bright with many a festival,

Ere Fiji blew the shell of war, when foes

For the first time were wafted in canoes.

Alas! for them the flower of mankind bleeds;

Alas! for them our fields are rank with weeds.

Forgotten is the rapture, or unknown,

Of wandering with the moon and love alone.

But be it so,—they taught us how to wield

The club, and rain our arrows o’er the field;

Now let them reap the harvest of their art!

But feast to-night! to-morrow we depart.

Strike up the dance, the cava-bowl fill high,

Drain every drop!—to-morrow we may die.

In summer garments be our limbs arrayed;

Around our waist the Tappa’s white displayed;

Thick wreaths shall form our coronal, like spring’s,

And round our necks shall glance the Hooni strings;

So shall their brighter hues contrast the glow

Of the dusk bosoms that beat high below.

But now the dance is o’er—yet stay awhile;

Ah, pause! nor yet put out the social smile.

To-morrow for the Mooa we depart,

But not to-night,—to-night is for the heart.

Again bestow the wreaths we gently woo,

Ye young enchantresses of gay Licoo!

How lovely are your forms! how every sense

Bows to your beauties, softened, but intense,

Like to the flowers on Mataloco’s steep,

Which fling their fragrance far athwart the deep:

We too will see Licoo; but oh, my heart—

What do I say? to-morrow we depart.