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Anna Jane Vardill

The Banquet Song of the Tonga Islanders [1]

Versified from a Literal Translation

Come to Licoö!—the sun is riding
 Down hills of gold to his coral bowers!
Come where the wood-pigeon’s moan is chiding
 The song of the wind while we gather flowers.

Let us plait the garlands and weave the chi,
 While the wild waves dance on our iron strand—
To-morrow these waves may wash our graves,
 And the moon look down on a ruined land!

Let us light the torches and dip our hair
 In the fragrant soil of the sandal tree;
Strike the bonjoö and the oola share,
 Ere the death-gods hear our jubilee.

Who are they that in floating towers,
 Come with their skins of curdled snows?
They shall see our maidens dress our bowers,
 While the hooni shines on their sunny brows.

Who shall mourn when red with slaughter
 Finow sits on the funeral stone?
Who shall weep for his dying daughter?
 Who shall answer the Red Chief’s moan?

He shall cry unheard by the funeral stone,
 He shall sink unseen in the split canoe,
Tho’ the plantain bird is his alone,
 And the thundering gods of Fan-Fonnoo!

Let us not think—’tis but an hour
 Ere the wreath shall drop from the warrior’s waist—
Let us not think!—’tis not an hour
 We have on our perfum’d mats to waste.

Alas!—the wild bushes hide our land!
 Few are the youthful chiefs that seek
Their brides in peace on the yellow sand,
 While the moon hides half her wasted cheek.

Shall we not banquet tho’ Tonga’s king [2]
 To-morrow may throw the battle spear?
Let us whirl our torches and tread the ring,
 He shall only find our foot-prints here.

We will dive, and the turtle’s track shall guide
 Our way to the cave where Hoonga dwells
While under the tide he hides his bride,
 And lives by the light of its starry shells.

Our babes and our ag’d men there shall sleep
 On tufts of the silver ifi’s leaves,
Till on Finow’s grave our watch we keep,
 And his widow’d wife the death-veil weaves.

Come to Licoö! in yellow skies
 The sun is bright, and the wild birds play!
To-morrow for us may never rise—
 Come to Licoö to-day—to-day!


  1. In the South Pacific Ocean, their language is musically smooth, as appears by this specimen:—

    “O chicheto—O chiche matta la
    O chicheto—Vette vala vala—
    Keonemar, keonemar, koar, koar, koar—
    Keove hey, kohey,

  2. King Finow appears to have been the Buonaparte of the South-sea isles. On one of their coasts is a celebrated cave, which can only by entered by diving, and is distinguished by a very pretty tradition. 

The European Magazine, Vol. 74, December 1818, p. 536