The Maori's Wool

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The Maori's Wool  (1901) 
by Banjo Paterson

The Maoris are a mighty race -- the finest ever known;
Before the missionaries came they worshipped wood and stone;
They went to war and fought like fiends, and when the war was done
They pacified their conquered foes by eating every one.
But now-a-days about the pahs in idleness they lurk,
Prepared to smoke or drink or talk -- or anything but work.
The richest tribe in all the North in sheep and horse and cow,
Were those who led their simple lives at Rooti-iti-au.

'Twas down to town at Wellington a noble Maori came,
A Rangatira of the best, Rerenga was his name --
(The word Rerenga means a "snag" -- but until he was gone
This didn't strike the folk he met -- it struck them later on).
He stalked into the Bank they call the "Great Financial Hell",
And told the Chief Financial Fiend the tribe had wool to sell.
The Bold Bank Manager looked grave -- the price of wool was high.
He said, "We'll lend you what you need -- we're not disposed to buy.

"You ship the wool to England, Chief! -- You'll find it's good advice,
And meanwhile you can draw from us the local market price."
The Chief he thanked them courteously and said he wished to state
In all the Rooti-iti tribe his mana would be freat,
But still the tribe were simple folk, and did not understand
This strange finance that gave them cash without the wool in hand.
So off he started home again, with trouble on his brow,
To lay the case before the tribe at Rooti-iti-au.

They held a great korero in the Rooti-iti clan,
With speeches lasting half a day from every leading man.
They called themselves poetic names -- "lost children in a wood";
They said the Great Bank Manager was Kapai -- extra good!
And so they sent Rerenga down, full-powered and well-equipped,
To draw as much as he could get, and let the wool be shipped;
And wedged into a "Cargo Tank", full up from stern to bow,
A mighty clip of wool went Home from Rooti-iti-au.

It was the Bold Bank Manager who drew a heavy cheque;
Rerenga cashed it thoughtfully, then clasped him round the neck;
A hug from him was not at all a thing you'd call a lark --
You see he lived on mutton-birds and dried remains of shark --
But still it showed his gratitude; and, as he pouched the pelf,
"I'll haka for you, sir," he said, "in honour of yourself!"
The haka is a striking dance -- the sort they don't allow
In any place more civilized than Rooti-iti-au.

He "haka'd" most effectively -- then, with an airy grace,
Rubbed noses with the Manager, and vanished into space.
But when the wool return came back, ah me, what sighs and groans!
For every bale of Maori wool was loaded up with stones!
Yes -- thumping great New Zealand rocks among the wool they found;
On every rock the bank had lent just eighteen-pence a pound.
And now the Bold Bank Manager, with trouble on his brow,
Is searching vainly for the chief from Rooti-iti-au.

This work is is in the public domain because it was created in Australia and the term of copyright has expired.

See Australian Copyright Council - Duration of Copyright (February 2012).