Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/215

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187
TAHITIAN HIMÈNES.

had better not inquire), or it may be a Scriptural story versified, and sung to an air originally imported from Europe, but so completely Tahitianised that no mortal could recognise it, which is all in its favour; for the wild melodies of this isle are beyond measure fascinating.

After one clause of solo, other voices strike in—here, there, everywhere—in harmonious chorus. It seems as if one section devoted themselves to pouring forth a rippling torrent of Ra, ra, ra-ra-ra! while others burst into a flood of La, la, la-la-la! Some confine their care to sound a deep booming bass in a long-continued drone, somewhat suggestive (to my appreciative Highland ear) of our own bagpipes. Here and there high falsetto notes strike in, varied from verse to verse, and then the choruses of La and Ra come bubbling in liquid melody; while the voices of the principal singers now join in unison, now diverge as widely as it is possible for them to do, but all combine to produce the quaintest, most melodious, rippling glee that ever was heard. Some himènes have an accompaniment of measured hand-clapping, by hundreds of those present. It is curious in its way, chiefly as a triumph of perfect time, but I do not think it attractive. The clear mellifluous voices need no addition; and as they ring out suddenly and joyously, in the cool evening, I can imagine no sound more inspiriting.

To-night our party received a pleasant addition, the queen's two sisters, Moetia and Prie, having driven over from Papeete, on their way to join their mother, Mrs Salmon, who, as high chiefess of the next district, is to receive her daughter to-morrow morning.

All the time I have been writing to you, there have been occasional bursts of himène singing, and of the far less musical accompaniment of the Upa-upa; but now quiet reigns, so I may as well sleep while I can. Good-night.


Mataiea, Papeooriri, Tuesday, 16th.

This morning we were all astir at 5 a.m., and had early coffee on the cool verandah. All the luggage was started by 6 o'clock, and then I had a quiet hour's sketching from beneath one of the great