Friday, 12 July 2013

Robert Louis Stevenson's Tahitian Poems

Music music music. My passion for making connections with Tahiti and the Marquesas started with being curious as to whether Haydn's desert island opera might be connected, and previous blogs have suggested connections. Now I find, that Robert Louis Stevenson was besotted by the local music during his stay on Tahiti. According to, Stevenson's Tahitian poems are in fact translations of Tahitian songs and tales he recorded and translated. Apparently, Stevenson spent 3 months on Tahiti. He suffered illness and boredom while in Papeete and moved around. “Arriving in Tautira sick and without acquaintances there, Stevenson met Princess Moe, who found him lodgings and nursed him back to health with plates of raw fish and other Tahitian delicacies. To honour Princess Moe, Stevenson wrote the poem entitled “To an Island Princess’. Princess Moe settled Stevenson with a Tautira sub-chief named Ori a Ori. Ori and Stevenson became fast friends, and went through a Tahitian ceremony making them bond friends for life. Ori in turn sent Stevenson to visit kinsmen in the Papara district, Tati Salmon and Queen Marua Taaroa, who both befriended Stevenson. Stevenson has published three Tahitian tales. The longest and best known is “The Song of Rahero”… The two other published tales, ‘Of the Making of Pai’s Spear’ and ‘Honoura and Weird Woman’ are both renditions of minor Tahitian tales. The longest song is entitled ‘The Lament of the Aromaiterai’. If you want to read these songs go to the website from which this information has been collected. As a taste one poem includes the following: The wind roars in from seaward/The waves of the deep are lifted up/They bury the high sea cliffs… etc This sounds amazing and so I am increasingly excited to see that country. Ahhhh the power of music!

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