THE PUNA CHIEF WHO BOASTED
There was once a Puna chief who could talk
of nothing but his own district.
Wherever he went he boasted of Puna.
"Beautiful Puna," he chanted.
"Its fields and its gardens are shining
Like a mat spread over the hillside
And edged above by the forest."
"Be careful," people warned him.
"Remember Pele! That goddess does not like boasting!"
"I fear her not!" the chief answered.
"She lives above in the pit, tending her fires.
Puna is safe from her evil." And he went on boasting:
"My country is beautiful Puna,
Land where all food plants are growing,
Land where bananas hang heavy,
Where potatoes burst from the earth,
Where sugar-cane stalks are the sweetest.
"My country is sweet smelling Puna.
To the seaman who comes near our coast
The winds bear the fragrance of hala.
Birds gather over our trees
Drinking the nectar of blossoms.
My country is beautiful Puna."
A wise kahuna heard these words. "Alas!" he said.
"Your boasting has angered Pele. Return to your country.
You will finds its beauty laid waste."
"Ho!" shouted the chief. "I do not fear your words!
No harm can come to Puna!" But for all his shouting
the chief was frightened. As quickly as wind and paddle
could take him, he returned. He reached a point of
land, beached his canoe, climbed a hillside,
and looked toward his beautiful Puna.
Black smoke hung heavy over all his land.
As he looked, wind lifted the smoke and he saw no
fertile fields and gardens, but a waste of twisted lava.
No flowers bloomed in the forest, only spurts of flame.
No fragrance of hala was borne on the wind, but the
bitter smell of smoke.
Pele had been angered by the chief's boastful words.
Now he knew that no land below her
fire pit was safe from her power.
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