The Poems of Henry Clarence Kendall

Author: Henry Kendall


(The Kanaka’s Death-Song over his Chieftain.)

Shades of my father, the hour is approaching.
Prepare ye the `cava’ for `Yona’ on high;
Make ready the welcome, ye souls of Arrochin.
The Death God of Tanna speaks — Yona must die.

No more will he traverse the flame sheeted mountain,
To lead forth his brothers to hunting and war;
No more will he drink from the time honoured fountain,
Nor rise in the councils of Uking-a-shaa.

His voice in the battle, loud thunder resembling,
Has died like a zephyr o’errunning the plain;
His whoop like the tempest thro’ forest trees trembling,
Shall never strike foemen with terror again.

The `muska’ hung up on the cocoa is sleeping,
And Attanam’s spirits have gathered a-nigh
To see their destroyer; and, wailing and weeping,
Roll past on the night-breathing winds of the sky.

The lines are suspended, the `muttow’ is broken,
The canoe’s far away from the water-wash’d shore,
Mourn, mourn, ye `whyeenas’, the word has been spoken,
The chieftain can bring ye the `weepan’ no more.

Ye cloud-seated visions, ye shades of my fathers,
Awake from your slumbers, the trumpet blast blow;
The moments are flying, the mountain mist gathers,
And Yona is leaving his camp fire below.

. . . . .

The struggles are over, the cords are asunder,
Ye Phantoms hold forward your heavenly light,
Speak on the wings of the sky-shaking thunder,
And fill him with joy on the path of his flight.

Come downwards a space thro’ the fogs till ye meet him,
Throw open the doors of Arrochin awide,
And stand on the thresholds, ye Shadows to greet him —
The glory of Tanna, the Uking’shaa’s pride.

Thanks, spirits departed! — heard I not your voices
Faint rolling along on the breath of the gale?
Thanks, spirits departed! Le-en-na rejoices:
Ye’ve answered the mourner — ye’ve silenced the wail.

The midnight is clearing; the Death-song is ended.
The Chieftain has gone, but ye’ve called him away;
For he smiled as he listened, obedient ascended,
The voice in his ear, and the torch on his way.

Tanna is one of the largest islands in the group known as the New Hebrides.
The natives of it, in common with all their South Sea brethren,
are generally titled by the whites "Kanakas". They are of the negro family,
resembling in feature, very closely, the Feejee tribes. It is said that they believe in the existence of a Superior Being, whose earthly dwelling they fancy is in the burning volcanoes for which the island is remarkable.
They believe in a future happy state, and call their heaven "Arrochin".
They are divided into small tribes or clans; the largest of these are the Ukingh-a-shaa and Attanam families. A spirit of rivalry between these two last-mentioned often causes long and bloody wars all over the island.

Tanna, besides the never-sleeping volcano, has its other objects of interest in the many boiling springs that surround the base of the burning mountain.
Some of these are held as holy, and none but chiefs are permitted to taste their waters. Such restriction, however, does not extend over all.

When any of their great warriors die, the aborigines believe that the spirits of Arrochin prepare a great feast there for their coming guest,
and for fear he should lose himself on the road thither they (the spirits)
call to him and blow trumpets, sending some one at the same time with torches to meet him and guide him on his way to those blessed regions.


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Chicago: Henry Kendall, "Tanna," The Poems of Henry Clarence Kendall, ed. Sutherland, Alexander, 1853-1902 and trans. Seaton, R. C. in The Poems of Henry Clarence Kendall (New York: George E. Wood, ""Death-bed"" edition, 1892), Original Sources, accessed July 16, 2024,

MLA: Kendall, Henry. "Tanna." The Poems of Henry Clarence Kendall, edited by Sutherland, Alexander, 1853-1902, and translated by Seaton, R. C., in The Poems of Henry Clarence Kendall, New York, George E. Wood, ""Death-bed"" edition, 1892, Original Sources. 16 Jul. 2024.

Harvard: Kendall, H, 'Tanna' in The Poems of Henry Clarence Kendall, ed. and trans. . cited in ""Death-bed"" edition, 1892, The Poems of Henry Clarence Kendall, George E. Wood, New York. Original Sources, retrieved 16 July 2024, from