Project Canterbury

Auckland: Brett Publishing Co., c. 1930-1935.

Transcribed by the Right Reverend Dr. Terry Brown
Bishop of Malaita, Church of the Province of Melanesia, 2006

An Alphabet of

So many people keep on asking me about the Mission,
That I have hit upon a plan for giving them a vision;
I'm going to take the Alphabet, which everybody knows,
And you must follow cheerfully just where each letter goes.

A BRINGS us straight to AO-BA in the New Hebrides.
We only have three Islands here, the names of which are these;
Ra-ga, Mae-wo, Ao-ba, all lying close together,
With hills all covered thick with trees; beautiful in fine weather.
But never safe from Hurricanes! Then, all is fair no longer;
The wind becomes a fierce Gale, and hourly growing stronger,
Sweeps through the islands furiously. The trees are all stripped bare;
Your house is shaking, creaks and sways; and you sit helpless there.
Will the roof stand? Or will the iron be blown all helter-skelter,
While you, all your possessions spoilt, are vainly seeking shelter?
A storm like this will only come once in five years, it's reckon'd;
But, when you've had one hurricane, you will not want a second!

B AND B of course brings us to BOYS. Believe me when you're told
A "BOY" is anything from three to ninety-three years old.
Some wear their hair all frizzed out long, and some cut short as ours is,
Some wear a loin-cloth, some wear "nowt," and just a few wear "trousies."
And most could carry all their things quite snugly in a pocket,
But some are very rich, and have a wooden box and lock it.
We've school-boys, work-boys, old boys, young boys, every kind of boy.
To keep your place in order, you countless "boys" employ.
I HAVE been told of things done by the "boy" who is your cook
Which are not QUITE all they should be. That's why I never look!

C AT C we get into CANOES, of all shapes, sorts and sizes.
If you or I get into one, at once the thing capsizes.
The Native, on the other hand, takes his canoe for granted;
With him, it always sits up straight and goes where it is wanted.
The Native builds his own canoe, his fathers taught him how to;
In some, the stern is built up high; in others, stern and bow, too.
Some have out-riggers, some have not. The Native's soul rejoices
As much in little "run-abouts" as regular "Rolls-Royces."
In olden times, great war-canoes were seen in every village,
Ready to carry Head-hunters on raids of death or pillage.
Launched amid human victims' blood, now they decay untended,
Or serve more peaceful purposes. Those "good old days" are ended.

D ["DANCES" First part of poem is not legible]
.. in some you just walk round and round, and clap your hands quite gently;
In others you rush here and there, performing most ve-he-mently.
And some are just like Pantomimes, and tell a funny story;
Others show feasts on fallen foes, and are both grim and gory.
Some are, they say, revealed in Dreams; some need a Bishop's Blessing,
Some are so intricate and long, their meaning leaves you guessing,
But all fill up the idle days, give exercise and pleasure,
And most preserve old customs which Ethnologists would treasure.

E THIS means EATING. Now, you know, it really "gets me beat,"
Why everybody always asks, "What DO the Natives eat?"
Why, Yams, Tomagoes [sic], Kumaras, and Mummy-apples too,
Bananas, Bread-fruit, Fish and Pigs, and sometimes 'Possum stew.
Queta, Toape, things with names that you have never met.
But really, they'll eat anything, and all that they can get.
Some of our people are great cooks. You would be rash and hasty
Their well-made puddings to reject, for they are very tasty.
Fine-grated roots, well stuffed with nuts, with coco-nut cream eaten;
They're nice to look at, nice to eat; in fact, they can't be beaten.

F WITH F we come to FLORIDA, and here the Mission's been
Some sixty years; and in that time great changes have been seen.
In "good old times" the Head-hunters made this their favourite ground
And Cannibals and Murderers and Wizards did abound.
Because they feared the Head-hunters, men lived in trees on perches,
Now, where they sacrificed to Ghosts, you will find well-built Churches.
To-day they all live happily, all Christians and content,
And aren't afraid of anything, except the "Government."
But just because they cannot grasp the queer white-man's ways,
A few, who don't know what they say, sigh for the 'good old days."

GUADALCANAR is reached at G, and here we'll make a call.
We've islands of all sizes, this is biggest of them all.
Nearly a hundred miles long, with mountains on it, too;
If you could reach the top of them, you'd get a splendid view.
But they are covered thick with trees; and in their lonely vales,
The Natives say, strange creatures live, like men, but all with tails.
And little tiny Pygmies too, some people say they've seen;
They've never caught one, but they shew the foot-prints where they've been.
The Natives were fierce savages a little while ago,
But those who used to eat their foes, to Church on Sundays go.

H WITH H we climb HAU-TAMBU Hill, and as to rest we stop,
We see what was the Hospital, and now's the Printing Shop.
Before the Mission settled here, Hau-tambu used to be
The place where Heathens' spirits went, and you would never see
A single human being there; for they were all afraid
To go where only Bogies lived, and Ghosts and Demons stayed.
But there we built a Hospital to make sick people well,
And now we print the Gospels there, in many tongues, to tell
The tidings glad that set men's souls all free from fear and pain.
But still, you know, we'd LIKE to have a Doctor here again.

I NOW I shall stand for, what d'you think? Those IDIOTIC folk
Who, when you talk of Missions, only make some feeble joke,
Or shake their heads and gravely say, "I've always understood
That Missions do the Natives a lot more harm than good."
A young man once was talking to a Native Christian, who
Was sitting by a fire on which was simmering a stew,
"Now, what have Missions done for you?" he asked him, with a grin;
"Not much, I guess, because you look uncommon poor and thin."
"Don't worry what they've done for ME, for YOU they've done a lot;
If it hadn't been for Missionaries, you'd be INSIDE THAT POT.

JA-JA-KU, which we've got to for J, is just a Native word;
When Missionaries travel round, it's pretty often heard.
It means, "Now hurry up there, boys. Just get a move on, do"-
A thing you often have to say when dealing with your Crew;
For they do NOT like making haste; they really cannot see
Why you should want to start at once, and not wait two or three
Minutes, till Jim has lit his pipe, or Peter found his knife,
Or Harry's back; he's only gone just to "good-bye" his wife.
You see, THEY'VE never had to catch a train. So where it
Doesn't really matter much, you'd better "grin and bear it."

K NOW K has brought us KA-KA-KAE. I hope it doesn't matter
Having another Native word? It really means "to chatter."
It also means "to talk about." It also means "The Book
Of Chronicles," which you will find after "Kings," if you look.
It also means "a story." So when I say that I
Will ka-ka-kae on ka-ka-kae you find in Ka-ka-kae,
It only means that I intend to talk about some things
Which you will find in "Chronicles" (which comes just after "Kings.")
It's also used to "camouflage" a serious interview;
So when you ask a Native why he's come to visit you.
If he says, "Just to Ka-ka-kae," and his eyes begin to glisten,
You know it's some important thing, to which you've GOT to listen.

L LANDS us in LA-KONA. This is a country where
The people all live in the hills; you climb up to them there.
The sea-shore is some ten yards deep, and then it goes up sheer
Two hundred feet, five hundred feet, a thousand, pretty near.
The paths all stand up straight on end; into the earth one digs
One's toes and fingers, scrambles up, and at the top finds-PIGS.
The people here must live on pork. For every pig that dies
At least a dozen must be born, they are as thick as flies.
Pigs come to Church, Pigs share your meals, Pigs go with you for walks;
If you seek shelter in your house, in a huge Tusker stalks.
I spent three nights among them once. I never shall forget
That Pig-infested country. In my dreams I see them yet.

M KINDLY lets us have a choice, MOTA or MOTALAVA,
MERE-LAV or ME-RIG. Well, really I have half a
Mind to pick on Me-rig, it's so very much the smallest;
But Mota-lava's biggest, and Mere-lava's tallest;
And Mota, once our brightest spot, has given us its speech.
In all our Schools and Colleges it's "Mota" that we teach.
It's used on board the "Southern Cross," it's heard all through the Mission;
We really can't leave Mota out; and so, with your permission,
We'll say a word about them all. Yes, that's the best way, may be!
Well, Mere-lav's a mountain-top, and Merig's like its baby;
And Mota-lava's really two-a big and little Island,
But joined together, at low tide, by just a strip of dry land.

N BRINGS us News of something new, NEW BRITAIN now we'll visit.
That's not a place you've ever seen (at least I think not) is it?
It once belonged to Germany, but now Australia's got it,
The League of Nations, as you know, by Mandate did allot it.
And then there is New Ireland, too, and Bougainville and Bu-ka;
A large piece of New Guinea, too. I think Australia took a
Heavy burden on her here, but I'm sure she'll bear it;
And in the Mission work, she's asked New Zealand's Church to share it.
I'm sure that you will gladly help your Church to do its Duty,
And bring to White and Black folk here, more Peace, more Love, more Beauty.

O NOW O's another Native word which you have got to say:
It's ORA-ORA, which, in English, simply means "to play."
It's a word that's very often used, for ours are merry folk.
Who laugh at almost anything, and dearly love a joke.
They have a lot of native games, and any boy or maid'll
Quickly show you how to make a wonderful cat's-cradle.
They all like playing football, too; and when the bat they're wielding,
You'll see they're natural cricketers, though not so good at fielding!
"Kick-ball" and "Hit-ball," both alike they play with splendid keenness,
And they are little "sportsmen" too, and hate all kinds of meanness.

P BRINGS us PICCANINNIES, though we do not call them so.
They are called Re-re-me-ra's here, in case you'd like to know.
Some learned people tell us that the Race is dying out.
Don't you believe it, there are simply crowds of "kids" about!
They are funny little people, sometimes quite grave and sad,
Next minute grinning merrily, and then howling like mad.
They ride about on Mother's hip, gazing all round about them;
They sometimes make an awful noise, but still, I think, without them
The place would be a little dull. There would be something lacking;
You can't help liking them, although they sometimes do need smacking.

Q NOW Q says there are QUEER things that happen every day,
The QUEER things people do, the QUEER things they say.
As, when we say, "the clock has struck," they say, "the sun has cried";
A "Heathen" is to them a man who has got "night inside."
A Native boy must never be too friendly with his sister;
A girl would think her brother mad or wicked, if he kissed her.
They sometimes wear OUR clothes all wrong, and once I saw, out walking,
A man dressed in one trouser-leg, along the sea-shore stalking.
I've seen a man with matches worn in holes bored round his nose;
They don't stoop down for little things, but lift them with their toes.
I've seen some with magenta hair, and also with bright yellow,
And one with hair half black, half white-a very striking fellow!

R PLUMPS us down in RAGA. As you already know,
We are obliged to follow where each letter bids us go.
Well, Raga is the "Farthest South" for us in Melanesia,
And, like most other places there, they've no Trams or Police here.
But they HAVE got a Missionary, with a tiny launch of his own,
And a Native Priest and Deacons, much more useful than a Prison.
They're really splendid dancers. Each Dance before you places
A funny Native story. Just watch the people's faces,
And you will see how they enjoy the fun, and roar with laughter;
And so will you-and think of them with smiles for some time after.

S SEES us at SIOTA, and now that we have got there,
I don't know what to talk of first, you see, there's such a lot there!
Well, first there is the College, where Teachers from all quarters
Are trained, and bring along with them their wives and sons and daughters.
And then there is the Clock Tower, with the only striking clock
That's found out here, to gaze on which the Natives often flock.
And then there is the Office, Museum, Hall and Kitchen,
Bachelors' House and Ladies' House, and other houses which in-
Clude the Bishop's House and Grounds, which he is very proud of;
And then there is the Quadrangle, with flower-beds, and a crowd of
Work-boys, Launch-boys, Carpenters, House-boys, Cooks and Bakers.
We've Pineapples, Bananas too, and Limes, those great thirst-slakers;
In fact, we're fully self-contained-there's nothing that we lack here.
And when we HAVE to go away, we're longing to get back here.

T AND T takes us to TIKOPEIA, a solitary settlement
Of Polynesian wanderers, who never knew what metal meant,
Until the "Southern Cross" brought knife and tomahawk and fish-hook.
(The latter has impressed them so, they called the Bishop "Bishook.")
The Tikopeian's tall and large, and loves to make a noise;
They flock on board the "Southern Cross" like Giant little boys.
The deck is like a market-place, they've all got things to sell;
Mats, paddles, clubs, and odds and ends. The Heat! The Noise! The Smell!
He loves to drench his body with some very pungent-smelling
Native perfume, and converses with his friends by Yelling.
The women's hair is clipped quite short, the men's is long and flowing.
They hate to leave the Ship. We've had to clear them off by throwing
Would-be Trippers overboard when more than half-a-mile off.
THEY do not mind. It's all a joke; and with a cheerful smile, off
To their homes they swim, waving us their good wishes;
There are no sharks, the water's warm, and they can swim like fishes.

U-RE-PARA-PARA'S U, and once, though I should say no
Man can tell how long ago, it was a huge Volcano.
One day the sea burst its way through, and reached the flaming Crater.
Then, forming steam, blew out one side; the sea rushed in, and later
The burnt-out grass and trees returned, covered the crater's sides,
And there a land-locked harbour lay, unruffled by the tides.
Outside, the flowing lava-stream had formed a firm foundation
On which the coral insects built their living habitation.
The Natives came from neighbouring isles, made gardens, planted food there,
Built houses, then formed villages, and settled down for good there.

V TO VERA-NA-ASO follow V. A Mission Boys' School see here.
Some eighty lads from many isles, all of them glad to be here.
The name means "Sunny Place," and is a name that fits it fairly,
For life is here all "summer time," and sorrow comes here rarely.
And this is true of all our Schools, Vu-re-as and Pa-mua,
And Pa-wa (that's for bigger boys). For them no saying's truer
Than "School-days are the Happiest." Two hundred boys at school there
Work, learn and play, live happy lives under a simple rule there.
Our boys are always keen to go, we haven't got to make them;
We only have to rack our brains for room enough to take them.
Cricket and Football they enjoy, and play as well as any
Other School-boys; but, alas! we DO wear out so many
Footballs and Cricket bats. You see, the Climate tries them sadly.
I wonder if YOU'D send us some? We really need them badly.

W WARNS us WITCH-CRAFT is still found in Melanesia,
Witch-doctors, death-charms, ghosts and demons still disturb our peace here.
Unless you want to pine away, daily grow thin and thinner,
Be careful how you cut your hair, and how you eat your dinner.
The clippings and the scraps you leave are simply FULL of Magic.
Once let an enemy get these, the outlook will be tragic!
Or is there any one you hate? You'd wreak you vengeance on him?
[five full lines illegible]
If on[ce] [y]ou "get" [illegible]
He'll die in horrid ago[ny] [illegible]
But there's one thing you [illegible] before [illegible]
Suppose the other fellow's got[, as some]times one [or] two have,
A "magic" much more powerful [than] even that which you have,
The Ve-le will re-act on you; 'tis you will get the aching;
And then, too late, you will regret you ill-judged undertaking.

X AT X we're on the "Southern Cross"-the "S.X.," as we call her.
We should be up a pretty tree should any harm befall her.
The Bishop needs the "Southern Cross" to take him round the Mission;
The Missionary depends on her for his six months' provision.
On her, the native boys and girls to school and back are taken;
And on the way, I must admit, are sometimes sadly shaken!
For though the sea on which we sail is always CALLED "Pacific,"
Sometimes it does get really rough, a hurricane is terrific!'
And though our Ship is staunch and true, she certainly IS smallish;
Yet still, I shall be sad when we the old "S.X." abolish.

Y PUTS us down on YSABEL, still more often called Bu-go-tu;
Another Christian Island this, a pleasant place to go to.
Here, long ago, a mighty Chief, called SO-GA, ruled all near him.
His enemies and evil-doers alike had cause to fear him.
Canoes filled with fierce Warriors came quickly when he called them,
To lead them on Head-hunting raids. His famous deeds enthralled them!
Yet he, at last, met ONE with power e'en his fierce heart to tame,
And he, who never feared a man, bowed down to JESUS' Name.
One day he heard an ancient foe had sallied forth to slay him;
But Soga called his warriors round, and planned how to waylay him.
When morning broke, his foes awoke and found themselves surrounded
By Soga and his fighting men. With terror their hearts bounded!
Disarmed, he let them slink away, ashamed and at a loss.
Soga had won his greatest fight, a Soldier of the Cross.

Z WITH Z we're in NEW ZEALAND, where we're always glad to come;
Where kindly folk make Visitors so quickly feel at home.
And though we may be oddly dressed, and some of us are queer,
Yet many a New Zealand name to us is very dear.
For Missionaries find many friends, p'r'aps need them more than others;
But here they don't treat us like Guests, but welcome us like Brothers.


And now, before you shut this book and put it on the shelf,
I want to say just one word more, a word to YOURSELF.
Remember what our SAVOUR said, "Go into every Nation
And make all Races Christian Folk." This was His Proclamation
To every single one of us. P'r'aaps life at home is EASIER;
But-if you'd do some Work for GOD, WHY NOT IN MELANESIA?


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