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Mele Pua Panese

J. R. Kaha‘i Topolinski

This mele gives poetic voice to the off-and-on romance, in the late 1860s, of High Chiefess Nancy Wahinekapu Sumner and John Moanauli. Topolinski takes on the voice of Moanauli—a cousin of Queen Emma and one of the best-educated Hawaiians of his time—and portrays himself as a "humble farmer" (a reference to his kalo-growing and poi-making business) who is misled by this classy, pansy-blossom lover into believing that their relationship is true and everlasting. The word Miliona (million, millionaire) in verse two is perhaps a subtle allusion to Lord Charles Bereford of England, who—on an 1869 visit to Honolulu with the Duke of Edinburgh—caught Nancy’s eye and diverted her attention from the frustrated Moanauli. Although the imagery of "Pua Panese" is not that of William Lunalilo’s "‘Alekoki," the jilted-lover sentiments and skill of expression are remarkably similar.

‘Auhea wale ‘oe e ka pua Panese
E ka hau ‘ono hu‘i i ka mana‘o
‘O ku‘u puniwale aia nō i ke aloha pa‘a
I ka hele a ka lā a kau i Lehua
Ua like nō ‘oe me ke anu o Leilehua
Uluhua me ke kapa hau o Poli‘ahu

Ke anu nei nō ka hau pūehuehu
Pau ‘ole i ka helu ‘ana o nei Miliona
‘O ka lā‘au ‘ala ‘oe no ke kaiuliuli
Ua mahi pulu au no nā hele piko
Na‘u wale nō e ho‘okanu pua ko‘i‘i
I mau ai ke ko‘i‘i koi a loko

Inā aia ku‘u lio ‘o Taiehu i ‘ane‘i
Ua pōkole hele kū ke kula iā ia
Ua holo a hanu lipo i ka meheu
E nohopū i ka pili pū ahiahi
E ake nō wau i ka pua ahi ‘ena i ke aloha
Ke paila ‘ena nei i ku‘u kno

Kāhea ku‘u kino lauahi i ka hea
Ke kāmau a ka mana‘o ko‘i‘i loko

Pay attention now O Panese blossom
Ever present in the sweet thought
I was fooled, thinking our love was forever
Yes, till the sun reached Lehua
Now I know you are as cold as the heights of Leilehua
With the biting cold mantle of Poli‘ahu

The snow flakes continue to lie piled up in heaps
Endless in its counting to the millions
You are the intoxicating Mākālei branch of the dark ocean
I am but a farmer tied to the loyalty of the land
My skill is in the growing of fresh flowers
I am but a captive holding in forever that intense desire

But if Taiehu, my horse, were here
He would take no time in crossing the plains
Following the steps along the trail
To a passionate evening rendezvous
I desire the panese flower burning with love
It boils within my body.

I remain in a state of humiliation awaiting your permission
While my mind is held hostage by love.


© J. R. Topolinski 2005
"For those O‘ahu beauties at the court of Kamehameha IV and Queen Emma: no Nancy Wahinekapu Sumner me John Moanauli."


A Dirge for High Chiefess Nancy Wahinekapu Sumner Ellis

High Chiefess Nancy Wahinekapu Sumner Ellis died on January 10, 1895, in Honolulu. Her family’s mele collection contains an English translation of a kanikau composed for the sad occasion. Kaha‘i and Anne Topolinksi (Anne is Mrs. Ellis’s great granddaughter) have kindly consented to share the text of this dirge with the readers of Kaleinamanu. According to family tradition, the piece was composed as a collaborative effort by: 1) Nancy’s children—Victoria, William, and John Kapilikea Sumner Ellis, 2) Nancy’s hānai parents—her uncle and aunt John Kapilikea Sumner Ellis and Princess Eugenie Teraiapo Ninito, and 3) John Moanauli. To this, Kaha‘i adds: "Some of the words were taken from a mele hoaeae written for her by John Moanauli. Some family members said that Moanauli wrote the entire kanikau himself . . . Unfortunately the family has only the English translation in the mele book. I don’t know what happened to the Hawaiian." 

This is a lament of sincere grief, a
tribute of affection to the high born lady,
Princess of Hawaii and Tahiti, one we
dearly love and cherish above all.

For you, our dear sweet royal mother,
Nancy Wahinekapu Sumner Ellis.
Endless love for you causes our tears
to flow like ua wa‘ahila, kaulana
o Honolulu, land of your birth.

Our cheeks are drenched, pelted from the
ua lani pili, ua loku symbol of royal
sleep from which there is no awakening.

Mother dear an affectionate loving woman
we are sad at losing you to the dark nights
Gone from us are you on a pathway to
which there is no return.

Our beautiful one of the homeland we
remain in grief, our thirst unquenched.
Oh our jeweled necklace of sparkling diamonds
Royal blossom—"He ‘a‘ala nō o Wahinekapu,
beloved companion of Ka‘ahamanu Kamāmalu
you were the pet, a favorite adornment
of Kauikeaouli to be pampered.

Unforgettable and everlasting is thy
fragrance, it remains as we recall
the home we shared together at Kahawali
in the shadow of ‘Iolani Hale.
We gaze upon Keolaloa Place, our reef
home at Honolulu Harbor, the waters are red
with ‘Āweoweo as the blood misty rain
called uakoko descends from on high.

Through our tears we will remember
the places you loved to visit with
us. La‘i is Kapālama, Mōkapu shines
forth in the calm as Moanalua
adorns its beautiful green covering.
Alas, we, your children, descendants of
Cry aloud to the great clan of Tehuiarii
in Tahiti, of which we are the blossoms.

We bid thee farewell, as you return
to the heavenly home of your creator,
there you are welcomed, reunited
and caressed, held in the arms of
our beloved Papa
Farewell, farewell dear mother—alas—alas!

Nancy sumner age 20

portrait courtesy of: Kahaʻi Topolinski

High Chiefess Nancy Wahinekapu Sumner Ellis, born March 9, 1839, to High Chief William Keolaloa Sumner and Princess Manai‘ula Tehuiari‘i. The culturally conflicted life of this "child of the turning tide" is detailed by Kaha‘i Topolinski in his UHM master’s thesis Nancy Sumner: A Part-Hawaiian High Chiefess, 1839–1895.

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