November 5, 2006

I’ve always been fascinated by the tune Aloha ‘Oe. I find it quite beautiful, yet sentimental and sad in a way. And, being a Hawaiian song, it’s not just the melody, but the lyrics that are beautiful as well:

Haaheo e ka ua i na pali
(Proudly sweeps the rain cloud by the cliffs)
Ke nihi ae la i kanahele
(As onward it glides thru the trees)
E uhai ana paha i ka liko
(It seems to be following the liko)
Pua a hihi lehua o u
(The a hihi lehua of the vale)

Aloha oe, aloha oe,
(Farewell to thee),
E ke onaona noho i ka lipo
(Thou charming one who dwells among the bowers)
One fond embrace, a hoi ae au
(One fond embrace, before I now depart)
Until we meet again, until we meet again.

O ka halia aloha kai hihi mai
(Thus sweet memories come back to me)
Ke hone ae nei i kuu manawa.
(Bringing fresh remembrance of the past)
O oe no ka’u ipo aloha
(Dearest one, yes, thou art mine own)
A loko e hana nei.
(From the true love shall ne’er depart)

Aloha oe, aloha oe,
(Farewell to thee),
E ke onaona noho i ka lipo
(Thou charming one who dwells among the bowers)
One fond embrace, a hoi ae au
(One fond embrace, before I now depart)
Until we meet again, until we meet again.

Maopopo kuu iki i ka nani,
(I have seen and watched the loveliness)
Na pua rose o Maunawili,
(Thou sweet rose of Maunawili)
Ilaila hiaai ai na manu,
(And ’tis there the birds oft love to dwell)
Mikiala i ka nani o ka liko.
(And sip the honey from thy lips)

Aloha oe, aloha oe,
(Farewell to thee),
E ke onaona noho i ka lipo
(Thou charming one who dwells among the bowers)
One fond embrace, a hoi ae au
(One fond embrace, before I now depart)
Until we meet again, until we meet again.

Which shouldn’t be surprising, given this from the liner notes of Moana Chang’s lovely “Boat Days In Hawaii” CD:

This immortal composition by Hawai’i’s last Queen, Lili ‘uokalani, was inspired by a true embrace between an American colonel at Edwin Boyd’s ranch at Maunawili, O’ahu, in 1877. The Queen intended it at as love song, but “Aloha ‘Oe” will forever be known as a song of affectionate and sorrowful parting.

As the Wikipedia entry of this song notes, there is also a strong similarity between the verses of Aloha ‘Oe and that wonderful old Christian hymn, “How Great Thou Art”. Which, courtesy of this link, has kind of an interesting history all its own:

One afternoon, Pastor Carl Boberg was caught in a mid-day thunderstorm. He was in awe of the flashing violence that suddenly gave way to brilliant sunshine. He heard the calm, sweet songs of birds in nearby trees. He fell to his knees in “humble adoration”.

The year was 1886 in southeast Sweden. The pastor penned out a nine-stanza poem about the experience. Several years later at a religious conference, Pastor Boberg was quite surprised to hear his poem sung to the tune of an old Swedish folksong. The poetic song was called “O Stur Gud”. Translated: “Oh, Great God”.

The song was translated years later to German, then from German to Russian. A British missionary, Stuart Hine, loved the song. He was inspired by the song and the Carpathian Mountains to translate the song to English, which he did in 1899. He wrote three verses. He added the fourth during WWII.

The similarities between the verses of Aloha ‘Oe and “How Great Thou Art” are indeed striking – so much so that, whenever I hear Aloha ‘Oe, I find myself singing its verses in the bass harmony I was taught some thirty years ago when I was in the St. Anne’s Episcopal Church senior choir with my long-since departed (and far more talented) companions Don McKeown and Charlie Corkum. Even though they (and, I would guess, everyone else in our choir) never thought themselves to be incredibly talented, we worked hard at it and glorified the Lord when we sang, and the times we all shared (my Mom, Dad, and Auntie Marge were also in the choir, and my godfather Milt our director) are fondly recalled whenever I hear those verses of Aloha ‘Oe.

…Not to mention, of course, the memory of that magical evening I have written about hearing Moana Chang serenade our cruise ship with Aloha ‘Oe as we left Honolulu harbor.

Ah yes, transcendence – one of the God-given gifts inherent in music, and why I love it so.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:09 | Comments (2)
  1. what a beautiful song my daughter and i both enjoy it very much .

    Comment by harmony — August 28, 2008 @ 5:09 am

  2. Thanks for the lovely comment, harmony. Glad you enjoyed the post. Come by again sometime!

    Comment by The Great White Shank — September 2, 2008 @ 10:52 pm

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