National Geographic : 1943 Jan
The National Geographic Magazine With a Gay Dance the Natives Celebrate a Good Catch of Fish They care little for the delicious but unexciting flatfish which abound in the lagoons but enjoy gamier kinds such as flying fish captured on hazardous canoe trips and sharks killed by daredevil swimmers (page 88). Most of us picture the brown man as a savage, pleasant-mannered enough to visit in an idle hour, but still a savage. As a poet whose work might bear comparison with that of our Western singers we simply do not think of him. Yet his songs are literature, though they have never been written. Translation is the ultimate test of poetry. Hear how a lover sings of his mistress: How deep are my thoughts as I sit on the point of the land Thinking of her tonight. Her feet are luminous over dark ways, Even as the moon stepping between clouds; Her shoulders shine like Kaama (the Southern Cross); Her hands in the dance Trouble my eyes as the flicker of stars; And at the lifting of her eyes to mine I am abashed I, who have stared undaunted into the sun. The brown singer knows full well that there is no subject however humble that can not be turned to song. Even in a little thing (A leaf, a child's hand, a star's glimmer) I shall find a song worth singing If my eyes are wide, and sleep not. Even in a laughable thing (Oh, hark! The children are laughing!) There is that which fills the heart to overflowing, And makes dreams wistful. Small is the life of a man (Not too sad, not too happy). I shall find my songs in a man's small life; behold them soaring! Very low on earth are the frigate birds hatched, Yet they fly as high as the sun. Here is a voice lifted in the sea-fast soli tudes of the Pacific to celebrate the beauty that is in little things.