Poems reveal Tongan king’s struggle

Poems by King Tupou II reflect his struggle to prevent Tonga being annexed, according to a Tongan scholar.

King Tupou II ruled Tonga from 1893-1918.

University of Canterbury doctoral candidate Paula Onoafe Latu is studying two of the king’s anthems, ‘Sikaiona’ and ‘‘Alamoti,’ as part of his thesis.

Sikaiona is a Tongan translation of “scion” – a piece of a plant, cut to make a new plant and ‘alamoti is a translation of “alamoth” – meaning a maiden.

King Tupou II, an 18 year old single ‘eiki lahi or high chief  became king of Tonga in 1893 after the death of his great grandfather King Siaosi I died.

The early years of the young king’s reign was marked by upheavals. After the death of his first wife, his decision to marry Queen Lavinia rather than Lady Ofa-ki-Vava’u, the choice of the majority of chiefs, nearly led to civil war.

Tonga was proclaimed a British protectorate in 1900. This followed attempts by his chiefly rivals and European settlers to overthrow him because of alleged mismanagement and corruption.

Mr Latu said it was worth exploring an inside experience of the situation in Tonga during this period.

“These difficulties almost led to the political demise of the Tu’i-dom during his reign,”  he said.

“I am particularly interested in studying how life experiences are reflected in poetic forms from an appreciative but alternative researcher’s viewpoint.”

Mr Latu said his majesty’s two compositions reflected his “personal and spiritual life experiences and difficulties faced in His attempt to safeguard Tonga from the threat of annexation.”

He told Kaniva News some metaphorical terms used in the poem ‘Scion’  like ‘levaiatani’ (leviathan) and “talakoni” (dragon) were references to tragedies the king experienced during his ruling. 

Correction: We have removed from this article what we reported as Paula Latu saying that the anthem "‘Alamoti was composed by the king after the daughter of the first principal of Tonga College, John Hardley Robert’s daughter was drowned off the island of ‘Eua. That was not correct and Mr Latu did not say that.   

Featured image by wikipedia.com

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