Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Queen Liliuokalani

Liliuokalani, the last monarch of Hawaii, was born on September 2, 1838, as Lydia Lili‘u Loloku Walania Wewehi Kamaka‘eha. She studied music from a young age, learned to sing and play several instruments, and would eventually write more than 160 songs, mostly about Hawaiian life and culture. The most popular is Aloha Oe, the story of two lovers parting reluctantly.

She became Queen in 1890 following the death of her brother Kalakaua. He had been forced by powerful business interests from the mainland to accept a new constitution that greatly reduced his power and effectively disenfranchised the native Hawaiians. Liliuokalani attempted to replace that constitution with another, fairer one, but instead, in a shocking coup, a group of businessmen, assisted by US Marines not acting under orders from Washington, forced her at gunpoint to surrender her country into the "protection" of the United States.

Later, she was placed under arrest for allegedly taking part in a plot to regain power. During her imprisonment, she wrote ’O kou aloha nö (The Lord's Mercy), commonly known as The Queen's Prayer, which has since been sung as a hymn.

’O kou aloha nö
Aia I ka lani,
A ’o kou oiä’i’o,

He hemolele ho’i.

Ko’u noho mihi’ana
A pa’ahao ’ia,
O’oe ku’u lama,
Kou nani, ko’u ko’o.

Mai nänä ’ino’ino
Nä hewa o känaka,
Akä, e huikala
A ma’ema’e nö.

No laila e ka Haku,
Ma lalo o kou ’ëheu
Kö makou maluhis
A mau loa aku nö.

Queen Liliuokalani, 1895
Queen Liliuokalani, 1895

I don't believe that there has been a translation into English that preserves the original meter, but this is the meaning:

Your loving mercy
Is as high as heaven
And your truth
So perfect.

I live in sorrow,
You are my light,
Your glory, my support.

Behold not with malevolence
The sins of humankind,
But forgive
And cleanse.

And so, O God
Protect us beneath your wings,
And let peace be our portion
Now and forever more.

Following her death in 1917, her bequest to benefit orphan and destitute children established the Queen Liliuokalani Children's Center, which is still in existence. Not until 1993 did the US Congress finally issue a formal apology to the native people of Hawaii for the overthrow of their lawful government one hundred years earlier.


Leland Bryant Ross said...

Here's a link to the translation on my own hymnblog, along with the Esperanto singing version I also just made:

Ho Dio, via amo - Your mercy, God of love

Leland aka Haruo

Leland Bryant Ross said...

[[This was originally the first comment in this thread, but I have had to repost it to correct a rather bad html error of mine.]]

We sang that at a Men's Retreat at Camp Burton (the Seattle-area Baptist camp), the same retreat I wrote my "Potato Bug Hymn" at, and the pastor of FBC Bellingham said that he used to pastor a church in rural Hawai'i where the Queen's Prayer was the customary closing hymn.

Anyhow, here's my first attempt at a singable English version:

Your mercy, God of love,
is high, as high as heaven,
as high as is Your perfect truth:
as high as heaven above.

In sorrow I abide,
imprisoned in my dwelling;
O God, you are my only light,
Your glory, my support.

Do not with hatred view
the sins of us, Your children,
but from Your loving mercy, God,
forgive and cleanse us all.

Beneath Your shielding wings
provide us certain refuge,
let peace be our inheritance
now and forevermore.

© 2008 Leland Bryant Ross
(released to the public domain - attribution requested)

Leland aka Haruo

C.W.S. said...

Very nice translation!

Outstanding Cooks Series said...

I like your translation of "Queen's Prayer." Would you give permission to use it in an arrangement of this hymn?