Full Online Books
Authors Authors Short Stories Short Stories Long Stories Long Stories Funny Stories Funny Stories Love Stories Love Stories Stories For Kids Stories For Kids Poems Poems Essays Essays Nonfictions Nonfictions Plays Plays Folktales Folktales Fairy Tales Fairy Tales Fables Fables Learning Kitchen Learning Kitchen
Valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional Free Classified Website Without Registration Free Classified Website Daniel Company
Twitter Twitter Add book
Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesOmoo - PART II - Chapter LXIX. THE COCOA-PALM
Famous Authors (View All Authors)
Omoo - PART II - Chapter LXIX. THE COCOA-PALM Post by :darkhorse4 Category :Long Stories Author :Herman Melville Date :February 2011 Read :2327

Click below to download : Omoo - PART II - Chapter LXIX. THE COCOA-PALM (Format : PDF)


WHILE the doctor and the natives were taking a digestive nap after
dinner, I strolled forth to have a peep at the country which could
produce so generous a meal.

To my surprise, a fine strip of land in the vicinity of the hamlet,
and protected seaward by a grove of cocoa-nut and bread-fruit trees,
was under high cultivation. Sweet potatoes, Indian turnips, and yams
were growing; also melons, a few pine-apples, and other fruits. Still
more pleasing was the sight of young bread-fruit and cocoa-nut trees
set out with great care, as if, for once, the improvident Polynesian
had thought of his posterity. But this was the only instance of native
thrift which ever came under my observation. For, in all my rambles
over Tahiti and Imeeo, nothing so much struck me as the comparative
scarcity of these trees in many places where they ought to abound.
Entire valleys, like Martair, of inexhaustible fertility are
abandoned to all the rankness of untamed vegetation. Alluvial flats
bordering the sea, and watered by streams from the mountains, are
over-grown with a wild, scrub guava-bush, introduced by foreigners,
and which spreads with such fatal rapidity that the natives, standing
still while it grows, anticipate its covering the entire island. Even
tracts of clear land, which, with so little pains, might be made to
wave with orchards, lie wholly neglected.

When I considered their unequalled soil and climate, thus
unaccountably slighted, I often turned in amazement upon the natives
about Papeetee; some of whom all but starve in their gardens run to
waste. Upon other islands which I have visited, of similar fertility,
and wholly unreclaimed from their first-discovered condition, no
spectacle of this sort was presented.

The high estimation in which many of their fruit-trees are held by the
Tahitians and Imeeose--their beauty in the landscape--their manifold
uses, and the facility with which they are propagated, are
considerations which render the remissness alluded to still more
unaccountable. The cocoa-palm is as an example; a tree by far the
most important production of Nature in the Tropics. To the
Polynesians it is emphatically the Tree of Life; transcending even
the bread-fruit in the multifarious uses to which it is applied.

Its very aspect is imposing. Asserting its supremacy by an erect and
lofty bearing, it may be said to compare with other trees as man with
inferior creatures.

The blessings it confers are incalculable. Tear after year, the
islander reposes beneath its shade, both eating and drinking of its
fruit; he thatches his hut with its boughs, and weaves them into
baskets to carry his food; he cools himself with a fan platted from
the young leaflets, and shields his head from the sun by a bonnet of
the leaves; sometimes he clothes himself with the cloth-like
substance which wraps round the base of the stalks, whose elastic
rods, strung with filberts, are used as a taper; the larger nuts,
thinned and polished, furnish him with a beautiful goblet: the
smaller ones, with bowls for his pipes; the dry husks kindle his
fires; their fibres are twisted into fishing-lines and cords for his
canoes; he heals his wounds with a balsam compounded from the juice
of the nut; and with the oil extracted from its meat embalms the
bodies of the dead.

The noble trunk itself is far from being valueless. Sawn into posts,
it upholds the islander's dwelling; converted into charcoal, it cooks
his food; and supported on blocks of stone, rails in his lands. He
impels his canoe through the water with a paddle of the wood, and
goes to battle with clubs and spears of the same hard material.

In pagan Tahiti a cocoa-nut branch was the symbol of regal authority.
Laid upon the sacrifice in the temple, it made the offering sacred;
and with it the priests chastised and put to flight the evil spirits
which assailed them. The supreme majesty of Oro, the great god of
their mythology, was declared in the cocoa-nut log from which his
image was rudely carved. Upon one of the Tonga Islands, there stands
a living tree revered itself as a deity. Even upon the Sandwich
Islands, the cocoa-palm retains all its ancient reputation; the
people there having thought of adopting it as the national emblem.

The cocoa-nut is planted as follows: Selecting a suitable place, you
drop into the ground a fully ripe nut, and leave it. In a few days, a
thin, lance-like shoot forces itself through a minute hole in the
shell, pierces the husk, and soon unfolds three pale-green leaves in
the air; while originating, in the same soft white sponge which now
completely fills the nut, a pair of fibrous roots, pushing away the
stoppers which close two holes in an opposite direction, penetrate
the shell, and strike vertically into the ground. A day or two more,
and the shell and husk, which, in the last and germinating stage of
the nut, are so hard that a knife will scarcely make any impression,
spontaneously burst by some force within; and, henceforth, the hardy
young plant thrives apace; and needing no culture, pruning, or
attention of any sort, rapidly advances to maturity. In four or five
years it bears; in twice as many more, it begins to lift its head
among the groves, where, waxing strong, it flourishes for near a

Thus, as some voyager has said, the man who but drops one of these
nuts into the ground may be said to confer a greater and more certain
benefit upon himself and posterity than many a life's toil in less
genial climes.

The fruitfulness of the tree is remarkable. As long as it lives it
bears, and without intermission. Two hundred nuts, besides
innumerable white blossoms of others, may be seen upon it at one
time; and though a whole year is required to bring any one of them to
the germinating point, no two, perhaps, are at one time in precisely
the same stage of growth.

The tree delights in a maritime situation. In its greatest perfection,
it is perhaps found right on the seashore, where its roots are
actually washed. But such instances are only met with upon islands
where the swell of the sea is prevented from breaking on the beach by
an encircling reef. No saline flavour is perceptible in the nut
produced in such a place. Although it bears in any soil, whether
upland or bottom, it does not flourish vigorously inland; and I have
frequently observed that, when met with far up the valley, its tall
stem inclines seaward, as if pining after a more genial region.

It is a curious fact that if you deprive the cocoa-nut tree of the
verdant tuft at its head, it dies at once; and if allowed to stand
thus, the trunk, which, when alive, is encased in so hard a bark as
to be almost impervious to a bullet, moulders away, and, in an
incredibly short period, becomes dust. This is, perhaps, partly owing
to the peculiar constitution of the trunk, a mere cylinder of minute
hollow reeds, closely packed, and very hard; but, when exposed at
top, peculiarly fitted to convey moisture and decay through the
entire stem.

The finest orchard of cocoa-palms I know, and the only plantation of
them I ever saw at the islands, is one that stands right upon the
southern shore of Papeetee Bay. They were set out by the first
Pomaree, almost half a century ago; and the soil being especially
adapted to their growth, the noble trees now form a magnificent
grove, nearly a mile in extent. No other plant, scarcely a bush, is
to be seen within its precincts. The Broom Road passes through its
entire length.

At noonday, this grove is one of the most beautiful, serene, witching
places that ever was seen. High overhead are ranges of green rustling
arches; through which the sun's rays come down to you in sparkles.
You seem to be wandering through illimitable halls of pillars;
everywhere you catch glimpses of stately aisles, intersecting each
other at all points. A strange silence, too, reigns far and near; the
air flushed with the mellow stillness of a sunset.

But after the long morning calms, the sea-breeze comes in; and
creeping over the tops of these thousand trees, they nod their
plumes. Soon the breeze freshens; and you hear the branches brushing
against each other; and the flexible trunks begin to sway. Toward
evening the whole grove is rocking to and fro; and the traveller on
the Broom Road is startled by the frequent falling of the nuts,
snapped from their brittle stems. They come flying through the air,
ringing like jugglers' balls; and often bound along the ground for
many rods.

If you like this book please share to your friends :


FINDING the society at Loohooloo very pleasant, the young ladies, inparticular, being extremely sociable; and, moreover, in love with thefamous good cheer of old Marharvai, we acquiesced in an invitation ofhis to tarry a few days longer. We might then, he said, join a smallcanoe party which was going to a place a league or two distant. Soaverse to all exertion are these people that they really thought theprospect of thus getting rid of a few miles' walking would prevailwith us, even if there were no other inducement.The people of the hamlet, as we soon discovered, formed a snug littlecommunity of


IT WAS just in the middle of the merry, mellow afternoon that theyushered us to dinner, underneath a green shelter of palm boughs; openall round, and so low at the eaves that we stooped to enter.Within, the ground was strewn over with aromatic ferns--called"nahee"--freshly gathered; which, stirred underfoot, diffused thesweetest odour. On one side was a row of yellow mats, inwrought withfibres of bark stained a bright red. Here, seated after the fashionof the Turk, we looked out, over a verdant bank, upon the mild, blue,endless Pacific. So far round had we skirted the island that the viewof Tahiti was now