Omoo, a Narrative of Adventures in the South Seas

By Hermann Melville | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XLV

MISSIONARY'S SERMON; WITH SOME REFLECTIONS

SOME degree of order at length restored, the service was continued, by singing. The choir was composed of twelve or fifteen ladies of the mission, occupying a long bench to the left of the pulpit. Almost the entire congregation joined in.

The first air fairly startled me; it was the brave tune of Old Hundred, adapted to a Tahitian psalm. After the graceless scenes I had recently passed through, this circumstance, with all its accessories, moved me forcibly.

Many voices around were of great sweetness and compass. The singers, also, seemed to enjoy themselves mightily; some of them pausing, now and then, and looking round, as if to realize the scene more fully. In truth, they sang right joyously, despite the solemnity of the tune.

The Tahitians have much natural talent for singing; and, on all occasions, are exceedingly fond of it. I have often heard a stave or two of psalmody, hummed over by rakish young fellows, like a snatch from an opera.

With respect to singing, as in most other matters, the Tahitians widely differ from the people of the Sandwich Islands; where the parochial flocks may be said rather to bleat than sing.

The psalm concluded, a prayer followed. Very considerately, the good old missionary made it short; for the congregation became fidgety and inattentive as soon as it commenced.

A chapter of the Tahitian Bible was now read; a text selected; and the sermon began. It was listened to with more attention than I had anticipated.

Having been informed, from various sources, that the

-175-

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