Thomas Pringle

(5 January 1789 – 5 December 1834 / Blaiklaw)

The Kosa Poem by Thomas Pringle


The free-born Kosa still doth hold
The fields his fathers held of old;
With club and spear, in jocund ranks,
Still hunts the elk by Chumi's banks:
By Keisi's meads his herds are lowing;
On Debè's slopes his gardens glowing,
Where laughing maids at sunset roam,
To bear the juicy melons home:
And striplings from Kalumna's wood
Bring wild grapes and the pigeon's brood,
With fragrant hoard of honey-bee
Rifled from the hollow tree:
And herdsmen shout from rock to rock;
And through the glen the hamlets smoke;
And children gambol round the kraal,
To greet their sires at evening-fall:
And matrons sweep the cabin floor,
And spread the mat beside the door,
And with dry fagots wake the flame
To dress the wearied huntsmen's game.

Bright gleams the fire: its ruddy blaze
On many a dusky visage plays.
On forkèd twigs the game is drest;
The neighbours share the simple feast:
The honey-mead, the millet-ale,
Flow round -- and flow the jest and tale;
Wild legends of the ancient day,
Of hunting feat, of warlike fray;
And now come smiles, and now come sighs,
As mirth and grief alternate rise.
Or should a sterner strain awake,
Like sudden flame in summer-brake,
Bursts fiercely forth in battle song
The tale of Amakósa's wrong;
Throbs every warrior bosom high,
With lightning flashes every eye,
And, in wild cadence, rings the sound
Of barbèd javelins clashing round.

But lo, like a broad shield on high,
The moon gleams in the midnight sky.
'Tis time to part: the watch-dog's bay
Beside the folds has died away.
'Tis time to rest: the mat is spread,
The hardy hunter's simple bed:
His wife her dreaming infant hushes
On the low cabin's couch of rushes;
Softly he draws its door of hide,
And, stretched by his Gulúwi's side,
Sleeps soundly till the peep of dawn
Wakes on the hills the dappled fawn;
Then forth again he gaily bounds,
With club and spear and questing hounds.

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

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