Thomas Pringle (1789-1834)

Though he spent only six years in South Africa, Pringle has been called the "Father of South African Poetry in English." He was born in Scotland and met Sir Walter Scott at the University of Edinburgh. In 1820 he arrived in Cape Town, where he published a newspaper and a magazine, which were suppressed because of his reform views. He returned to London in 1826 and spent the rest of his life in the antislavery movement, serving as secretary to the Society for the Abolition of Slavery. (Read more at

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The Caffer

Lo! where he crouches by the kloof's dark side,
Eyeing the farmer's lowing herds afar;
Impatient watching till the evening star
Leads forth the twilight dim, that he may glide
Like panther to the prey. With freeborn pride
He scorns the herdsman, nor regards the scar
Of recent wound, but burnishes for war
His assegai and targe of buffalo hide.
He is a robber? True; it is a strife
Between the black-skinned bandit and the white.
A savage? Yes; though loth to aim at life,
Evil for evil fierce he doth requite.
A heathen? Teach him, then, thy better creed,
Christian! if thou deserv'st that name indeed.

The Bushman

The Bushman sleeps within his black-browed den,
In the lone wilderness. Around him lie
His wife and little ones unfearingly--
For they are far away from "Christian-Men."
No herds, loud lowing, call him down the glen:
He fears no foe but famine; and may try
To wear away the hot noon slumberingly;
Then rise to search for roots--and dance again.
But he shall dance no more! His secret lair,
Surrounded, echoes to the thundering gun,
And the wild shriek of anguish and despair!
He dies--yet, ere life's ebbing sands are run,
Leaves to his sons a curse, should they be friends
With the proud "Christian-Men"--for they are fiends!

The Hottentot

Not altogether wicked; but so weak
That greater villains made of him their tool:
Not void of talent; yet so much a fool
As honour by dishonest means to seek:
Proud to the humble; to the haughty meek;
In flattery servile; insolent in rule;
Keen for his own; for others' interest cool;
Hate in his heart; and smiles upon his cheek:--
This man, with abject meanness join'd to pride,
Was yet a pleasant fellow in his day;
For all unseemly traits he well could hide,
Whene'er he mingled with the great and gay;
But he is buried now--and, when he died,
No one seemed sorry that he was away.

The Hottentot [II]

Mild, melancholy, and sedate he stands,
Tending another's flock upon the fields,
His father's once, where now the white man builds
His home, and issues forth his proud commands.
His dark eye flashes not; his listless hands
Lean on the shepherd's staff; no more he wields
The Libyan bow--but to the oppressor yields
Submissively his freedom and his lands.

Has he no courage? Once he had--but lo!
Harsh servitude hath worn him to the bone.
No enterprise? Alas! the brand, the blow,
Have humbled him to dust--even hope is gone!
"He's a base-hearted hound--not worth his food,"
His master cries,--"he has no gratitude."

To Sir Walter Scott, Bart.

From deserts wild and many a pathless wood
Of Savage climes where I have wander'd long,
Whose hills and streams are yet ungraced by song,
I bring, illustrious bard, this garland rude.
The offering, though uncouth, in kindly mood
Thou wilt regard, if haply there should be,
'Mong meaner things, the flower Simplicity,
Fresh from coy Nature's virgin solitude.
Accept this frail memorial, honour'd Scott,
Of favour'd intercourse in former day--
Of words of kindness I have ne'er forgot--
Of acts of friendship I can ne'er repay:
For I have found (and wherefore say it not?)
The minstrel's heart as noble as his lay.

Long Years of Sorrow

Long years of sorrow and slow wasting care
Have stol'n from thy soft cheek its vermeil hue;
And somewhat changed the glossy locks that threw
Their shadowy beauty round thy temples fair;
And lent to those sweet eyes a sadder air,
That, from their long dark fringes laughing, blue,
Once look'd like violets fresh bathed in dew,
And seem'd as they might e'en enchant despair!
Sickness and grief have touched thee: yet so mildly
That, though some graces of thy youth are gone,
The loveliness that witch'd my heart so wildly
In life's romantic Spring--is still thine own:
And those meek pensive eyes, in their revealings,
Speak now of higher thoughts and deeper feelings.

On Visiting a Missionary Settlement

By Heaven directed, by the world reviled,
Amidst the wilderness they sought a home,
Where beasts of prey and men of murder roam,
And untamed Nature holds her revels wild:
There, on their pious toils their Master smiled,
And prosper'd them, unknown or scorn'd of men,
Till in the satyr's haunt and dragon's den
A garden bloom'd, and savage hordes grew mild.
So, in the guilty heart when heavenly grace
Enters, it ceaseth not till it uproot
All evil passions from each hidden cell;
Planting again an Eden in their place,
Which yields to men and angels pleasant fruit;
And God himself delighteth there to dwell.

The Missionary

He left his Christian friends and native strand,
By pity for benighted men constrained:
His heart was fraught with charity unfeigned;
His life was strict, his manners meek and bland.
Long dwelt he lonely in a heathen land,
In want and weariness--yet ne'er complained;
But laboured that the lost sheep might be gained,
Nor seeking recompense from human hand.
The credit of the arduous works he wrought
Was reaped by other men who came behind:
The world gave him no honour--none he sought,
But cherished Christ's example in his mind.
To one great aim his heart and hopes were given,
To serve his God and gather souls to heaven.

The second sonnet entitled "The Hottentot" is not contained in Crouch's Sonnets of South Africa but is included elsewhere (see Chalk Talk).