The Kosa

Original Text: 
Thomas Pringle, African Sketches (London: Edward Moxon, 1834): 18-20. 010097.e.63 British Library
2The fields his fathers held of old;
3With club and spear, in jocund ranks,
4Still hunts the elk by Chumi's banks:
5By Keisi's meads his herds are lowing;
6On Debè's slopes his gardens glowing,
7Where laughing maids at sunset roam,
8To bear the juicy melons home:
9And striplings from Kalumna's wood
10Bring wild grapes and the pigeon's brood,
11With fragrant hoard of honey-bee
12Rifled from the hollow tree:
13And herdsmen shout from rock to rock;
14And through the glen the hamlets smoke;
16To greet their sires at evening-fall:
17And matrons sweep the cabin floor,
18And spread the mat beside the door,
19And with dry fagots wake the flame
20To dress the wearied huntsmen's game.
21Bright gleams the fire: its ruddy blaze
22On many a dusky visage plays.
23On forkèd twigs the game is drest;
24The neighbours share the simple feast:
26Flow round -- and flow the jest and tale;
27Wild legends of the ancient day,
28Of hunting feat, of warlike fray;
29And now come smiles, and now come sighs,
30As mirth and grief alternate rise.
31Or should a sterner strain awake,
32Like sudden flame in summer-brake,
33Bursts fiercely forth in battle song
34The tale of Amakósa's wrong;
35Throbs every warrior bosom high,
36With lightning flashes every eye,
37And, in wild cadence, rings the sound
38Of barbèd javelins clashing round.
39But lo, like a broad shield on high,
40The moon gleams in the midnight sky.
41'Tis time to part: the watch-dog's bay
42Beside the folds has died away.
43'Tis time to rest: the mat is spread,
44The hardy hunter's simple bed:
45His wife her dreaming infant hushes
46On the low cabin's couch of rushes;
47Softly he draws its door of hide,
49Sleeps soundly till the peep of dawn
50Wakes on the hills the dappled fawn;
51Then forth again he gaily bounds,
52With club and spear and questing hounds.

Notes

1] Kosa: "That tribe of Caffers whose territory is now divided from the colony by the river Keisi, or Keiskamma, are, in their own language, designed the Amakósa, and their country Amakosína .... The Chumi, Debè, and Kalumna, are border streams in the Amakosa territory" (Pringle's note, p. 505). Back to Line
15] kraal: "A village of Southern or Central African native peoples, consisting of a collection of huts surrounded by afence or stockade, and often having a central space for cattle, etc." (OED). Back to Line
25] the millet-ale: "A sort of mead, called honey-beer by the Hottentots, and boialloa by the Bechuanas, is used both by these tribes and the Caffers. Of millet beer or ale the Caffers have two kinds, the common sort termed chaloa, and the stronger inguya. The millet (Sorghum) is first carefully malted, afterwards boiled in large earthern pots, and then regularly fermented with the aid of a root ..." (Pringle's note, p. 509). Back to Line
48] Gulúwi, "here used as a female proper name, signifies literally the Loory or Touracoo (Corythaix). It is customary with the Caffers to give the names of animals, flowers, and other natural objects to persons. Moya, the name of a Caffer female of rank ... signifies literally the Wind" (Pringle's note, p. 509). Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
1828
Publication Notes: 
Thomas Pringle, Ephemerides, or, Occasional poems, written in Scotland and South Africa (London: Smith, Elder, 1828). Victoria University Rare Books no. 105
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
RPO 2000.
Form: