The Caffer Commando

Original Text: 
Thomas Pringle, African Sketches (London: Edward Moxon, 1834): 58-59. 010097.e.63 British Library
2'Tis our Caffer Commando returning from war:
3The voice of their laughter comes loud on the wind,
4Nor heed they the curses that follow behind.
6Where the smoke rises dim from yon desolate vales --
7That wails for his little ones killed in the fray,
8And his herds by the Colonist carried away?
9Or who cares for him that once pastured this spot,
11As many another, ere twenty years pass,
12Will only be known by their bones in the grass!
15For England hath spoken in her tyrannous mood,
16And the edict is writing in African blood!
18As the lengthening shadows more drearily fall,
19Shrieks forth his hymn to the hornèd moon;
20And the lord of the desert will follow him soon:
22As he calls on his mate and her cubs to awake;
23And the panther and leopard come leaping along;
25For the tumult is over, the slaughter hath ceased --
26And the vulture hath bidden them all to the feast!


1] Caffer Commando: "a party commanded, or called out, for military purposes. In colonial phraseology, it is a term usually applied to any expedition against the natives" (Pringle's note, p. 521). Back to Line
5] Kosa: "That tribe of Caffers [Bantu] 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
10] tribe ... extinct: "The Ghona or Ghonaqua tribe is here referred to. This tribe, which formerly inhabited the country between the Keisi and Camtoos rivers, and of which so much has been written by former travellers, is now extinct" (Pringle's note, p. 521). Back to Line
13] rivers. Back to Line
14] the Gunja and Ghona: "The Gunja or Gunjaman tribe of Hottentots, was that which lived nearest the spot where Cape Town now stands, and who first ceded to the Dutch East India Company a tract of their country. Thunberg, who travelled in 1773, remarks that, in his time, this tribe was nearly extinct. At the present moment the work of extirpation is proceeding with accelerated rapidity in the regions beyond the Orange River" (the Gareep; Pringle's note, p. 521). Back to Line
17] Katta: the Katberg, or Kat mountain. Back to Line
21] tiger-wolf: colonists' name for the Hyæna Crocuta (Pringle's note, p. 521). Back to Line
24] Hecate: Greek goddess of the underworld, Persephone, especially (in this context) the moon. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
Publication Notes: 
Oriental Herald 13 (April-June 1827). DS O743 Microfilm Room Robarts Library
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
RPO 2000.