The Lion Hunt

Original Text: 
Thomas Pringle, African Sketches (London: Edward Moxon, 1834): 28-31. 010097.e.63 British Library
2Call our friends to the field -- for the Lion is near!
8In a perilous pinch none is better or bolder.
9In the gorge of the glen lie the bones of my steed,
10And the hoofs of a heifer of fatherland's breed:
11But mount, my brave boys! if our rifles prove true,
12We'll soon make the spoiler his ravages rue.
14To his den in the desert we'll follow him back;
15But tighten your girths, and look well to your flints,
16For heavy and fresh are the villain's foot-prints.
18Past the wild-olive clump where the wolf has his den,
19By the black-eagle's rock at the foot of the fell,
20We have tracked him at length to the buffalo's well.
21Now mark yonder brake where the blood-hounds are howling;
22And hark that hoarse sound -- like the deep thunder growling;
23'Tis his lair -- 'tis his voice! -- from your saddles alight;
24He's at bay in the brushwood preparing for fight.
25Leave the horses behind -- and be still every man:
27Keep fast in your ranks; -- by the yell of yon hound,
28The savage, I guess, will be out -- with a bound.
29He comes! the tall jungle before him loud crashing,
30His mane bristled fiercely, his fiery eyes flashing;
31With a roar of disdain, he leaps forth in his wrath,
32To challenge the foe that dare 'leaguer his path.
33He couches -- ay now we'll see mischief, I dread:
34Quick -- level your rifles -- and aim at his head:
35Thrust forward the spears, and unsheath every knife --
36St. George! he's upon us! -- Now, fire, lads, for life!
37He's wounded -- but yet he'll draw blood ere he falls --
39Now Diederik! Christian! right in the brain
40Plant each man his bullet -- Hurra! he is slain!
41Bezuidenhout -- up man! -- 'tis only a scratch --
42(You were always a scamp, and have met with your match!)
43What a glorious lion! -- what sinews -- what claws --
44And seven-feet-ten from the rump to the jaws!
45His hide, with the paws and the bones of his skull,
46With the spoils of the leopard and buffalo bull,
48And talk of our deeds o'er a flask of old wine.


1] Pringle described the lion hunt, which took place April 1822, in his Narrative of a Residence in South Africa (African Sketches [London: E. Moxon, 1834]): 258-61. Back to Line
3] Arend and Ekhard and Groepe: "three of the principal families of our Mulatto tenants" (Pringle's note, p. 511).
spoor: trace or track of the lion. Back to Line
4] Muller: "The brothers Diederik and Christian Muller, two of our Dutch-African neighbours, then residing near the Zwart-kei, were among the most intrepid lion-hunters in South Africa. They had between them killed upwards of thirty lions -- not without some hair-breadth escapes. Diederik was deaf in one ear, from the effects of the clutch of a lion, which his brother shot while he was lying under it ..." (Pringle's note, pp. 511-12).
Coetzer: Arend Coetzer (see line 3), "one of the sons of our neighbour old Winzel, of Eland's-drift" (Pringle's note, p. 512).
Lucas Van Vuur: "... or Van Vuuren) was a tall, dark, muscular man, with a bushy, coal-black beard, and an eye like an eagle's. He was for some time one of our nearest neighbours at Glen-Lynden,where he occupied the farm of Lyndoch -- Cleugh, the property of Mrs Colonel Graham ..." (Pringle's note, pp. 512-13). Back to Line
5] Eildon-Cleugh: a local ravine. Back to Line
6] Slinger and Allie and Dikkop: "Hottentot servants on the location" (Pringle's note, p. 513).
Dugal: "a Bushman lad, placed under my charge by Landdrost Stockenstrom in 1820. He was but partially tamed, poor fellow, and used to take himself off to the wilds, occasionally, for two or three days at a time; but always returned when he tired of the veld-kost (country food, i.e. wild roots). I named him Dugal after Sir Walter Scott's `Son of the Mist' of that name" (Pringle's note, p. 513). Back to Line
7] George: George Rennie, Pringle's brother-in-law (Pringle, p. 259). Back to Line
13] Hottentot: "One of the two sub-races of the Khoisanid race (the other being the Sanids or Bushmen), characterized by short stature, yellow-brown skin colour, and tightly curled hair. They are of mixed Bushman-Hamite descent with some Bantu admixture, and are now found principally in South-West Africa" (OED 1a). The Dutch term means "stutterer" and arosebecause of the Hottentot's clucking speech. Back to Line
17] kloof: ravine or gorge. Back to Line
26] the Mullers and Rennies: see notes for lines 4 and 7. Back to Line
38] Bezuidenhout: Johannes Bezuidenhout had a home on the Mullers' farm. Back to Line
47] Sir Walter: Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832), British poet and novelist. "The skin of this lion, after being rudely tanned by our Hottentots, was, together with the skull, transmitted to Sir Walter Scott, as a testimony of the author's regard; and these trophies have now the honour to form part of the ornaments of the lamented Poet's antique armoury at Abbotsford" (Pringle's note, p. 261). Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
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.