The poet considers the harshness of the Cape Colony: its bleak mountains, its gales and shipwrecks, and
its slavery and other civil crimes. He nevertheless concludes that there are some strong links which hold
him to the Cape, links of family and friends.
ABOUT THE POET
Although he only spent six years in South Africa, Thomas Pringle nevertheless has the reputation for being
the father of South African poetry because he was the first successful English speaking poet and author
to describe this country.
He was born in 1789 in Blakelaw in Scotland and was educated at Kelso Grammar School before
continuing to the University of Edinburgh. It was there that he developed his love for writing which would
guide his future life.
He began work as a clerk before taking up a career in the editing of journals and newspapers. During this
time he also developed his talent for writing poetry. When one of his poems caught the attention of the
great novelist, Sir Walter Scott, a friendship sprang up between the two men.
Conditions were harsh in the United Kingdom at that time as the country struggled under a recession
following the conclusion of the Napoleonic wars. When Pringle saw an offer for a free passage to the
Eastern Cape as part of what became known as the 1820 Settlers, he decided to apply.
Although the settlers were meant to be frontier farmers, Pringle soon saw an opportunity to continue his
career in newspapers. He therefore settled amongst the growing urban community at Graham's Town
where he founded South Africa's first newspaper, The Graham's Town Journal.
He was soon lured by the greater opportunities offered in Cape Town, and there he founded another
newspaper called The South African Commercial Advertiser. His continual criticism of Governor
Lord Charles Somerset, however, saw his newspapers quickly suppressed, thus starting the first battle
for freedom of the press in South Africa.
In the meantime, with no prospect of earning an income in Cape Town, Pringle returned to England. He
settled in London where an article he had written while at the Cape caught the eye of the Anti-Slave
Society who appointed him as their secretary. It was then that he published much of his poetry and
sketches which he had drafted while in South Africa.
Pringle did not see the eventual liberation of slavery. He died of TB in 1834. He was only 45 years of age.
Although he was buried in Bunhill Fields near London, his bones were exhumed in 1970 and re-buried at
the Pringle Family Church at Eildon in the Baviaan's River Valley in the Eastern Cape.
He had only spent six years in South Africa and has been described as a man "of distinctly limited ability
who died a material failure". He has nevertheless inspired admiration for what he managed to achieve.
Have you looked at the questions
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