And the fleet-footed ostrich over the waste
Speeds like a horseman who travels in haste,
Hying away to the home of her rest,
Where she and her mate have scooped their nest,
Far hid from the pitiless plunderer's view
In the pathless depths of the parched Karroo.
(Afar in the Desert, 61-66)
Thomas Pringle was born January 5, 1789, in Blaiklaw, Roxburghshire, and educated at Kelso and afterwards, in 1805, at Edinburgh University. He became clerk, Commissioner of the Public Records of Scotland, and co-editor, Edinburgh Monthly Magazine and Constable's Magazine, in 1817. He married Margaret Brown on July 19 in that year and published his first book of poems, The Autumnal Excursion, in 1819. When he was 30 years old, they led a party including his brother, father, and stepmother, and her sister, to South Africa. They departed on February 18, 1820, and arrived on June 29 at Eildon Kloof, close to present Glen Lynden district. After the settlement had laid down good roots, he went to Cape Town in September 1822 to become Government Librarian. By 1824 he had become co-editor of the South African Commercial Advertiser and had opened a school. Two years later he left South Africa for London, where he did literary work and served as Secretary to the Anti-Slavery Society until his death on December 5, 1834. He is buried in Bunhill Fields, London. In those final years Pringle saw a half dozen of his poems published in George Thompson's Travels and Adventures (1827). One reader was Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who wrote Pringle that he believed his poem, "Afar in the Desert," was one of the "two or three most perfect lyric Poems" in English. Pringle brought out a second book of poems, Ephemerides, in 1828, and at last a major book, African Sketches (1834), which brought together his (often revised) poems and a narrative of his residence in South Africa.
Given name: Thomas
Family name: Pringle
Birth date: 1789
Death date: 1834