The Kosa

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The free-born Kosa still doth hold
  The fields his fathers held of old;
  With club and spear, in jocund ranks,
  Still hunts the elk by Chumi's banks:
  By Keisi's meads his herds are lowing;
  On Debè's slopes his gardens glowing,
  Where laughing maids at sunset roam,
  To bear the juicy melons home:
  And striplings from Kalumna's wood
  Bring wild grapes and the pigeon's brood,
  With fragrant hoard of honey-bee
  Rifled from the hollow tree:
  And herdsmen shout from rock to rock;
  And through the glen the hamlets smoke;
  And children gambol round the kraal,
  To greet their sires at evening-fall:
  And matrons sweep the cabin floor,
  And spread the mat beside the door,
  And with dry fagots wake the flame
  To dress the wearied huntsmen's game.

  Bright gleams the fire: its ruddy blaze
  On many a dusky visage plays.
  On forkèd twigs the game is drest;
  The neighbours share the simple feast:
  The honey-mead, the millet-ale,
  Flow round - and flow the jest and tale;
  Wild legends of the ancient day,
  Of hunting feat, of warlike fray;
  And now come smiles, and now come sighs,
  As mirth and grief alternate rise.
  Or should a sterner strain awake,
  Like sudden flame in summer-brake,
  Bursts fiercely forth in battle song
  The tale of Amakósa's wrong;
  Throbs every warrior bosom high,
  With lightning flashes every eye,
  And, in wild cadence, rings the sound
  Of barbèd javelins clashing round.

  But lo, like a broad shield on high,
  The moon gleams in the midnight sky.
  'Tis time to part: the watch-dog's bay
  Beside the folds has died away.
  'Tis time to rest: the mat is spread,
  The hardy hunter's simple bed:
  His wife her dreaming infant hushes
  On the low cabin's couch of rushes;
  Softly he draws its door of hide,
  And, stretched by his Gulúwi's side,
  Sleeps soundly till the peep of dawn
  Wakes on the hills the dappled fawn;
  Then forth again he gaily bounds,
  With club and spear and questing hounds.

© Thomas Pringle