1851 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Thomas Pringle

David Macbeth Moir, in Sketches of the Poetical Literature of the Past Half-Century (1851; 1852) 286-87.



Thomas Pringle, the author of the Autumnal Excursion and the African Sketches, possessed considerable scholarship, an elegant taste, and a certain racy vigour, occasionally amounting to power. His verses naturally divide themselves into two sections, — those relating to the scenery and traditions, the sentiments and associations of his native Scotland; and those composed amid the far-stretching wilds beyond the Cape, where the elephant comes down to drink at the cane-marshes, and where the fox-chase is exchanged for the lion-hunt. For elegance, elevation, and purity of style, it would be difficult to point out many things, in the octosyllabic measure, superior to the Autumnal Excursion, descriptive of Teviotdale, and of the pastoral and pure associations by which it was linked to the mind of boyhood; and several of his songs and sonnets breathe alike of the fire and tenderness which hovered over the Border districts, from the days of the old Flowers of the Forest, and Johnny Armstrong, down to those of Scott and Leyden; but his African Sketches are maturer in thought and general power; and, besides, are more striking, both from the novelty of the situations depictured, and the imposing grandeur of the scenery described. The finest of these are The Bechuana Boy, which unites Doric simplicity with classic finish; and the verses, Afar in the Desert, whose strange wild music is said to have possessed a charm of fascination even for the ear and heart of Coleridge.