Hunting Snake by Judith Wright

Sun-warmed in this late season’s grace

under the autumn’s gentlest sky

we walked, and froze half-through a pace.

The great black snake went reeling by.

Head-down, tongue-flickering on the trail

he quested through the parting grass;

sun glazed his curves of diamond scale

and we lost breath to watch him pass.

What track he followed, what small food

fled living from his fierce intent,

we scarcely  thought; still as we stood

our eyes went with him as he went.

Cold, dark and splendid he was gone

into the grass that hid his prey .

We took a deeper breath of day,

looked at each other, and went on.


8 thoughts on “Hunting Snake by Judith Wright

    1. well is basically to people were walking in the woods during autumn and they they get terrified that they cant move at all when they see a black snake and they basically describe how the snake is beautiful and terrifying as it hunts for its prey then the snake leaves and they are relieved and they continue walking

  1. Or you could see it as a little more than the events in the poem. Instead, think about how benign Nature appears to be at first – the walkers are ‘sun-warmed’ and enjoy the ‘season’s grace’ – autumn is at its ‘gentlest’. The appearence of the snake is dramatic – they freeze. This can be taken as them stopping utterly still (and this is in mid-step – try that!) and/or the mood ‘freezing: Nature suddenly seems hostile. In the last verse, the snake is described as ‘cold’, which also adds to this impression.
    The snake is utterly focussed on its own activities: it goes ‘reeling by’ (‘reeling’ can also evoke the sense of ‘unreeling’ – of length and smoothness of movement), and is ‘fierce[ly] intent’ on its hunt for food. It takes no notice of the human spectators who hold their breath in watching (‘we lost breath to watch him pass’): they might be holding their breath in fear or shock or because they don’t want to disturb the snake (or all three, of course!).
    The snake is much less ‘soft’ than the nature the walkers have experienced so far. Its beauty is hard – ‘diamond scale’ and the snake is ‘cold, dark and splendid’. The snake might also be seen as something noble – its hunt is a ‘quest’ – although it is also ruthless: its prey flees, implying headlong panic with the verb to flee (‘flight’).
    When the snake disappears into the grass, the watchers find themselves released to ‘[take] a deeper breath of day’. This is as if they see breathing as more than normal – the air is more important – it is ‘day’, perhaps implying that they appreciate in a new light the fact that they are alive to enjoy the sunlight.
    Themes of this could be how Man interacts with Nature (here, I feel that it is the snake that has the power in the poem: the walkers react to it, are frozen by it and only breath again when it has gone.) and the nature of beauty…

    1. I enjoyed your analysis! Just to add more points, there are a lot of contrasts in this poem like you said, I think they are all showing conflicting emotions the persona has towards the snake, the aboriginals. In addition, we can even see something more from the title of the poem – Hunting Snake. Explicitly, it might mean the journey of the snake that’s hunting; or, it could mean that the poet is actually ‘hunting’ for a black snake that she has seen, which means that she wants to see more of the aboriginals.

  2. In this season of autumn with the warmth of the sun and the gentlest sky, the poet and his friends are walking and suddenly they freeze. The reason behind this sudden movement is a great black snake which crossed their path. The snake is moving swiftly with his head down and tongue flickering as if it is going to hunt his prey. The snake’s movement through the grass is visible as its skin is reflecting the sunlight. The poet and his friends are awestruck. Their curiosity increases and they continue to observe the snake. All they can observe is its fierce intent. They are standing still as they don’t want to distract it. After a while the snake fades in the grass along with its prey. And the poet and his companions take a deep breath and finally they feel relieved as the presence of the snake was confining them. After taking a few moments to refresh themselves, they look at each other to confirm whether the site they experienced was real or not. They were just building up surety. And in the end, they start moving towards their destiny and take all this as a beautiful experience.

  3. Pingback: Snakes

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