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.
The Hunting Snake is quite similar to the cultural phenomenon known as “rubber-necking” – that is, the human act of morbid curiosity: when a traffic accident occurs, for example, all the drivers following cause massive hold-ups because they slow down in order to get a better look at the accident itself and its ensuing carnage. The connection to this poem is this act of slowing down – almost being frozen – to try to compute, process, properly understand what the thing is before you. In the instance of rubbernecking, car drivers slow down in order to stare and fathom what happened to cause the accident, what its outcomes were, etc. In The Hunting Snake, there is a similar sense of freezing: the couple walking come across the snake and the sight of it stops them dead – and in a very real sense of morbid curiosity (for the snake may well have the ability to turn and kill them), they are transfixed by the animal before them.
Its purpose is simple: it is the appreciation of the snake. Much like many other nature/animal poems in this selection, there is a sense of awe and wonder in both the beauty of the animal as well as caution and uncertainty as they recognise the threat it embodies. The surging power, its focus, its glistening beauty, all literally stop the onlooker in their tracks: the 4 stanzas of the poem mark...