The main subject of the poem is the sudden appearance of the snake and the surprised reactions of the poet and her companion. The snake does no harm to the walkers and they in turn do not harm the snake.
As an environmentalist, Wright sought to preserve the natural surroundings in Australia. She cared intensely for the Aboriginal people who lived in close intimacy with nature which the settlers did not. The poem, on the surface, is about the sudden appearance of the snake but it could also be about the various creatures that lived in Australia and the animal friendly way of life of the aboriginal people.
The initial emotion that overtakes the poet and her companion is shock or surprise. They are walking along a grassy patch (not a jungle) when they see the snake “reeling by”. Soon this surprise is overtaken by admiration for the perfection of its body, the symmetry of the scales on its surface and the single minded (“fierce intent”) pursuit of its prey.
The poem has a tightly controlled structure that does not permit much innovation. The beginning of the poem describes a peaceful scene when nature is full of the mellow sunshine of autumn, then comes the surprise of finding a snake in their midst. But there is no sudden movement or strong emotion expressed so there is no change in the structure either.
The poem has four quatrains with a traditional rhyme scheme of abab, cdcd, efef in the first three stanzas but the fourth stanza is ghhg. The change in the last stanza is like the letting out of breath (“We took a deeper breath of day,”) after having unconsciously held it while the snake was around. Thereby emphasising the relief that the observers felt. If you extend beyond the surface level meaning, you could explore the symbolism here: is Wright challenging the attitude that we have towards the indigenous Aboriginals, by highlighting the judgement that the observers have made (that the snake is dangerous) when in actual fact, it is...
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