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Hunting Snake

By sran14 Oct 30, 2013 712 Words
‘HUNTING SNAKE’. The verbal connotation(of Hunting) evokes an image of the reptile being hunted yet it is in the adjectival sense that Judith Wright chooses to perceive the word as she expresses her appreciation for this creature of predatorial character.The impact of the poem in conveying Wright’s sense of the righteous conservationist she was in her lifetime is no less than the whiplash of that very creature. The utopian setting of the poet and her companion on a walk is ascribed to ‘la grace de l’automne’. The ‘gentlest sky’, ’sun-warmed’ and ‘we walked’ are mentioned with an indolence characteristic of the season, even the hour. One is almost eager to inhale the ‘mellow fruitfulness’ that pervades the atmosphere. Until…the pair ‘froze half-through a pace’ ,videlicet, were rendered immobile as ‘The great black snake went reeling by.’ Note, again the potent impact created through the usage of radically opposite ‘sun-warmed’ and ‘froze’; the former indicative of the sun’s caring warmth dispelling the seasonal chill while the latter clearly pinpoints the fear that chills their blood. ’Reeling’ is the poet being her pithiest best: evocative of the particular meandering movement of the reptile and simultaneously, the manner in which, surely, their minds reeled in fear. The pen pictures ‘head-down’, ‘tongue flickering’, ‘quested’ and ‘parting grass’ focus the reader’s attention and concentration entirely on the snake. It echoes that of the arrested pair. The single-minded pursuit is brilliantly etched through the first two expressions; the latter two exemplify how the snake’s quest made even the grass make way for it. Personification to make the picture come alive, as though to assert that the low-lying blades even bowed, rather acquiesced to the masterful intent.’Sun glazed his curves of diamond scale’ subtly hints at the awe-generating sight the poet and her companion are witnessing. It is the very first admission of the creature’s individuality, its raw sensuality which is just beginning to imprint his audience’s mind. So much that they almost forget to draw a breath. The poet’s disclaimer that they even gave a thought to the trail the creature followed or the prey he was hunting is ironical since these are the precise thoughts that govern their subconscious. The Alliteration in ‘what track he followed,…. small food fled living from his fierce intent’ is so powerful that it appears as an attempt to arouse empathy for the prey. It is the poet’s masterstroke : the fits and starts that characterize the vocal expression thereof is symbolic of the sudden flight, the stumble, the desperate escape of the prey being targetted by the snake. The sibilants ‘we scarcely thought; still as we stood’ perfectly capture the hissing of the snake. The caesura therein projects how mesmerized were the poet and her companion, that though they stood transfixed, their ‘eyes went with him as he went’. In the final stanza, the poet voices her wonder at the majestic qualities of the snake : ‘cold, dark, splendid’ ; the enjambment in the line serving to underscore the sense of purpose behind the movement of the snake. Scant regard does the reptile have for his audience and the respect and space the creature grants is reciprocated in equal measure by the poet when she exerts no sympathy talking about the prey or the cruelty of the predator.The tone here is matter-of-fact, the perfect foil as if it were to the perception offered in stanza 3 through the lens of the alliteration. The 3 quatrains of the poem sharing the rhyme scheme of abab, portray the inflexible character of the poem and the two creatures whose paths cross. The image is of a compactly coiled structure, emblematizing the denial of any superfluous movement by the snake and emotion by the poet and her companion. Consequently the distinct shift in rhyme to abba in the final stanza sounds consciously as a letting go, a whoosh of breath, that was held in check almost unconsciously while in the presence of the snake. In that same breath, it is equally, an admission, a piece of well-meant and lasting advice; that life might come to a standstill momentarily, but eventually, it moves on. The indelible imprint of the conservationist lingers long after: LIVE AND LET LIVE!

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