Judith Wright – ‘Hunting Snake’
Judith Wright was born in Australia in 1915, and lived in that country until her death in 2000; she was intensely fond of the countryside and all that it meant to those who lived there, especially the Aboriginal people, and much of her writing also celebrates natural creatures. She once said of her own life and poetry that “the two threads of my life, the love of the land itself and the deep unease over the fate of its original people, were beginning to twine together, and the rest of my life would be influenced by that connection” (http://oldpoetry.com/authors/Judith%20Wright).
Although ‘Hunting Snake’ is clearly about a snake that the poem’s speaker once saw, and about the fear and awe that it created in her, it may also perhaps be read as hinting at other aspects of ancient Australian life. The last two lines of the poem may perhaps be suggesting something of the contrast between an ancient way of life, the new ways that the poet feels and lives in, and the fact that while the two may sometimes meet they cannot co-exist in reality.
Some points for classroom discussion:
The poem is a very tightly controlled one, with traditional four-line stanzas, a simple rhythm and rhyme pattern; how, then, does Wright create her sense of shock, fear, admiration (look at lines 3, 8, 9-10 and 13, for example) and finally her relief when the snake passes by and the danger is over? Which words and which images are the most striking? Why do they have this effect?
In ‘Pike’ Ted Hughes writes of the mixture of awe and sheer fear that he had as a child when thinking about these fishes.
Some useful biographical material can be found on these websites: