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The Hunting Snake
Transcript of The Hunting Snake
-Nature as opposed to humans; the ongoing war.
-Things are not always what they seem
-The battle between our good and bad sides
The Literal Meaning
An analysis by Aish, Adam and Janvi
This poem is quite simply about a person, presumably the author Judith Wright walking in autumn with somebody else (“we”, maybe even a group of people) when they encounter a black snake.
The small group of people freeze for a short amount of time, until the snake leaves, and then they go about their business.
The 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 see 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.
• "Autumn"/ "Sun- warmed"
- Shades of yellow, red and orange.
-Relaxed, calm, collected and
-can be beauty related.
"The Hunting Snake", the title itself is slightly ambiguous.
Is the snake the predator or is it the one being hunted?
- the word freezes the perfect scene prior to these two lines, ready for change.
• "half-through a pace"
- so important, the matter could not wait even a half of another step.
- suggesting the snake has a personal connection to the author, because it is not just a snake, it is the snake, its special, important.
- Beautiful, still, important and powerful.
- associated with
darkness, a contrasting difference to the warm and cozy
red, orange, yellow glow the poem was giving off earlier.
- considering Wright was an environmentalist, and spent many years in research, she would know what type of snake it was, (proof being she knew how dangerous it was), but she left a sense of suspense in the poem, and never truly revealed what type of snake it was.
- in a slightly disturbing manner, the snake glides through the path of these people, not caring who was by him. This represents the
of the creature.
- imagery, to most people this means the snake is ready to fight. But not to Judith Wright because she knew about snakes. She knew that this mean the snake was sensing its surroundings, since snakes do not have very good eye sight or hearing, they rely on their sense of smell and tasting the particles on their tongue.
This also suggests that the
snake knew his surroundings and chose not to harm the humans.
"on the trail"
- Once again there is some ambiguity, because it does not determine which way. This can either be on the snakes way which therefore he has already planned making him intelligent
or on the pathway of humans.
- the snake is perhaps assumed to be male because it is hunting or because of is natural dominance.
- once more displaying the intellect of the snake, and personifying the snake,
comparing it to the human.
It also shows that the snake has a goal, he has a quest to complete.
- as though
nature is on the snakes side
, and under his command. Or maybe nature itself bows down at his beauty.
• "sun glazed"
- bringing back the orange colour, or at least "flecks" of it , perhaps signifying the parting of the snake, once again signifying that nature works for him.
• "diamond scale"
- Diamond is a very
beautiful and precious item, it is also quite unique, and the scales of the snake are described using the metaphor of a diamond, so what lays inside in the mind of the snake must be much more precious. Also diamonds are the strongest material known to man, meaning the snake has a strong armor,
like a solider ready for war.
• "we lost breath"
- There are two sides to this, it could be positive or negative.
Even though the snake is so dangerous they could literally permanently lose their breathe they could not help themselves, the beauty was breath-taking.
- indicating that the snake left, ignoring them, oblivious to their awe
• Almost as if the snake is trying to prove the author wrong, proving it is
not beautiful, but evil.
• "small food"
- the food he catches is either not good enough for him, or supporting the previous statement, he feed on the weak because they are helpless and he is strong, like a vulture.
• The "f" and "s" alliteration
- sounds somewhat like a snake.
• "our eyes went with him as he went"
- they are still staring at the creature, their eyes mesmerized by the snake so much, the do what he does.
• "Cold, dark and splendid"
- all contrasting ideas,
(cold as bitter, dark as mysterious, and splendid as wonderful).
of the snake.
- the tone of the words is not positive, almost
sorrowful to be parting with a creature that could have very easily killed the poet.
• "deeper breath of day"
- they are alive. It also introduces the warm and cozy, orange-red-yellow colour which had been put on a "pause" as the snake came by, when everything darkened, became night. A deep breath could also be one they were holding in awe or fear and now let out is relief. But there is another sense of sadness in this line,
like she is sad to see him go. Maybe she too has a dark side.
• "looked at each other"
- unspoken words between the people, and their near death experience.
• "went on"
- just like the snake once again whatever happened had passed, become irrelevant.
The tone of this poem varies in each stanza, in the first stanza where the descriptions of the settings are made, the tone seems peaceful and tranquil. However the tranquility is broken in the last line when the persona says "the great black snake reels by". Moving on to the second stanza, the mood changes to one of awe as the persona starts to describe the snake and seems captivated by the snake. In the third stanza, the tone changes again from awe to fear as the persona realises the dangers of the snake. In the final stanza, the tone changes to relief as the snake passes by and the persona is unharmed.
What was the tone of the poem and how did it change?
This poem has four stanzas with monosyllabic lines. The simplicity of the structure might imply the harmony and tranquility of nature. The simple structure might also refer to how the persona's varying thoughts on the snake are very simple, clear and easy to comprehend. The tight structure of the poem may also refer to the rigidness of the persona when they saw the snake passing by. It may also suggest the control the persona has over themselves or their feelings while watching the snake, as opposed to running away.
What was the significant structure of the poem?
Throughout the first three stanzas, the poem has a strict rhyming scheme in which the last words of the first and third line rhyme and the last words of the second and fourth line rhyme. However, the last stanza is somewhat incongruous as the theirs last word of the first and fourth lines rhyme and the last words of the second and third lines rhyme, this breaking the flow of the steady rhythm in the poem. The last stanza is perhaps different from the others because it is the parting of the snake, prior to this the rhymes were a steady ABAB scheme but suddenly become AABB, like the poet is finally siding, choosing her fate. Only we still don't know what it is, but her decision is made. This could be applied to two of the three themes, siding on a war between a humans and nature or siding between her good and bad sides.
What type of rhyme or rhythm existed and what was the effect of this?
The relevance to this poem to a teenage audience is the fact that teenagers are almost always being put into unfamiliar situations that they have to deal with. As teenagers, we are sometimes expected to know how to deal with scenarios that can be unexpected, so then we have to use our common sense. Also in the first stanza the persona says, "we walked", which might've meant that someone else was also depending on them. As teenagers, we are put under the same circumstances because we have the pressure of our parents, peers, teachers and society depending on us to get good grades, make responsible decisions, to achieve our goals and to exceed expectations. Also as teenagers, we are expected to make life decisions, and do what is right, what society expects of us. But the majority of teenagers have an ongoing war inside them, relating to another theme, (good versus bad), and seeing the beauty and good in bad things, or succumbing to the “darker” side.
What is the relevance of the poem to a teenage audience?