BackgroundJudith Wright was an Australianwriter, born in 1915, she died in2000. She celebrated nature inmany of her poems. In her laterlife she was a conservationistand campaigned for the rights ofAboriginal peoples.
ContentThere are three useful areas of content to focuson:• the description of the snake itself• the effect the snake has on the speaker andher walking companion• the brief mention of the creature beinghunted
Structure• Each stanza has four lines; each line has eightsyllables; the rhyme pattern is similar for thefirst three stanzas but not the last.• Focus on structure and how the content isarranged within and across stanzas.
Stanza One• Picture the scene depicted in the first stanza.What do the words ‘grace’ and ‘gentlest’convey? How is the suddenness of theirstopping suggested?• Consider the contrast between ‘Sun-warmed’and ‘froze’.
Physical qualities of the snakeDiscuss the words which describe the physicalqualities of the snake.The word ‘reeling’ is interesting. In what waysmight it apply to the people as well as thesnake?Consider the majestic qualities of the snake andthe force of ‘the parting grass’, ‘glazed’,‘diamond’ and ‘we lost breath’.
Finally• Chart the reactions of the speaker and hercompanion to the snake as described in eachstanza. How do the words used convey theirreactions?• What do you make of the poem’s final twolines and their relationship to the rest of thepoem?
Thematic Links• Nature: Pied Beauty, Horses, Pike, TheWoodspurge, Summer Farm, Where I ComeFrom, Upon Westminster Bridge• Personal reflection: A Different History, TheWoodspurge, The Cockroach, Summer Farm,Where I Come From