Analysis of The Huntsman by Edward Lowbury


"The Huntsman" has been composed by the modern English poet Edward Lowbury. It is based on an African folklore which explains the uncertainty of human life. The poem is an evidence of imaginative richness and psychological insight of the poet. It is also full of suspense mystery and supernatural. The poet tells us the mysterious story of a famous hunter Kagwa, who was fond of talking.

 

Deep-End Analysis

 

Kagwa hunted the lion,

Through bush and forest went his spear.

One day he found the skull of a man

And said to it, ‘How did you come here?’

The skull opened its mouth and said,

‘Talking brought me here.’

 

Symbol: lion – bravery, skull – death

personification: skull opened its mouth, went his spear

Supernatural element: Skull speaks.

kinesthetic imagery: skull opened mouth

Humor: Kagwa trying to converse with a skull and skull replies

ballad: narrative poem, based on a story, usually about a tragic story.

Language: Simple day to day language, suggesting the simple lifestyle of tribal people

 

Kagwa killing a lion with a spear shows the physical and mental capability of Kagwa as a hunter. However, him conversing with the skull generates an opposite picture about Kagwa as the reader expects a hunter to be more serious than to be humorous. Use of definite article ‘the’ in the title and before ‘skull’ suggests that this is based on a familiar story to the reader. The last line of the stanza is loaded with meanings which arouse suspense in the mind of the reader. Unfortunately, Kagwa could not understand the depth of this line.

 

Kagwa hurried home;

Went to the king’s chair and spoke:

‘In the forest I found a talking skull.’

The king was silent. Then he said slowly,

‘Never since I was born of my mother

Have I seen or heard of a skull which spoke.’

 

inversion: Shows the slow speech of the king by using selective words.

antithesis: shows the difference between the actions of Kagwa and the King.

conversations: story telling feature.

 

Kagwa hurrying to the king may further exposes the characterization of him. He may have expected something like a praise or reward from the king. The use of words ‘king’s chair’ instead of throne may be the actual way of addressing the seat of the king. Kagwa’s hasty actions sharply contrasted with the slow and thoughtful actions of the king. That shows the characteristics of king which depict the difference between a hunter and a king.

 

The king called out his guards:

‘Two of you now go with him

And find this talking skull;

But if his tale is a lie

And the skull speaks no word,

This Kagwa himself must die’

 

King’s reactions to the gothic story of Kagwa is in a way responsible as well as rude. It shows the wrath of a king if wrongly provoked. King might have taken the words of Kagwa as an insult or he might have been looking for an opportunity to get rid of a possible threat to his throne as Kagwa is famous as a capable warrior after killing a lion. However, this is a lesson for anyone to think before actions.

 

They rode into the forest;

For days and nights they found nothing.

At last they saw the skull; Kagwa

Said to it, “How did you come here?”

The skull said nothing. Kagwa implored,

But the skull said nothing.

 

Suspense: the searching of the skull and skull being silent evokes suspense.

 

When the skull gives no reply, Kagwa implores (begs) the skull knowing the fate of him if he cannot prove his story. The long journey and the silence of the skull heightens the suspense of the scene. The reader might ask himself: ‘Gosh!, what will happen to Kagwa now?’

 

The guards said, ‘Kneel down.’

They killed him with sword and spear.

Then the skull opened its mouth;

‘Huntsman, how did you come here?’

And the dead man answered,

‘Talking brought me here.’

 

humour: the question of the skull and the answer of Kagwa evoke humour.

 

The end reveals the moral of the story. It was late for Kagwa to understand the meaning of the golden word spoken by the skull when they met first. It is advisable for a person to understand what he speaks and to whom he speak and he should be responsible for what he speaks. Kagwa’s predicament shows the reader the ill effects of speaking to a wrong person with unconfirmed information. He could have questioned further from the skull and discuss the matter with a person with better intellectual capacity before conveying the message which is beyond his level of explanation.

Nevertheless, as the poem is written in simple language and the message is laid straightforward, the reader can grasp the meaning of the poem easily. If there are points to be added or deleted, please mention in the comment section below.

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