The Huntsman Poem by Edward Lowbury Main Idea, Explanation, Questions

The Huntsman Poem

The Huntsman Poem by Edward Lowbury

About the Poet | Edward Lowbury

Edward Lowbury (1913 – 2007) Edward Joseph Lowbury, was born in London in 1913. Though he was an innovative British medical bacteriologist and pathologist, yet he enjoys a good repute as a published poet. He had dedicated all his life to the service of medical research. 


During his long poetic career, he published seven commercial collections. His fame mainly depends upon his unique use of humor, irony, paradoxes, and satire. Between 1936-85, Lowbury published seven collections and shared them in

two joint collections. 


Much of the work of Edward Lowbury can be found in the following (which were followed by a new collection): Selected and New Poems 1935-1989 (Frome, 1990), collected poems (University of Salzburg, Austria, 1993), Mystic Bridge (Frome, 1997).


In the last part of his career, Lowbury had delivered many lectures on literary themes to learned societies; these were finally collected, along with a few essays, in Hallmarks of Poetry (University of Salzburg, 1994). He died in 2007.


Main Idea | Theme of Poem | The Huntsman

The Huntsman is an interesting poem based on African folklore. It is a story of a huntsman  Kagwa. He used to hunt lions in the forest. One day, while he was hunting, he saw a talking skull of a man. He asked the skull, how did

he come there. 


The skull replied that talking brought him there. Kagwa was surprised to see the talking skull. He hurriedly went to the king’s court and told him about the talking skull. The king sent guards with Kagwa to search the talking skull. Kagwa and guards searched the talking skull everywhere in the forest. 


After a long search, they found the talking skull. Kagwa asked the same question how did he come there. This time the skull did not open its mouth. Kagwa requested the skull time and again but to no avail. The guards executed the order of the king. 


They killed Kagwa. Then the skull asked the same question to Kagwa about how did he come there. This time dead Kagwa replied that his talking brought him there. The poem “The Huntsman” has many moral lessons. Firstly, it advises us that we should think before we speak. 


Secondly, we should not speak too much. Thirdly, we should not make haste. Sometimes by our hasty nature, we become the victim of unexpected dangers. Edward Lowbury is a great English poet. He is famous for his moralistic



He earned a great reputation for preaching moral values in society. Through this poem, he gives a deep moral lesson to the readers. In his simple and harmless language, he has enlightened the major drawback of human nature. He says that senseless talking is always ridiculéd and insulted. 


He gives golden advice that we must think before we speak because silence is gold. Although talking is a gift of God yet a person should not speak all the time. In this poem, the irony is also used. It means the difference between appearance and reality. In this poem, Kagwa appears to us as a brave person, because he used to hunt the lions.


He is physically strong but he lacks wisdom. The talking skull has explained to him the reason for his death. He must have realized that the same loose and careless talking could have brought death to him. But he talks to the king in a carefree manner. 

The main theme of the poem is repeated twice in the poem. Firstly, when Kagwa asked the dead skull how did he come there. This time the skull replied, Talking brought me here. Secondly, the skull asked the same question to the dead Kagwa at the end of the poem that how did he come there. 


This time dead Kagwa replied that talking brought him there. The poem The Huntsman is criticism from many aspects. Firstly, it is a criticism of the nature of talkative persons who speak too much without thinking about the result of their conversation. 


Secondly, the poem is a criticism of the ruler’s kings and all higher authorities who do not like the presence and discoveries of common people. In this poem, the king does not believe in Kagwa’s discovery of the talking skull. Actually, he himself has never seen the talking skull through-out his life. So he does not believe in Kagwa.


Text and Explanation of the poem


Stanza 1

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”.

Reference and Context


These lines have been extracted from the poem “The Huntsman” by Edward Lowbury.In this poem, the poet describes an incident and extracts a conclusion. The poet says that Kagwa was a hunter. He saw the skull of a man talking to him. 


Kagwa told the king all about his meeting and talking with the skull of a man. The king did not believe in him. He sent his guards with Kagwa to search for that skull. They searched the skull but it did not talk and they declared Kagwa a liar. The guards killed Kagwa.




In these lines, the poet is narrating the tragic story of the African hunter Kagwa. Kagwa was a brave hunter. He used to hunt lions in the forest with a sword and spear. One day when he was strolling in the forest, he saw the skull of a dead man. He was, amazed to meet that skull. 


He asked the skull, “How did you come here?” The skull opened its mouth and said, “Talking brought me here”. It was, in fact, a piece of advice for Kagwa that sometimes irresponsible and careless talking proves fatal. But Kagwa failed to understand the underlying

message of those words.


Stanza 2


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’

Woods, jungle

Reference and Context 


same as for the above passage



Kagwa could not conceal his unusual, discovery J)) of the talking skull. Perhaps, with the wish to get some reward by narrating the sensational news about the talking skull, Kagwa went direct to the king and told him the whole story. 

The king remained silent for some time. Then the king told that he had not seen or heard about a talking skull since his birth. It was difficult for him to believe this cock and bull story of Kagwa.


Stanza 3


The king called out his quads.

‘Two of you go with him

And find the talking skull

But if his tale is a lie

And the skull speaks no word,

This Kagwa himself must die.

Reference and Context


Same as for the above passage



The king suspected the truth of Kagwa’s story. The-king sent two of his soldiers with the hunter. He advised them to search the talking skull in the forest and see if his claim was true. The king further ordered his guards to kill Kagwa, if his story was false and the skull did not say any word.


Stanza 4


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.

Reference and Context


Same as for the above




In these lines, the poet tells us that the king’s guards went to the forest along with Kagwa. They searched for the skull for many days and nights. At last, they found the skull. 

Kagwa asked it the same question, “How did you come here?” but the skull remained silent. Kagwa requested the skull, again and again, to speak and save his life but quite ironically the skull did not speak.


Stanza 5


The guards said ‘Knee down’

They killed him with a sword and spear.

Then the skull opened its mouth,

Huntsman, how did you come here?

And the dead man answered:

“Talking brought me here”

Kneel Bent position

Spear Pierce or thrust

Reference and Context


Same as for the above passage




In these lines, the poet concludes the tragic end of Kagwa’s story. When the skull

did not speak as per the order of the king, the guards promptly beheaded Kagwa. After his death, the skull opened its mouth and asked Kagwa how he had come there. 


The skull of Kagwa replied, “Talking brought me here”. How sad it was that Kagwa learnt the lesson but at the expense of his life! However, his tragic fate teaches us that we should avoid talkativeness. 


We should be extra careful while talking to others and especially to men of authority. We should think before we speak. We should also be ready to face the consequences of what we say.


In much of your talking, thinking is half murdered

He who talks too much commits a sin”.


Important Questions and Answers


Question 1

The poem Huntsman is a blend of funny and unfunny aspects of life
the elements of suspense and irony create a shocking impact. Do you agree? Explain your answer.
Discuss in detail the use of elements of suspense and irony in the poem.
Write a note on the irony in The Huntsman.


The poem The Huntsman deals with the elements of suspense and irony. lt is written in a very simple and lucid style. The suspense and irony improve the literary quality of the poem. Suspense means mental and thrill. The poem The Huntsman is full of elements of suspense. 


The suspense starts from the very beginning of the poem when Kagwa finds a talking skull. Suspense goes on when Kagwa reaches the court of the king. The readers cannot guess what will happen with Kagwa in the future. But later suspense ends, when readers come to know that Kagwa has died by his talkative nature.


Irony is a literary term, which means the difference between appearance and reality In this poem, the irony of fate is hidden in the first line; Kagwa hunted the lion.This line expresses the brave nature of Kagwa.
Although Kagwa is physically a strong person yet in At the end of the poem he is killed by his foolish talkative nature. So here irony reveals that Kagwa appears to us as a brave person but he dies like a foolish person.


Question 2

Discuss the role of fate in the poem, The Huntsman.
The poem huntsman delineates the role of fate in man’s life in a very attractive way. It also revolves around the more serious and important thing in life, i-e, think before you speak but it also makes it clear that man cannot escape fate.
Kagwa, no doubt was very brave and daring as he hunted lions in the forests all alone but he fell a helpless prey to fate when he could not understand the message of the skull. The skull explicitly told Kagwa that talking brought it there.
His talking frivolously brought about the death of that person but Kagwa’s fate was also the same. He could have gone directly to his home, he could have told about the talking skull to his close friend or to his wife if he had comprehended the understandable message of the skull. 
But it was in the fate of Kagwa to go to the king straight. He went to the king’s seat and told the unbelievable thing that he had seen some talking Skull. The king surely could not believe this kind of foolish and absurd tale.
The rulers are often offended easily, especially; when they are busy in an important state matters. The same thing occurred and the king sent Kagwa back royal guards with the order to kill Kagwa if his story proved. 
Again we, the readers could not understand fate when the skull did not utter a single word besides the requests of Kagwa. It was really horrible and astonishing but it was the role of fate that is unavoidable. Kagwa had to meet his fate, death, in this way, so he was unable to understand the message of the skull.

Question 3 

How did the Hunter get hunted in  The Huntsman?
The Huntsman does discover his blunder but too late. Elaborate.
What is Kagwa’s story in The Huntsman?


The poem The Huntsman explains the uncertainty of human life. It proves that life is full of unexpected turns. Man is playing ball and puppet in the hands of fate.


As flies are to the wanton boys
Are we to gods?

They kill us for their sports


If fate turns hostile, it destroys man. Kagwa fell a victim to a cruel fate. Fate constantly plotted against him and brought about his death. 


It is an irony of fate that he was killed with the same spear and sword with which he used to hunt the lions. His hostile fate arranged a meeting with him and the talking skull that proved killing. 
How many innocent people like Kagwa fall prey to cruel fate. The irony of the poem is that a brave man who hunted lions more powerful than himself was hunted mercilessly by fate.


Question 5

Discuss the moral lesson or basic theme of The Huntsman
The poem urges the readers to think about the value and significance of human life. Is It really so worthless and futile? Does the loss of human life bring no remorse(at all? Is man so helpless in front Of unseen savage forces of nature? 
These questions naturally lead to certain moral conclusions. Firstly the poem teaches us that we should think before we speak. Secondly, we should not speak too much. Thirdly we should not make haste. 
Sometimes by our hasty nature, we become the victim of unexpected dangers, So one should be very careful in his talking and actions. Sometimes a little carelessness results in a horrible disaster. 
A man should be very cautious about what he says and to whom he says. He should be ready to face the consequences of his words and deeds. He must accept responsibility for his behavior.

About the Author

Anila Ibrahim

An educationist, web content writer, equipped with an LLB and a Master’s degree in English Literature, as well as a Master of Philosophy in Entrepreneurship. I have a comprehensive understanding of both the English language and the educational landscape. This academic background empowers Anila to deliver content that is not only informative but also thoroughly researched.

12 thoughts on “The Huntsman Poem by Edward Lowbury Main Idea, Explanation, Questions

  1. Hmmm. I got the point for my critical essay for my exam. Bcs my teacher expects only critical thinking not renarration. So when I'm using my critical thinking, I can apply 2 or 3 lines which inspired me.Thanks

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