The Huntsman Poem by Edward Lowbury Summary, Notes and Line by Line Explanation in English for Students


The poem “The Huntsman” is a ballad written by Edward Lowbury. The poem is based on Kenyan Folklore. He heard this story while he was posted to Kenya. The main theme behind the poem is “Talking without prior thinking can result in tragedy”.

About the Poet:

Edward Lowbury is an English pathologist, poet, author and educator. He was born in 1913. Lowbury has published seven collections of works. His writing style is lyrical. He uses plain and concise language in his writings. 


The poem “The Huntsman” is a ballad. The term “Ballad” refers to a poem with musical quality. It is narrative in nature ie it narrates a story. Mostly ballads are written in the form of ABAB rhyme scheme. The poem “The Huntsman” consists of 5 stanzas.Each stanza has 6 lines each.


Each line consists of five to seven words on average. The poet has used spacing and line breaks to emphasise the incidents taking place in the poem. But, the poet has not followed a certain metric form. It is written with an iambic metre with variations on the number.

Point of view:

The poem “The Huntsman” is written from a third person point of view. It tells about the story of Kagwa, a huntsman in this poem.


The poem “The Huntsman” is an African Ballad by Edward Lowbury. Kagwa is the main character of the poem. Kagwa, a huntsman, one day finds a talking skull. With excitement he runs to the King and informs about the talking skull. The king doesn’t believe this story. So, he sends two guards along with Kagwa to find the talking skull. But, he has ordered the guards to kill Kagwa, if they cannot find the talking skull. After travelling for a long time, Kagwa asks the skull to speak. But, the skull remains quiet which results in the death of Kagwa. After Kagwa dies, the skull opens its mouth and asks the same question which was earlier asked by Kagwa to the skull “Huntsman how did you come here”. To which Kagwa replies the same answer of the skull “Talking brought me here”.

Poem Analysis:

Lines 1-6:

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.’

The poet begins the poem with the introduction of a character named “Kagwa”. He is a hunter. One day after hunting a lion, he found the skull of a man in the forest. To pass his time, he asked how he came to the place. Surprisingly,  the skull opened its mouth and answered “Talking brought me here”.

Lines 7-12:

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.’

With mixed emotions, Kagwa hurried to his home. He couldn’t control his mind. So, he went to the king and informed about the talking skull in the forest. The king listened to the story slowly and told, he has never seen or heard of a speaking skull in his life.

Lines 13-18:

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.’

The king didn’t believe the story of the huntsman. To verify the story he calls his two guards to go along with Kangwa. He orders them to find the talking skull. If the skull speaks no words then he orders the guards to kill Kagwa.

Lines 19-24:

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.

Kagwa along with the guards started their journey to the forest. The trip was long, it took days and nights to reach the place. Kagwa found the skull, and asked the same question “How did you come here?”. The skull said nothing. Kagwa pleaded with the skull, but the skull remained quiet.

Lines 25-30:

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.’

Now, the guards have to do their duty. So, they made Kagwa kneel down. Soon, they killed him with a sword and spear.As soon Kagwa dies, the skull opens its mouth and asks Kagwa “Huntsman, how did you come here?”. Now the dead Kagwa answered “Talking brought me here”.