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BA ADP English Poem Snake (D. H. Lawrence) Summary & Introduction

BA ADP English Poem Snake

Snake (D. H. Lawrence) Introduction

The poem is about the personal experience of the poet on a hot afternoon. It is among the well-known poems of the poet. It has many layers of meaning. The poet goes on to change his viewpoint about the snake. The first feeling is that of fear: he is afraid to see the snake. The second is that of being honored: he is honored to think that the snake is his guest. The third is that of fascination: he is charmed by the body and behavior of the snake. The fourth is that of disgust: he tries to kill the snake with a piece of wood because the “voice” of his “education” had told him that the snake was poisonous. The fifth, or the last, is that of remorse: he is sorry for his foolish attack and behavior with the snake.

Snake (D. H. Lawrence) Summary

The poet once came down with a pitcher on a hot day in Etna, Sicily, to get water from his water trough for drinking. He was feeling so hot that he was not in his formal dress; he was in his pajamas. When he reached near the trough, he saw a snake there that was drinking water. The snake had come out of a hole in a mud wall. It had drawn all its length slowly to the water-trough for drinking water as it must also feeling hot and thirsty (like the poet himself).
The poet waited at the trough like a late/second comer for his turn. The snake was drinking water like cattle. It looked in the middle at the poet and flickered its forked tongue. The poet realized that the snake had come out of the bowels of the hot earth because of excessive heat.
As the poet was well-educated, he was told by the voice of his education that as the snake was poisonous, so he must kill it at once. Education told him that all golden snakes in Sicily were poisonous and that was a golden one! But the poet was almost honored to think that the snake had arrived at his water-trough as a guest. It would go away quietly to the bowels of the earth as it had come out of it. The poet, therefore, did not attack it: he took the snake as a guest that had arrived to enjoy its hospitality.
He now wanted to talk to it. Still, his modern scientific education was again telling him to kill it. He hesitated for some time. During this time the snake drank water to its full and started its return journey.
Then the poet took an ugly piece of wood lying nearby and threw it at the trough. As the snake realized this attack on itself, it hurried towards its hole, a crack in the mud-wall, and drew its remaining length hurriedly. The poet looked at its movement with fascination and interest as it disappeared into its hole.
The poet felt rather ashamed at his behavior (i.e., the attack). He felt that it was a very mean action on his part. He had been tempted by his education to kill the snake. He thought of the innocent “albatross” [that was killed by the mariner in the great poem of S.T. Coleridge: The Rime of the Ancient Mariner]. He now desired that the snake should return but it would not! He imagined the snake as a king of the underground world who had come to the poet’s world temporarily and was now being crowned in its own world again. The poet felt ashamed at the poor behavior he had shown to such a lord of life. He wanted to do some penance for this petty act he had committed.

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