D.H. Lawrence is one of the most prominent figures in 20th century English literature. He was a novelist, story writer, poet, and painter. The poem, Snake is a part of the reptile section of his book Birds, Beasts, and Flowers. The poem was written when the poet lived in Taormina, Sicily. The poem is not written in a rhythm. It is written in free verse like a story. The poem represents the modern way of writing poems.
The poem ‘Snake’ gives a detailed description of the moments when the poet encountered a snake at his water trough. First, the poet talks about how he is fascinated by the snake but then later fear creeps into him and he did an inappropriate act for which he felt guilty. He said that his feelings were quite similar to the feelings of the ancient mariner.
The poet describes how a snake came to his water trough to drink water on one hot day. The poet threw a log at it but the snake escaped into a hole. The poet felt guilty and criticized himself for his actions. What he says in his reaction is the subject of the poem.
In this poem ‘Snake’, the poet is full of admiration and respect for snakes. He regards them as a beautiful creation of God but at the same moment, he also fears them because of the education that he got when he was young.
It was a very hot day in Taormina, Sicily where the poet lived. The poet went to his water trough in the backyard of his house to fill water in a pitcher. The water trough was present in the deep and scented shade of the carob tree. There he saw a golden brown coloured snake drinking water from the trough. For a moment, the poet got scared but he was also very glad to have a guest. So, he patiently waited for his turn at the water trough.
The poet admired the beauty of the snake, which appeared to be harmless. He realized that the snake had just come to drink water and quench its thirst. It would return to its home peacefully. The poet had many conflicting thoughts in his mind. He says that his education in his childhood taught him that golden brown coloured snakes are poisonous and dangerous. His inner voice was coaxing him to kill him but at the same time, he was in full admiration of the creation of God.
The snake was unaware of the presence of the poet. It drank water to its satisfaction and raised its head dreamily. It flickered its forked tongue and also licked its lips. The snake looked like a God. Slowly it turned and moved away from the trough and probably it was on its way back to his hole. When the poet saw the snake moving away, he was terror struck. To prove himself that he was not a coward, he picked up a log of wood and threw it at the snake. The poet missed the target but the snake sensed danger and disappeared hastily inside the hole.
However, the poet stared with fascination at the snake but at the same time, a feeling of guilt for treating his guest in a dishonored way gripped him. He regretted his act of trying to hit the snake. In the beginning, he felt honored that it had come to his trough to drink water but later his fear forced him to kill it. He found his feelings of repentance quite similar to the feelings of an ancient mariner who had killed the Albatross bird. He considered his action of hitting his ‘guest’ to be a sin. He started hating himself and his human education.
The poet hoped and wished for the snake to come out of his hole so that he could apologize and make amends for his mistake. The poet thinks that the snake is actually the uncrowned king. So it hides in the interior of the Earth in exile. He felt that he missed a chance to crown and honour the king. The poet ardently wishes to crown the snake.
Q1. Why Did the Poet Have Conflicting Emotions on Seeing the Snake?
Ans. The poet was of full admiration and respect for the snake. He was fascinated by the creation of God. He admired the golden brown colour of the snake. He felt honored that such a beautiful creation of God had come to his house to drink water. The snake seemed to be harmless and peaceful and its only purpose was to drink water to quench its thirst but at the same time, his education in childhood reminded him that golden brown snakes were poisonous and dangerous. He wanted to kill the snake. To prove himself that he was not a coward he picked a log of wood and threw it at the snake. The snake quickly disappeared into the hole but the poet felt very guilty about his action.
Q2. Describe the Encounter Between the Poet and the Snake.
Ans. The poet encountered the snake at his water trough in the backyard of his home. It was a very hot day and the poet went out in his pajamas to fill the pitcher with water from the trough, which was located in the deep scented shade of the carob tree. The snake was peacefully drinking water. The poet also waited for his turn. He was honored to have a guest in his backyard. Later, when the snake drank enough water to its satisfaction, it licked his lips and looked around like a God. When the snake turned to depart from the trough, the poet picked a log of wood and hit the snake. Though he missed the target the snake sensed danger and hastily disappeared into the hole.
Q3. Why Did the Poet Say that the Snake is the Uncrowned King?
Ans. The poet said the snake is an uncrowned king because the snake is a very peaceful animal and its behaviour is like a king, royal, majestic and charming. Snakes live deep inside the earth as if they are in exile because they don’t want to be disturbed by anyone.
Q4. To Whom Did the Poet Compare His Feelings of Repentance?
Ans. The poet compared his feelings of repentance with an ancient mariner who had killed an Albatross bird because of a myth.