'Snake' by D.H. Lawrence
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A snake came to my water-trough
On a hot, hot day, and I in pyjamas for the heat,
To drink there.
In the deep, strange-scented shade of the great dark carob-tree
I came down the steps with my pitcher
And must wait, must stand and wait, for there he was at the trough before
He reached down from a fissure in the earth-wall in the gloom
And trailed his yellow-brown slackness soft-bellied down, over the edge of
the stone trough
And rested his throat upon the stone bottom,
And where the water had dripped from the tap, in a small clearness,
He sipped with his straight mouth,
Softly drank through his straight gums, into his slack long body,
Someone was before me at my water-trough,
And I, like a second comer, waiting.
He lifted his head from his drinking, as cattle do,
And looked at me vaguely, as drinking cattle do,
And flickered his two-forked tongue from his lips, and mused a moment,
And stooped and drank a little more,
Being earth-brown, earth-golden from the burning bowels of the earth
On the day of Sicilian July, with Etna smoking.
The voice of my education said to me
He must be killed,
For in Sicily the black, black snakes are innocent, the gold are venomous.
And voices in me said, If you were a man
You would take a stick and break him now, and finish him off.
But must I confess how I liked him,
How glad I was he had come like a guest in quiet, to drink at my water-trough
And depart peaceful, pacified, and thankless,
Into the burning bowels of this earth?
Was it cowardice, that I dared not kill him? Was it perversity, that I longed to talk to him? Was it humility, to feel so honoured?
I felt so honoured.
And yet those voices:
If you were not afraid, you would kill him!
And truly I was afraid, I was most afraid, But even so, honoured still more
That he should seek my hospitality
From out the dark door of the secret earth.
He drank enough
And lifted his head, dreamily, as one who has drunken,
And flickered his tongue like a forked night on the air, so black,
Seeming to lick his lips,
And looked around like a god, unseeing, into the air,
And slowly turned his head,
And slowly, very slowly, as if thrice adream,
Proceeded to draw his slow length curving round
And climb again the broken bank of my wall-face.
And as he put his head into that dreadful hole,
And as he slowly drew up, snake-easing his shoulders, and entered farther,
A sort of horror, a sort of protest against his withdrawing into that horrid black hole,
Deliberately going into the blackness, and slowly drawing himself after,
Overcame me now his back was turned.
I looked round, I put down my pitcher,
I picked up a clumsy log
And threw it at the water-trough with a clatter.
I think it did not hit him,
But suddenly that part of him that was left behind convulsed in undignified haste.
Writhed like lightning, and was gone
Into the black hole, the earth-lipped fissure in the wall-front,
At which, in the intense still noon, I stared with fascination.
And immediately I regretted it.
I thought how paltry, how vulgar, what a mean act!
I despised myself and the voices of my accursed human education.
And I thought of the albatross
And I wished he would come back, my snake.
For he seemed to me again like a king,
Like a king in exile, uncrowned in the underworld,
Now due to be crowned again.
And so, I missed my chance with one of the lords
And I have something to expiate:
Editor 1 Interpretation
Snake by D.H. Lawrence: A Literary Criticism and Interpretation
Are you familiar with D.H. Lawrence's poem "Snake"? If you aren't, then you are in for a treat. This poem is a masterpiece that has inspired and fascinated readers for generations. In this literary criticism and interpretation, I will delve into the depths of the poem and uncover its hidden meanings and themes.
Before we dive into the poem, let's first look at some background information about the poet, D.H. Lawrence. He was an English writer who lived from 1885 to 1930. Lawrence was known for his controversial and unconventional views on sexuality, spirituality, and nature. His works often explore the complex relationships between humans and the natural world.
"Snake" was first published in 1923 in Lawrence's collection of poems titled "Birds, Beasts and Flowers." The poem is based on an actual incident that occurred in the summer of 1920 when Lawrence and his wife were living in Taormina, Sicily. Lawrence encountered a snake drinking from a water trough in his garden, and the encounter inspired him to write this poem.
The poem begins with the speaker describing his encounter with the snake. The speaker is surprised to see the snake, as it is an unusual sight, especially in the heat of the summer. The use of the word "gingerly" suggests that the speaker is approaching the snake cautiously, afraid of being bitten. However, the snake does not seem to notice the speaker's presence and continues to drink from the water trough.
In the second stanza, the speaker begins to examine his own feelings towards the snake. He is torn between his fear and his fascination with the creature. The use of the word "banished" suggests that the speaker is trying to suppress his natural instincts and emotions, perhaps due to societal expectations. However, he cannot help but feel a sense of awe at the sight of the snake.
The third stanza is where the poem takes a dramatic turn. The speaker suddenly realizes that he has the power to kill the snake. He picks up a log and prepares to strike the creature. However, he cannot bring himself to do it. The use of the word "convulsed" suggests that the speaker is experiencing intense internal turmoil. He is conflicted between his desire to kill the snake and his admiration for it.
The fourth stanza is where the poem's themes and messages become more apparent. The speaker begins to reflect on his own beliefs and values. He questions the morality of killing an innocent creature and wonders if it is justified. The use of the word "savage" suggests that the speaker is questioning the brutality of human nature. He realizes that his desire to kill the snake is a result of societal conditioning that has taught him to fear and hate certain creatures.
In the fifth and final stanza, the speaker makes the decision to spare the snake's life. He acknowledges that his fear and hatred of the creature were misplaced and unjustified. The use of the word "worship" suggests that the speaker has come to view the snake as a symbol of nature and the divine. He realizes that all living creatures are interconnected and that each has its own unique purpose.
Themes and Messages
"Snake" is a poem that explores several themes and messages, including:
Nature and the Divine
One of the main themes of the poem is the relationship between nature and the divine. The snake is portrayed as a symbol of nature and the divine, and the speaker's decision to spare its life is a recognition of the sacredness of all living creatures.
The poem also explores the brutality of human nature and the societal conditioning that has taught us to fear and hate certain creatures. The speaker's internal struggle to kill the snake is a reflection of the conflict between our natural instincts and our societal conditioning.
Morality and Ethics
The poem raises important questions about morality and ethics. The speaker questions the morality of killing an innocent creature and wonders if it is ever justified. His decision to spare the snake's life is a recognition of the moral responsibility we have towards all living creatures.
In conclusion, "Snake" is a powerful and thought-provoking poem that explores several important themes and messages. D.H. Lawrence's use of vivid imagery and symbolism creates a rich and complex narrative that invites readers to reflect on their own beliefs and values. It is a timeless masterpiece that continues to inspire and captivate readers to this day.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
Snake by D.H. Lawrence: A Poem of Human Nature and the Natural World
D.H. Lawrence's poem "Snake" is a masterpiece of modern poetry that explores the complex relationship between humans and the natural world. The poem is a vivid and evocative portrayal of a man's encounter with a snake, and the conflicting emotions and thoughts that arise within him. Through the use of vivid imagery, powerful symbolism, and a masterful command of language, Lawrence creates a work of art that speaks to the deepest aspects of human nature and the natural world.
The poem begins with the speaker describing his encounter with a snake on a hot summer day. The snake is described in vivid detail, with its "yellow-brown slackness" and "soft-bellied" appearance. The speaker is initially afraid of the snake, and considers killing it with a log. However, he is struck by the beauty and majesty of the creature, and decides to let it go. This decision is not without conflict, however, as the speaker is torn between his fear and his admiration for the snake.
The poem is filled with powerful symbolism that speaks to the deeper themes of the work. The snake is a symbol of the natural world, and the speaker's encounter with it represents his encounter with the primal forces of nature. The snake is also a symbol of temptation and sin, as it is often associated with the biblical story of Adam and Eve. The speaker's decision not to kill the snake can be seen as a rejection of the idea of original sin, and a celebration of the natural world and its beauty.
Lawrence's use of language is also masterful, and adds to the power and beauty of the poem. The poem is filled with vivid imagery, such as the "hot, white, inwards turning anger of a snake" and the "flickering tongue" of the creature. The language is also rich with sensory detail, such as the "cool, smooth, and very delicious" water that the speaker drinks after his encounter with the snake. This attention to detail creates a vivid and immersive experience for the reader, and adds to the emotional impact of the poem.
One of the most striking aspects of the poem is the way in which it explores the complex relationship between humans and the natural world. The speaker's encounter with the snake is a reminder of the primal forces that exist within all of us, and the connection that we have with the natural world. The poem is also a commentary on the destructive nature of human beings, and the way in which we often seek to dominate and control the natural world. The speaker's decision not to kill the snake can be seen as a rejection of this destructive impulse, and a celebration of the beauty and majesty of the natural world.
In conclusion, "Snake" is a masterpiece of modern poetry that explores the complex relationship between humans and the natural world. Through the use of vivid imagery, powerful symbolism, and a masterful command of language, Lawrence creates a work of art that speaks to the deepest aspects of human nature and the natural world. The poem is a reminder of the primal forces that exist within all of us, and the connection that we have with the natural world. It is also a commentary on the destructive nature of human beings, and the way in which we often seek to dominate and control the natural world. "Snake" is a timeless work of art that will continue to inspire and move readers for generations to come.
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