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D. H. Lawrence’s poem “Snake” provides a look into an unforgettable event in the poet’s life---a snake encounter in Sicily. Using first person point of view and employing the flashback technique, the poet brings the reader into the scene of his backyard when he thought he was just going to get some water.
One of the themes of the poems involves the fear versus fascination aspect of the speaker’s part in the poem. He fears the venomous snake; but, he cannot seem to take his eyes from the beauty of the snake, his nobility, and elusiveness.
Using the “s” sound which is also in the sound that the snake makes, the poet describes the setting of the encounter
“In the deep, strange-scented shade of the great dark carob-tree
And rested his throat upon the stone bottom…”
“He sipped with his straight mouth,
Softly drank through his straight gums, into his slack long body,
The poet compares the snake lifting his head and looking around to a cow when it is drinking
The poet alludes to the poem “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” and the albatross which was tied around the neck of a sailor who had killed the sea bird.
Diction and vocabulary
Lawrence uses beautifully coined phrases which provide the reader with a clear picture along with an emotional hue that rings true---“ From out the dark door of the secret earth…” One never thinks of the earth holding secrets, but it does…
The narrator comes out to his water trough under a tree to get some water. What he sees both fascinates and makes him afraid----a venomous snake is lying in his trough getting a drink. the man stands and waits his turn, he thinks over As he came down the steps in his pyjamas with
Describing himself as waiting in line for the water, he watches the actions and movements of the snake. The snake slithers down the stone trough. Vividly the poet describes the snake as he stands watching it drink, sipping the water dripping from the top with its straight mouth through its straight gums silently.
His intellect begins to override his admiration for this uncrowned King. His maleness begins to say---kill it. Emotionally, he felt honored that the snake would seek out his water. He liked the snake.
When the snake finishes, he slowly begins to return to his hole [deadly] in the wall. He flickers his tongue as he withdraws himself from the trough. He looks at the narrator and pays no notice. The snake puts his head back the hole and slowly eases the rest of his body through.
An evil feeling comes over the poet. He picks up a log and throws it at the snake. After he tosses the log, the narrator immediately feels guilt and remorse. He waits until the snake has his back turned and his head securely out of sight to give his ”all too human” response to the creature.
The speaker’s confusion concerning the snake varies from fear, admiration, revulsion toward him, to honor. He felt like the serpent was a guest at his watering hole. Yet, society tells him to kill the snake even if it does no harm. He follows that process with his rash behavior; however, the man regrets and is ashamed of his actions.
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