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Why does D. H. Lawrence refer to the albatross in the poem, "Snake"?

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rafarev | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted August 7, 2012 at 1:06 PM via web

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Why does D. H. Lawrence refer to the albatross in the poem, "Snake"?

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Kristen Lentz | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted August 7, 2012 at 2:07 PM (Answer #1)

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The mention of the albatross is an allusion to "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" in which the mariner kills the albatross and suffers ill consequences for his act against nature.  Lawrence alludes to the albatross as means of comparison to the speaker's act of throwing the "clumsy log" at the snake as he crept into the hole. 

Clearly, the speaker of the poem regrets his act of "pettiness" and in comparing himself to the mariner in the other poem, feels that he too has acted against the natural world.  Lawrence's poem glorifies the snake, praising it for its beauty and grace, comparing it to a king; after the speaker's half-hearted attempt to kill the snake, he feels guilty and wishes that the snake would return from its hole so that he might make amends for his action.

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Kristen Lentz

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sunshine250495 | Student, Undergraduate | Honors

Posted November 17, 2012 at 7:06 AM (Answer #3)

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David Herbert Lawrence alludes to another famed poem by Coleridge 'The ancient Mariner' in which an old sailor kills the bird that helps him, and is then made to suffer for his isn. Similarly, the speaker in the poem 'Snake' criticises himself for attacking a defenceless creature who had not harmed him. The irony of the poem lies in the fact that the speaker considers attacking the snake as it would be cowardice to not do so, as his civilized rationality tells him: “If you were not afraid, you would kill him”. But the real cowardice lies in the fact that the speaker attacks a blameless, innocent creature who had not harmed him, and attacked him then when ‘his back was turned’. Thus Lawrence potrays clearly Man's relationship with Nature, and how Man destroys Nature who does not harm him.

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