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Perhaps of paramount importance in the reading and interpretation of "The Snake," is D. H. Lawrence's is the free-verse form with its characteristic conventions which Lawrence derived from Walt Whitman: repetition, parallel structure, and a natural flow of rhythm. For, this form suits itself to Lawrence's meditative and emotional observation of the snake. Divided into what is called "verse paragraphs," that lend the quality of prose, Lawrence forms the dialectic of his growing self-perception.
Startled at first by the presence of the snake, the poet then is startled and somewhat awed by the sight of the venomous snake,
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,
But, as his meditation continues and the poet admits to liking the snake, he draws in the reader,
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.
Thus, Lawrence creates a paradox in his poem. While he evokes images of guilt with the allusion to the albatross of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, darkness and the underworld of Paradise Lost--"uncrowned in the underworld"--Lawrence also creates images of sexual prowess and lordliness. And, while part of him suggests that he should kill the poisonous snake, another part feels guilt at his pettiness.
D. H. Lawrence's poem "The Snake," for all its ambivalence, is, however, a celebration of nature as a mundane occurrence evolves into a metaphysical meditation of the relationship of the poet with a creature of the earth. Vivid imagery and similes place the snake "at the trough before me." One critic writes that "Snake" can be read on two levels, as narrative and as symbol.
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