Imagery in a poem refers to the elements that engage the senses. Images can relate to any of the senses (sight, taste, sound, touch, smell) as in the poem “The Snake” by D. H. Lawrence. The poet could have said “I see a snake.” However, there is so much more in the scene that creates powerful images by the poet’s use of literary techniques: simile, metaphor, alliteration, and personification. Poetry lends itself to painting a picture with just the right words.
This is true in this poem. Lawrence brings the reader into the scene outside of his house in Sicily on a hot day. His description includes adjectives that provide a clear picture of the setting:
In the deep, strange-scented shade of the great dark carob-tree
The tree provides the cover for the hot day as the snake drinks---not only is the image visual but involves the sense of smell as well.
The snake comes to life as though it were a thinking, powerful monarch. The reader learns that the snake is venomous:
He reached down…
And trailed his yellow-brown slackness soft-bellied down,
Later in the poem, the poet uses the comparison (a simile) of the snake drinking as cattle do from a water trough. In addition, he employs alliteration beautifully when the snake flicks his forked tongue.
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
Lawrence, who is the protagonist and narrator of the poem, struggles with whether he should kill the venomous snake. In his mind, he reflects on his education and knows that he would be criticized for allowing a deadly reptile to live. Yet, the poet likes the snake and admires his grace and lack of fear of the man. When he throws a stick at the snake, Lawrence immediately regrets his actions and feels complete shame for ruining the connection and possibly harming this creation that wanted nothing but a drink on a hot day.
And I thought of the albatross (a literary allusion to another poem "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner)
And I wished he would come back, my snake.