Why does the poet make an allusion to the albatross in the poem "The Snake" by D.H. Lawrence?

1 Answer | Add Yours

carol-davis's profile pic

carol-davis | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

The poem "The Snake," by D.H. Lawrence masterfully recalls a scene in 1923 when he was living in Sicily near Mt. Etna.  A poisonous snake passively drinks from the poet's water trough.  Serving as the first person narrator, the poet watches the scene with a wide range of emotions.

Initially,  the poet wants the snake not to be there. Irritated by having to wait in line, the man feels as though this is his territory and not the snakes.  As the poem evolves, the poet's view of the snake changes to one of admiration.  Although afraid of the snake, the man feels respect for this god-like creature.

Perversely, voices in the man's head speak to him telling him to kill the snake:

I looked round, I put down my pitcher,

I picked up a clumsy log

And threw it at the water-trough with a clatter.

Immediately remorseful for possibly hurting the snake, the man wishes that he could take back his actions.  The relationship between the reptile and the man has been broken.

To express this broken relationship, the poet makes an allusion to the albatross in Samuel Coldridge's poem "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner."

And I thought of the albatross

And i wished he would come back, my snake

In the poem, the mariner kills an albatross for no reason.  The mariner is made to wear the bird around his neck.  All the other sailors believe this will bring a curse to the man.  However, everyone else on the ship is killed except the man wearing the albatross.  The albatross was not a curse but possibly an opportunity.

The snake was innocent, like the albatross, and had done nothing wrong in wanting to refresh itself in the trough.  Why had the poet thought to kill it?  Like the albatross, the snake would have been killed for no reason but only for possibilities. 

Ashamed, the man wishes that he could compensate for his actions.  The poet feels as though he missed  a chance with one of the kings of nature...yet now it has become his snake like the albatross was the mariner's albatross. 

Sources:

We’ve answered 318,911 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question