Snake By D. H. Lawrence


On a very hot summer day, the poet came across a snake at a stone container of water. It had come to drink water. The poet had gone there to carry water. However, the poet had to wait some time until the snake leaves the place. The snake slowly moved over the container and drank water through his straight gums. The colour of the snake was earth-brown. The poet seemed to be a good man. His education advised him to kill the snake as it was poisonous. His inner voice told him that he should act promptly and kill the snake. But the poet liked the snake. He thought that it was a guest, who had come to his water tank to drink water. He wondered whether it was cowardice on his part that he did not try to kill the snake. Similarly, he thought over his action and his inner voice told him that he should kill the snake A sort of horror about the snake was in his mind.

When the snake enjoyed his drinking, he lifted his head like a drunken man. Then he moved slowly towards his hole. When the half part of the snake’s back was visible, there was a protest in his mind. He immediately threw a log of wood at the snake. It did not hit the snake and it disappeared into the hole. The poet deeply thought over his action. He was very sorry for his mean act. He strongly hated his education and himself, which made him so unkind. Then he remembered an incident from Coleridge’s ridge’s poem, The Ancient Marriner. The innocent albatross bird’s killing was a cruel act on the part of the killer and for that, he was cursed. The poet was very sorry for the snake. He wished that the snake should come back and he would get an opportunity to honour him.


Snake is one of the best poems from the collection of poems entitled Birds, Beasts and Flowers by D. H. Lawrence. The collection of the poems was published in 1923, which is known as epoch-making, as it is somewhat special in range, accuracy and intensity. The poem Snake is concerned with the poet’s personal experience, which brings out his vision of the living world. The poem explains fully the inner mind of the poet. We come to know through the poem, what is happening in the mind of the poet. Lawrence dramatizes the conflict between two responses to nature. The first one is the innate intuitive response that recognizes oneness amongst all things and the other is the acquired cerebral (of the brain) response that separates human beings from others and views everything is opposed to one another.

The poem is very outstanding for its close and authentic observation of a moment in which a snake and a person come together. The brown and golden coloured snake appears like the banished king of the underworld, who represents the mysterious forces of nature neglected by cultured men.

The poem describes his meeting with a snake. The poet gives us all the details about his mental reactions to the appearance of the snake. In the beginning, just by his appearance, the poet was frightened, but later on, there was an attraction in his mind about the snake. However, his education advised him to act cowardly and kill the snake. This very behaviour of the poet later haunted him with its pettiness.

Snake is a thought-provoking poem. The poet beautifully describes a meeting with a snake in his house in Sicily. It was a hot day in the month of July. The poet felt very thirsty and went to the water tank with a pitcher. The very moment he saw the golden-brown coloured snake drinking water from the tank. So far he was educated and taught that the black snakes are innocent and the gold-coloured are poisonous. However, the snake which was in gold colour did not force him to kill it at once. On the other hand, he had some instincts, which make him look upon the snake as a guest. It was the great honour on the part of snake, who made his appearance from the bowels of the earth.

In the poet’s view, the snake was a lord of life, who had a graceful appearance and power like a king. For a time being, the poet was highly influenced by the wonderful creation of snake by God. When the snake turned back into its hole in the wall, there was fear and horror in the mind of poet about the snake, then the very moment he threw a log at it. At once the poet thought over his action and he came to know that his action was full of shame. He was very sorry for his behaviour. He felt that he was guilty and he had great repentance over his cruel action.

The poem is basically known for its psychological conflict in the mind of the poet. It describes the poet in two minds. Just by seeing the snake, he is in a dilemma, whether he should kill it or not. D.H. Lawrence represents this as a conflict between civilized sophistication and natural animal instincts. In the beginning, he brings out his desire to kill the snake and pass himself as a hero in the society.

“I thought how paltry, how vulgar what a mean act!

I despised myself and the voices of my accursed human education.”

The poet’s sincere wish to honour the snake comes out from his instinctive sense of admiration for the God of life. The very thoughts show poet’s sensitive heart and his feelings for the life of all living beings. God has created all living beings and they have equal rights to live. The snake is a symbol of creativity. Poet’s love for all living beings is distinctively seen through his deep thoughts. The education, civilization. and social ambitions have corrupted men. But as far as their primitive impulses are concerned and when they behave honestly and truly, their noble qualities are seen. The poet believes in the essential goodness of the instincts and impulses, which join us with the other forms of life.

The description of snake is wonderful. How the snake drinks water is described in a keen way :

“He lifted his head from his drinking, as cattle do, And looked at me vaguely, as drinking cattle do.”

Further, the poet calls the snake a guest. The snake came quietly from the burning bowels of the earth and drank enough water. It lifted his head dreamily as if he has drunken. The details of his movement show his sense of satisfaction. The poet feels that the snake has a lordly appearance. In his view, the snake has grace and majesty. It is very important. to note that the images used in the poem are concise, concrete and visual. The poem is rich in its. images and descriptive details.

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