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Poem ‘Snake’ by D. H. Lawrence

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    When the snake first came to the water-trough, the narrator was excited and glad “he had come like a guest in quiet, to drink at my water trough.” He “felt so honoured” at this visit whilst at the same time, the voices of his “accursed human education” advised him to kill it, for it was a gold snake and therefore venomous.

    Those voices said to him, “If you were not afraid you would kill him.” The narrator “picked up a clumsy log And threw it” at the snake when the snake was leaving. Like for a moment, the majestic spell of awe was broken and the voices overpowered him so his real cowardice shone through. He had asked himself whilst feeling this awe, if it were “cowardice, that I dared not kill him?” but his real cowardice came when the snake’s “back was turned.”I also think that when he threw the log at the snake, it was almost a cry out that he was not to go. He said that it was his voices, but it seems to me that he used that as an excuse. That he was almost trying to punish the snake for leaving him. The narrator says he felt “A sort of horror, a sort of protest against his withdrawing into that horrid black hole”then he threw the log.

    The use of words like silently, softly, in the beginning when he is first describing the snake and the snake’s motions, serve to get us into a quiet, observing mood.

    The narrator describes the snake and it’s movements well to create the atmosphere. The use of words like silently, softly, in the beginning when he is first describing the snake and the snake’s motions, serve to get us into a quiet, observing mood. Then saying the snake “mused a moment” gives us the impression that the snake is “like a king”, quiet and majestic. Again, later in the poem, using words such as dreamily and slowly, projecting that quiet atmosphere. The narrator seems almost confused by how he feels toward this snake. His voices tell him he is a coward and that he isn’t a man because he hasn’t killed the snake. But he longs to talk to him. He seems to feel a connection to this snake. He “felt so honoured” to be with the snake. He was afraid, and he recognized that, “But even so, honoured still more” After he threw the log at the snake and the snake disappears he “immediatly regetted it.” He “thought of the albatross” this of course is an allusion to the poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge called the “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”.

    “Snake” does indeed seem to be similar to the Rime of the Ancient Mariner when the snake came and drank, and the albatross came for food or play”. When the snake appears at the water trough, the narrator is honoured and happy to see the snake, this is like when the “Albatross came through the snow-fog, and was received with great joy and hospitality”. When the narrator thinks of the albatross, he may have thought of the verses the ancient mariner thought after he shot the albatross:`God save thee, ancient Mariner ! From the fiends, that plague thee thus !– Why look’st thou so ?’–With my cross-bow I shot the ALBATROSS.

    And I had done an hellish thing, And it would work ’em woe : For all averred, I had killed the bird That made the breeze to blow.

    The verses in this poem are written in free verse. It is written in such a way as to portray the feelings of awe of this most majestic snake come to drink from his water trough. I think it also serves well for the poem when he realizes what he’d done and regetted it. He feels disgust for himself and this shows through. He realizes that his acquired prejudices have served to ruin something incredible for him and he should have listened to himself and not “the voices of (his) accursed human education.”

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