DH Lawrence – Snake

D.H. Lawrence is a well-known English poet. His novels are noted for their realistic and psychological treatment of man-woman sexual relationship. He developed a personal philosophy that the instincts are superior to the reasoning of the mind. He was essentially a moralist who believed that modern man was becoming
divorced from his natural feelings.
The poem “Snake” is among Lawrence’s well known poems. In this poem he has narrated the story of his incidental meeting with a snake.
Poem – Snake.
A snake came to my water-trough
On a hot, hot day, and I in pyjamas for the heat,
To drink there.In the deep, strange-scented shade of the great dark carob-tree
I came down the steps with my pitcher
And must wait, must stand and wait, for there he was at the trough before

He reached down from a fissure in the earth-wall in the gloom
And trailed his yellow-brown slackness soft-bellied down, over the edge of
the stone trough
And rested his throat upon the stone bottom,
i o And where the water had dripped from the tap, in a small clearness,
He sipped with his straight mouth,
Softly drank through his straight gums, into his slack long body,

Someone was before me at my water-trough,
And I, like a second comer, waiting.

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,
And stooped and drank a little more,
Being earth-brown, earth-golden from the burning bowels of the earth
On the day of Sicilian July, with Etna smoking.
The voice of my education said to me
He must be killed,
For in Sicily the black, black snakes are innocent, the gold are venomous.

And voices in me said, If you were a man
You would take a stick and break him now, and finish him off.

But must I confess how I liked him,
How glad I was he had come like a guest in quiet, to drink at my water-trough
And depart peaceful, pacified, and thankless,
Into the burning bowels of this earth?

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.

And yet those voices:
If you were not afraid, you would kill him!

And truly I was afraid, I was most afraid, But even so, honoured still more
That he should seek my hospitality
From out the dark door of the secret earth.

He drank enough
And lifted his head, dreamily, as one who has drunken,
And flickered his tongue like a forked night on the air, so black,
Seeming to lick his lips,
And looked around like a god, unseeing, into the air,
And slowly turned his head,
And slowly, very slowly, as if thrice adream,
Proceeded to draw his slow length curving round
And climb again the broken bank of my wall-face.

And as he put his head into that dreadful hole,
And as he slowly drew up, snake-easing his shoulders, and entered farther,
A sort of horror, a sort of protest against his withdrawing into that horrid black hole,
Deliberately going into the blackness, and slowly drawing himself after,
Overcame me now his back was turned.

I looked round, I put down my pitcher,
I picked up a clumsy log
And threw it at the water-trough with a clatter.

I think it did not hit him,
But suddenly that part of him that was left behind convulsed in undignified haste.
Writhed like lightning, and was gone
Into the black hole, the earth-lipped fissure in the wall-front,
At which, in the intense still noon, I stared with fascination.

And immediately I regretted it.
I thought how paltry, how vulgar, what a mean act!
I despised myself and the voices of my accursed human education.

And I thought of the albatross
And I wished he would come back, my snake.

For he seemed to me again like a king,
Like a king in exile, uncrowned in the underworld,
Now due to be crowned again.

And so, I missed my chance with one of the lords
Of life.
And I have something to expiate:
A pettiness.

He was fascinated by his dignified and quiet ways. He loved and respected him.
The poem has several layers of meaning.It points out his reaction of fear and fascinating to the snake.
There is a conflict between his natural feelings and his rational thinking.
The poem points out how our feelings of affection are crushed by our social education.
Our reasoning often misleads us. Man sometimes kills other animals just to prove his power and manhood. But he has no right to deprive others of their right to live.
The poem arouses feelings of love and sympathy for all creatures in this world. Although Lawrence hits the snake under the influence of his education, yet he feels sorry for his mean act. So man’s natural instinct prevails in the end.
It’s about a snake drinking water at a human’s water trough. The human wants it dead, then he wants to entertain himself with it’s countenance. He calls it “My snake”. The man is lonely and the snake kept him company, When the snake is ready to leave, the man doesn’t want it to go. It’s like the man is childish I think. He wants the snake and dead and alive at the same time. Mostly he wants it to stay so he’s not alone.
Surely the fact that the poem evokes such a variety of reactions – thoughts, feelings – is in itself testament to its poetic value.
Quite distinct for the question is what ……  LAWRENCE had in mind .
In a abstract way, you can argue that this is a description of war; soldier VS soldier that don’t have a personal reason to hate each other, but they’re obligated to attack. However, I HIGHLY DOUBT that this abstract is the intentional meaning of the poem. Again, this is a very open poem
It’s a poem about nature and it’s beauty. It is more like a romantic poem and can be compared to Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Even an albatross was mentioned in this poem.
We must learn to appreciate whatever that is part of nature. We – Humans ( you / me ) are nature.
He thinks himself a coward for not doing so – killing the snake -. In the end he attempts to kill the snake only to deeply regret it, because he struck first without being provoked.

About mountiangirl

" Remembering the Past, celebrating the Present and believing in the Future. ∞ The scribbled notes,poems,poetry of our lives." I am a FREE SPIRIT, Mostly known as Mombo " The Mystery Woman " and a rare few call me " Mountian Girl " which they say is an honor and royality. Jerry Garcia - The Greatful Dead - I am a Fiber Artist - Spinning, Weaving and knitting. I am shy and speak little - this is where my PC talks for me. I love music but not rap. But my true love's are humor, old letters,poetry and history of all things forgotten. But also so that the younger generation can read of it too ( gain knowledge ) be it never known or just forgot. There is so much even I don't remember at my ripe young age of 51.
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2 Responses to DH Lawrence – Snake

  1. kvennarad says:

    I haven’t read this poem since school – lo these many decades.

    Marie Marshall

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