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Exposition of 'Snake' by D. H. Lawrence.

Updated on May 24, 2016
D.H.Lawrence | Source
The water- trough
The water- trough | Source
Etna Smoking
Etna Smoking | Source
Black non- poisonous snake
Black non- poisonous snake | Source
"A Snake came to my water-trough"
"A Snake came to my water-trough" | Source
yellow-brown venomous snake
yellow-brown venomous snake | Source
Disappearing into the hole.
Disappearing into the hole. | Source
The albatross
The albatross | Source

D..H . Lawrence was one of the greatest figures in the 20th Century English literature. He died of Tuberculosis. His notable works in Novels are 'Sons and Lovers', 'Women in Love', and 'Lady Chatterley's Lover'; some of his short stories are- 'Odour of Chrysanthemums' 'The Virgin and the Gipsy' and 'The Rocking Horse'. His winner play is 'The Widowing of Mrs Holroyd'.

In the poem 'Snake' D. H. Lawrence depicts a hot day, when he had a visitor, a snake that came to his water- trough for a drink in his presence.

As he came down the steps in his pyjamas with a pitcher, under the Carob tree spreading its shade and strange scent, he caught a glimpse of the snake and had to stand and wait.

The poet stood and watched the snake slithering down from a crack in the earthen wall and it slipped down its yellow-brown soft belly over the edge of the stone trough. He stood watching the snake, sipping the water dripping from the top with its straight mouth through its straight gums silently.

"Someone was before me at my water-trough"

This stanza pictures the poet D.H. Lawrence standing and watching the yellow-brown soft bellied snake at his water-trough drinking softly through its straight gums silently. While he was waiting there like a second comer, waiting for the snake to finish his drink. The snake lifted his head, looked at the poet vaguely, flickered his two-forked tongue from his lips, paused a moment and then drank a little more.

"On the day of Sicilian July with Etna smoking..."

He describes the heat of the earth on the day of July in the city of Sicily and Etna, the Volcanic mountain peak with its eruption and the large billows of smoke spewing out.

"The voice of my education said to me...the gold are venomous."

The poet describes the voices of knowledge that compels him to kill the snake, as the black snakes in Sicily are non-poisonous while the yellow snakes are venomous. The voices re-echoed 'finish of the snake with a stick'.

"But must I confess...I liked him"

D.H.Lawrence confesses that he liked the snake, and he was glad that it had visited his water-trough and that it was a silent guest for a drink. It departed peacefully but thankless back into the earth.

"Was it cowardice that I dare not kill him?"

The poet debates within himself if it was his cowardice that kept him form killing it, or probably his perversity that urged him to talk to it. He ponders if it was his humility that made him feel honoured. Above all the different voices, a voice challenged him that if he was not afraid he would kill it.

"And truly I was afraid ... that he should seek my hospitality."

In this stanza the poet expresses emotions of fear and feelings of honour. Fear that the venomous snake was dangerous to let it go, and feelings of honour, since the snake had sought his hospitality.

"He drank enough and lifted his head..."

Here the poet describes the contented snake, after his drink from his water-trough looked around, like a god not seeing, and then the slow retreat of the reptile to its hole. Climbing the broken bank of his wall-face, he had enough time to react and to make a quick decision to kill it.

"A sort of horror a sort of protest... convulsed in undignified haste."

As he stood there being honoured about the visit of a snake, and the lengthy reptile slowly disappearing a horror struck him. Placing down his pitcher, he braced himself, picked up a clumsy log, and hurled it at the water- trough with a clatter.The slow retreating body was then seen writhing and like lightning, in a flash it disappeared into the fissure, the dark hole from where it had appeared.Thus leaving the poet stare into space at his foolish act.

"And immediately I regretted it...I despised myself and the voices of my accursed education."

For a moment regret engulfed him, his instant reaction and emotions reversed. He despised himself and the voices which bade him to kill the venomous reptile.

"And I thought of the albatross and I wished my expiate a pettiness."

The poet, D.H. Lawrence ponders about the `albatross, a large sea-bird which was tied around the neck of a mariner who had killed the albatross. The sailors counting that act as a bad omen awaits the mariner's plight. However the situation is reversed and the entire crew perishes except the mariner who has the bird around his neck.

Reflecting back to this incident the poet desires the venomous reptile to be his visitor once again. For this time the snake seemed to him like a king, a king in exile and one who has lost his crown in the underworld, waiting to be crowned again. He utters his regret of missing his chance with one of the lords of life.

Though the reptile was venomous, yet for a moment the idea of a king graced it, one which was due for its crown.

Then thoughts of highness and majesty about the snake command his inner soul to make amends for his rash behaviour. So he utters regret and pardon in his last statement. He had something to expiate for his irritable action when he picked up the clumsy log to kill the snake.

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      olga khumlo 

      5 years ago

      Thank you dear, God bless you all.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Wonderfully expounded ! Thums up (Y)

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      beautifully explained


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