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Home » , » Critical appreciation for the poem Snake By D.H. Lawrence

D. H. Lawrence’s “Snake” is a long poem about the poet’s experience of meeting a snake on a very hot day. He talks about his ambivalent feelings towards the snake. Being goaded by the voices of education he throws a ‘clumsy log’ to the snake but immediately afterwards regrets the mean act. All he is left with at the end is an overpowering feeling of ‘A pettiness’

The poem explores the theme of man’s education versus nature. On a very hot day in Sicily the poet encountered a snake, which came to drink water from his water-trough. The poet had ambivalent attitude to the snake. He had deep admiration for the beauty of the snake, “Being earth brown, earth-golden from the burning bowels of the earth”. He was glad that the snake came to his trough.  “How glad I was he had come like a guest in quiet, to drink at my water-trough. And depart peaceful, pacified, and thankless”. He even felt an inclination to talk to the snake. But his education told him that “in Sicily the black, black snakes are innocent, the gold are venomous” and also that “He must be killed”. He is torn between two extremes. He ultimately decided to assault it as he was guided by the ‘voices of human education’. Throughout the poem, the theme of man’s education versus nature has been dramatized. Lawrence’s “accursed human education” teaches him to abhor and kill snakes, and he felt “afraid”. He immediately regretted his ‘mean’ and ‘paltry’ act. But his action haf initiated a scene impossible. He rued his missed opportunity with “one of the lords Of life.” He suddenly felt that the snake was “a king in exile, uncrowned ‘in the underworld, Now due to be crowned again”. He was left with a strong sense of “A pettiness”. By putting the word in a separate sentence the poet emphasizes that he wronged the creature, which did not cause any harm to him. 

The poem also shows the predicament of a modern man  his inability to take a right decision at the right time. The narrator of the poem suffers from dualism and he is tossed between two extreme feelings. It is the split-self of the poet, which is the most intriguing part of the poem. He repented his act because he was not sure what he was doing. He listened to the ‘voices of human education’ and had a very disturbing feeling. This is also very common in the modern society. For a modern man, a conclusive decision is always a complex affair. He is shaped by so many things in life that he eventually loses the strength and will-power of following his wishes and desires. The end result is the pervasive sense of ‘A pettiness’. 

The layout of the poem is very interesting and deserves attention.  This is quite a long poem consisting of seventy four lines. Stanzas as well as sentences are of varying lengths. By making stanzas of various lengths, Lawrence is able to suggest circuitous movements of the snake. There are more than fifteen stanzas in the poem. The number of stanzas Creates an image of a longs snake. 

Lawrence uses a number of poetic techniques in order to convey his  feelings and thoughts. He has deliberately chosen free verse. Language is very easy and lucid. He has hardly used any unfamiliar or tough words. But his use of words is very significant. He uses the word ‘hot’ twice and deliberately chooses ‘pyjamas’ to communicate the idea that reat was unbearable and there was great need for water. Again, he uses “he”, “him” and “his” to give the impression that the poet realizes 4 sense of similarity between the snake and himself. The use of the aforementioned pronouns also suggests the admiration the poet had for his “guest in quiet”. He also repeats a lot of words in order to emphasize his feelings ‘and thoughts. For example, throughout the poem the word “black” is repeated to suggest different meanings — “flickered his tongue like a forked night on the air, so black”, “that horrid black hole”, “Deliberately going into the blackness”, “Into the black hole”. Black is suggestive of evil and malicious things in the context of the poem. In the line “For in Sicily the black, black snakes are innocent, the gold are venomous”, the word “black” is repeated to indicate that the snake visiting the poet’s water-trough is poisonous in nature. 

Symbolism is another important tool employed by the poet in “Snake”. Lawrence uses a number of strong symbols in order to com. communicate his feelings and thoughts. The central tension between the “voice of education” or civilization and “earth-bound” feelings has been beautifully communicated by using some powerful symbols. The snake itself is a multiple symbol in the poem. On the one hand, it is “Like a king in exile, On the other hand, the snake is associated with ‘original Sin’ in Christianity. Viewed from -yet another perspective is a living Creature representing nature. Thus, the snake is a dubious symbol. It Stands for good and bad at the same time. It is both a creature of ‘horrid black hole’ and ‘a king in exile’. But, what becomes important in the - Context of the poem is the ‘voices of human education’. It is these voices that eventually guided the actions of the poet. Another powerful symbol is the log that the poet threw at the snake. This was a representation Of his logic and its shortcomings in his attempt to preserve the scene of the snake, which to him, was only evanescent. He threw it with some knowledge of the disturbance it would cause, but being incapable of exercising the freedom of his propensity, his attempts fail.  

“Snake” is a wonderful modernist poem. It is also a thought: provoking poem. It explores how human being’s relationship with nature is shaped by his upbringing in the society. it also systematical Shows the precariousness of a modern individual who has failed to Properly. Written in plain and simple language, the poem exhibits Lawrence’s genius as a poet.



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