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David Herbert Richards Lawrence (11 September 1885 – 2 March
1930) was an English novelist, poet, playwright, essayist, literary
critic and painter who published as D. H. Lawrence. His collected
works, among other things, represent an extended reflection upon the
dehumanizing effects of modernity and industrialisation. In them,
some of the issues Lawrence explores are emotional health, vitality,
spontaneity and instinct.
Lawrence's opinions earned him many enemies and he endured
official persecution, censorship, and misrepresentation of his creative
work throughout the second half of his life, much of which he spent in
a voluntary exile which he called his "savage pilgrimage“. At the time
of his death, his public reputation was that of a pornographer who had
wasted his considerable talents. E. M. Forster, in an obituary notice,
challenged this widely held view, describing him as, "The greatest
imaginative novelist of our generation.”Later, the
influential Cambridge critic F. R. Leavis championed both his artistic
integrity and his moral seriousness, placing much of Lawrence's
fiction within the canonical "great tradition" of the English novel.
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
He reached down from a fissure in the
earth-wall in the gloom
And trailed his yellow-brown
slackness soft-bellied down, over the
the stone trough
Someone was before me at my water-
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,
And rested his throat upon the stone bottom,
And where the water had dripped from the tap, in a small
He sipped with his straight mouth,
Softly drank through his straight gums, into his slack
long body, Silently.
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
He must be killed,
For in Sicily the black, black
snakes are innocent, the gold
And voices in me said, If you were a
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
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
I felt so honored.
And yet those voices:
If you were not afraid, you would kill
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
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 a dream,
Proceeded to draw his slow length
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
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
I picked up a clumsy log
And threw it at the water-trough with
I think it did not hit him,
But suddenly that part of him that
was left behind convulsed in
Writhed like lightning, and was
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
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
And I have something to
The poem begins about an encounter with a snake on a
hot day when the poet was in his pajamas and was going
to fill his pitcher. The snake was ahead of the poet and it
was there to drink water from the trough. When the poet
came towards the Carob tree, spreading its strange scent,
he saw the snake and had to stand and wait.
The poet stood there watching the snake which slithered
down from the crack in the earthen wall and slipped over
the edge of the trough of water. The poet describes the
snake as having a soft yellow-brown belly. Lawrence
stands there watching the snake as the snake sips the
water that is dripping from the trough
The snake stood there sipping water from the trough which was
entering his mouth straight and into its gums. The poet waited
and watched over the snake. The snake then lifted his head,
looked at the poet ‘vaguely’, flickered his two-forked tongue,
stopped for a moment and then drank a little more. The poet
then goes on to describe that very hot day of July in the city of
Sicily and Etna with the smoky volcano that aggravates the
heat. The poet then hears a voice of his education that tells him
to kill the snake as black snakes in Sicily are not poisonous as
yellow snakes are. That was a yellow bellied snake. The voice in
his head provokes him by saying that if he was a man, he
would have taken a stick and killed the snake. ‘Finish him off’
is what the voice urged him to do. But the poet confesses that he
liked the snake. The poet was glad that the snake paid a visit to
his water-trough. The snake went back into the ‘burning bowels
of the earth’ without thanking him.
The poet questions himself that was it cowardice that kept
him from killing the snake? Or was it his obstinacy that
urged him to talk to it? The poet contemplates if it was his
humility that made him feel so honored. A voice then
challenges him that if he was not afraid, he would have
killed the snake.
The poet confesses that he was truly afraid. He was afraid
that he let the dangerous snake to go and feelings of
honoUr that the snake sought the poet’s hospitality.
The poet describes the pacified snake in these lines who
lifted his head, drank water as if he was drunken state,
flickered his tongue, licked his lips and looked around like
god and slowly turned his head. After quenching his
thirst, the snake climbed back the wall and disappeared
into the earth.
As the snake was slithering back into the hole, the poet
suddenly felt a sense of protest and horror and hastily
he puts down his pitcher, picks up a log and hurls at
the water trough where the snake was stranded.
The snake was unhurt. The poet saw its slow retreating
body of the snake, disappearing into the hole from
where it once appeared. The poet regrets for his foolish
act of trying to kill the snake. For a moment, his
emotions were different and he hated himself and the
voices that urged him to do so. He despised the
‘accursed human education.’
The poet thinks of the ‘albatross’ and wishes that the
snake would visit him again
The snake seemed like a king to the poet, a king in
exile and the one who lost his crown waiting to be
crowned again. The poet regrets that he missed to
spend time with one of the lords of life. He is left
with something to ‘expatiate’ and that is his
D.H Lawrence has used a simple, lucid, colorful,
descriptive and imaginative diction in the poem. All
these elements make the poem picturesque.
The verses of “Snake” are unrhymed and written in free
verse. The first segment of the poem talks about the
arrival and description of the snake, the second talks
about the drinking from the water trough. The third
segment is about the poet’s feeling and his sudden
desire to kill the snake. In the final segment, we find
the poet’s remorse.
Alliteration is the close repetition of the consonant sounds
at the beginning of words to facilitate narration.
A simile is a figure of speech in which two dissimilar objects
are compared and the comparison is made clear by the use of
terms like ‘like’, ‘such as’ and so on.
Allusion: Allusion refers to some mythical character.
Here the “Sicilian July” and “Albatross” are examples
Personification is a figure of speech in which
inanimate objects or abstract ideas are given human
attributes or feelings. The soft yellow-brown bellied
snake is personified throughout the poem. Sometimes
like a human drinking water from the trough, licking
its lips turning it head or sometimes as the king, the
lords of life.