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Snake

Snake Poem - Figures of Speech, Important Lines and Appreciation Questions

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 me.

 

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,

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, Silently.

 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.

 

– D.H. Lawrence

Alliteration: 

SENTENCE
In the deep, strange-scented shade of the great dark carob-tree  s
He reached down from a fissure in the earth-wall in the gloom  f
And trailed his yellow-brown slackness soft-bellied down  s
He sipped with his straight mouth  s
Softly drank through his straight gums, into his slack long body,  s
And flickered his two-forked tongue from his lips, and mused a  t
Being earth-brown, earth-golden from the burning bowels of the  b
On the day of Sicilian July, with Etna smoking  s
For in Sicily the black, black snakes are innocent, the gold are venomous  s
And voices in me said: If you were a man  m
How glad I was he had come like a guest in quiet, to drink at my  g
And depart peaceful, pacified, and thankless,  p
Into the burning bowels of this earth  b
Was it humility, to feel so honoured  h
From out the dark door of the secret earth  d
And lifted his head, dreamily, as one who has drunken,  d
And flickered his tongue like a forked night on the air,  f
Seeming to lick his lips,  l
And climb again the broken bank of my wall-face  b
And as he put his head into that dreadful hole  h
into that horrid black hole   h
At which, in the intense still noon, I stared with fascination  s
I despised myself and the voices of my accursed human education  m
And I wished he would come back, my snake  v
And so, I missed my chance with one of the lords  m

 

Allusion:

 SENTENCEREFERENCE
And I thought of the albatrossSamuel T Coleridge’s ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’. The mariner shoots the albatross, a traditional symbol of good luck.

 

Simile:

 SENTENCE
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
How glad I was he had come like a guest in quiet, to drink at my
And flickered his tongue like a forked night on the air
And looked around like a god
Writhed like lightning, and was gone
For he seemed to me again like a king
Like a king in exile, uncrowned in the underworld

 

Metaphor

SENTENCE
Being earth-brown, earthgolden from the burning bowels of the
Into the burning bowels of this earth
From out the dark door of the secret earth
into that horrid black hole
And so, I missed my chance with one of the lords

 

Personification:

 SENTENCE
And lifted his head, dreamily, as one who has drunken

 

Anaphora:

 SENTENCE
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?

And looked around like a god, unseeing, into the air,

And slowly turned his head,

And slowly, very slowly, as if thrice adream,

And climb again the broken bank of my wall-face.

And as he put his head into that dreadful hole,

A sort of horror, a sort of protest against his withdrawing

into that horrid black hole

I looked round, I put down my pitcher,

I picked up a clumsy log

And I thought of the albatross,

And I wished he would come back, my snake.

 

Repetition:

 SENTENCE
On a hot, hot day, and I in pyjamas for the heat
And must wait, must stand and wait
He lifted his head from his drinking, as cattle do,

And looked at me vaguely, as drinking cattle do,

Being earth-brown, earth-golden from the burning bowels of the earth,
For in Sicily the black, black snakes are innocent, the gold are venomous
But must I confess how I liked him,

How glad I was he had come like a guest in quiet, to drink at my

  Rhyme SchemeRhyme Words
abac there, pitcher ; pitcher, clatter;

Withdrawing, drawing;

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