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Summary and Analysis of Snake by D.H Lawrence

Have you encountered a snake near your home? What was your immediate reaction? The frightening experience of confronting a snake is beautifully described in D. H Lawrence’s poem, “Snake.” D. H Lawrence personifies a ‘snake’ in his poem, “Snake” with a certain charm. The poem is modern and the natural undertones in the poem fascinate the reader.

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Setting of the Poem Snake

This poem is set in the poet’s backyard, where there is a water-trough. When the poet goes to the trough to fill a pitcher with water for his own use, he encounters a snake which has come to the trough before him. The entire poem revolves around this very encounter.


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Summary of Snake by D.H.Lawrence

The poem consists of 19 stanzas of variable lengths. The entire poem consists of 75 lines in total.

1st stanza:

A snake came to my water-trough
On a hot, hot day, and I in pyjamas for the heat,
To drink there.

In this stanza, the poet describes how it was a typical summer day and how he had been wearing pyjamas in order to cool himself. Again in order to keep cool, he had gone to fetch water from his trough, but found that a snake had reached before him.

2nd stanza:

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.

In this stanza, the poet describes how the trough was kept in the shade of a large carob tree and how that entire place had a strange smell. When he poet reached with his pitcher, he has to stand and wait for the snake to finish drinking.

3rd stanza:

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.

In this stanza, the poet describes how the snake came out of a crack in the wall of his house and how it slithered leisurely over the edge of the trough and finally came to rest with its throat on the bottom of the stone trough. Water had fallen in drops from the tap forming a small and transparent pool, from which the snake drank silently and the poet could imagine the water travelling through its long flexible body.

4th stanza:

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

In this stanza, the poet says that generally he was the only one to drink out of his trough, but that particular day, he himself was second to reach the trough and he had to wait as a result.

5th stanza:

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.

In this stanza, the poet describes how the snake stopped drinking at one point and looked at  him, in the same way that cattle drinking in ponds sometimes pause between sips. Then the snake moved its forked tongue quickly from side to side, thought for a bit and continued to drink again. The poet imagines this snake to be Typhon, the mythical and monstrous serpent that was descended from Gaia and that was finally defeated by Zeus by throwing Mount Etna on it, but that still spews up fire and boulders when the volcano erupts.

6th stanza:

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.

In this stanza, the poet says that while he was in Sicily, he had learnt that black snakes will not harm you, but that golden ones are poisonous. So his education told him to kill the golden snake that had come to his trough.

7th stanza:

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

In this stanza, the poet hears voices in his head goading him on to kill the snake with a stick, for that would prove his masculinity.

8th stanza:

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?

In this stanza, the poet says that he quite liked the snake and was happy that it had come to drink at his trough like a guest and then to leave as peacefully as he had come to go back to the depths of the earth from which he imagines it had risen.

9th stanza:

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.

In this stanza, the poet wonders what it was that had stopped him from killing the snake – whether it was because he was a coward, or because he has some unnatural affinity with the snake. In the end he concludes that it was because he felt honoured to have been visited by the snake.

10th stanza:

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

In this stanza, the poet again hears voices telling him to conquer his fear and kill the snake.


11th stanza:

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.

In this stanza, the poet confesses that he was very scared of the snake, but more than that, he was honoured the snake had chosen to come only to the poet’s trough while making its journey out of the earth’s crust.

12th stanza:

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.

In this stanza, the poet describes how once the snake had finished drinking, it lifted its head slowly and made quick movements of its tongue as if it were licking its lips in satisfaction that its thirst had been quenched. It then looked around as if it were lord over all the land and slowly turned its head and then its body to begin its ascent over the crack in the wall from which it had come.

13th stanza:

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.

In this stanza, the poet describes what he did when he saw the snake putting its head into the crack of the wall and slowly slithered the rest of its body in after that. The poet protested against its leaving and going back into the blackness of the hole.

14th stanza:

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

In this stanza, how the poet put down his pitcher, picked up some wood and threw it at the trough in a desperate attempt to stop the snake from leaving.

15th stanza:

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.

In this stanza, the poet says that he thought the log had not hit the snake, but he was wrong. As a result, the snake speeded up its motion and disappeared into the hole in the wall in a flash like lightning. As the sun was beating down mercilessly, the poet kept looking at the crack in the wall in awe.

16th stanza:

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.

In this stanza, the poet describes how he was filled with regret that he had acted in such a cruel and petty way with the snake. He hated himself and the education that had urged him to act in such a manner.

17th stanza:

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

In this stanza, the poet says that he felt like the ancient mariner (from Coleridge’s poem of the same name) who had killed the albatross for no reason and he wished that the snake would come back to the trough once again.

18th stanza:

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

In this stanza, the poet says that the snake should have been a king. Though his place was beneath the surface of the earth, it had not been crowned there. However, the poet thinks it would be crowned shortly.

19th stanza:

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

In this stanza, the poet says that he missed the chance to welcome a lord of life into his home and he must apologize for his petty behaviour in the matter.

About the Author: David Herbert Lawrence was an English novelist, short-story writer, essayist, playwright, literary critic and painter. Some of his famous works are “Sons and Lovers’”, “Lady Chatterley’s Lover”, “New Poems”, “Bavarian Gentians”, “The Ship of Death” etc

Detailed Analysis: We have considered your feedback and did a detailed analysis of quite a few poems at Beamingnotes. Luckily, the poem you’re reading now, Snake does have a detailed analysis. This will let you understand the poem in great depth and help you score good! Here are the following links- For annotations: Meaning and annotations of the poem Snake; For complete line by line Summary: Summary of the Snake; For detailed critical analysis: Critical Analysis of Snake  and for suggested solved questions:  Solved Question and Answers from Snake.

Keywords: snake poem summary, snake poem line by line explanation, summary of snake class 10 cbse, snake by D.H. Lawrence, snake poem explanation

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Trisha

I have done my M.A in English andI love reading good books and sharing knowledge with others. Thanks for appreciating.

43 Comments
  1. Reply
    simanchal panigrahi December 6, 2014 at 4:45 pm

    I M A TEACHER OF LIT.U CAN CON ME 4 ANY DBT

    • Reply
      Drishti January 17, 2016 at 12:13 pm

      For sure mam

    • Reply
      Oranges February 24, 2015 at 10:42 pm

      I am sure that a teacher of ‘literature’ has a proper way of writing and spelling, something that is learnt in elementary school. Nice try.

  2. Reply
    Anonymous December 28, 2014 at 6:46 am

    This was unhelpful. Please do better analysis’ if you really want to help. Your command over the language is quite sad.

    • Reply
      Drishti January 17, 2016 at 12:12 pm

      Wtf r u talking ….she gave her best …if u dont know keep ur mouth shut …sorry fingers closed

    • Reply
      anonymous January 15, 2016 at 4:47 am

      You’re command over the English language is worse than his and the fact that you want to point any fault in his /her English is quite intriguing because you don’t have any proper knowledge about it you’re self .

      • Reply
        sdf December 10, 2016 at 3:47 am

        says someone who cant differentiate between you’re and your

  3. Reply
    Anon January 18, 2015 at 8:21 am

    It was good.But you just stated the obvious.But it was a good effort. 🙂

  4. Reply
    Thank February 3, 2015 at 9:50 am

    It really helped a lot :$
    Thanks a lot <3

  5. Reply
    swati singh February 6, 2015 at 2:47 pm

    The analysis needs to throw light on the dealing of complex psychological process of the protagonist,for which Lawtence is known.

  6. Reply
    Chanju February 12, 2015 at 11:51 am

    It helped a lot thankz!!!!!!

  7. Reply
    Neha February 17, 2015 at 5:27 pm

    it is really good……my doubts have been cleared…kudos!!!!

  8. Reply
    Karissa November 24, 2015 at 11:38 am

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  9. Reply
    Abhijit Bhattacharjee November 27, 2015 at 5:08 am

    I have never ever read such a horrible analysis of such a wonderful poem.

    • Reply
      Ft. ImAnonymousBitch ? February 5, 2016 at 7:54 pm

      I’ve Never Come Across Your Weird Name.
      Such A Horrible Suffix For A Wonderful Word Called Butter. ?

    • Reply
      Anonymous January 26, 2016 at 4:31 am

      I a m pretty sure this was one of the wort poems in our lit book..

      basically,

      he saw a snake – he wnted to talk to it – his education told him to kill it – when the snake went into the hole, he was repulsed – he threw a log in the vicinity – the log missed – the snake convulsed and ran into the hole – the man was horrified at himself

      • Reply
        iueyreuyf March 28, 2017 at 3:36 pm

        what do you know about good poetry?^^ it’s a display of raw human emotions.
        the book has other poems too with the same theme.

  10. Reply
    ishika December 26, 2015 at 4:02 am

    its really help a lot for my understanding. Thakz!!!!!

  11. Reply
    ranjana srivastava January 2, 2016 at 12:56 pm

    Poor attempt in the name of analysis….i was expecting quality analysis and really good critical of such a lovely poem and not a paraphrase of the poem..theme needs to be defined with some underlying message and not just superficial explanation…

  12. Reply
    Abilal a January 4, 2016 at 4:10 pm

    I HAVE NEVER EVER READ SUCH A HORRIBLE ANALYSIS

    • Reply
      Yo mf March 14, 2016 at 11:01 am

      Hi abilal i think you have a personel site that is lot better than this . It also seems that you have good knowledge of english lit then why do u visited this site. Bonze

  13. Reply
    Dwijesh January 8, 2016 at 1:00 pm

    Great job sir! Im very much happy to say that i read all of the summaries of all my lessons on your website…. helped me a lot in my exams and moreover got good bit of appreciations….. thanks!

  14. Reply
    Aashish kumar pandey January 17, 2016 at 9:44 am

    Nice summary but need to write this in simple word the weak std can’t understand this proper

  15. Reply
    Drishti January 17, 2016 at 12:10 pm

    Somewhat it helped me …nice try

  16. Reply
    Kiran gowda January 27, 2016 at 12:07 pm

    It was very understanding and it helped me.

  17. Reply
    Surya ks January 27, 2016 at 4:48 pm

    Good analysis..!!! Helped me to understand the poem well..!! 🙂

  18. Reply
    Anish February 4, 2016 at 2:35 pm

    Thanks a lot …..It helped me a lot

  19. Reply
    Dhreetraj February 9, 2016 at 3:14 pm

    Awesome!! it helped me in this pre Boards

  20. Reply
    Prity zinta February 18, 2016 at 11:39 am

    Hmm…. Not clear expinations so make sure you try better the next time..

    • Reply
      Prity zinta February 18, 2016 at 11:40 am

      You just lost the whole beauty of the poem

  21. Reply
    suman mohanty March 12, 2016 at 6:52 pm

    Great job sir! Im very much happy to say that i read all of the summaries of all my lessons on your website…. helped me a lot in my exams and moreover got good bit of appreciations….. thanks!

  22. Reply
    Raag naik March 13, 2016 at 5:32 am

    Comment:it was very helpful thank, you very much

  23. Reply
    Kartik March 14, 2016 at 5:47 pm

    It was good but some things are missing such as how the tounge of snak is compared to lightening

  24. Reply
    Asho Geo Shaju March 15, 2016 at 12:38 am

    Helped a lot !!!

  25. Reply
    HoneyBell March 18, 2016 at 12:54 pm

    Hi, This site is the best among all other sites which has this summary. Very well written.. Thanks a lot. Keep Up!!!

  26. Reply
    abhinav November 18, 2016 at 2:18 pm

    but..this is not like a summary..because it is so long…

    • Reply
      arpita December 19, 2016 at 1:48 pm

      Not that good explanation try better next time!!!!!!!!

  27. Reply
    canry January 4, 2017 at 5:12 pm

    THE EXPLANATION WAS HELPFUL. U CAN ELOBRATE MORE …………………….

    THANKYOU

  28. Reply
    canry January 4, 2017 at 5:13 pm

    GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOD

  29. Reply
    jibin January 18, 2017 at 3:22 pm

    Thanks for this

  30. Reply
    Utkarsh February 9, 2017 at 3:15 pm

    It was very helpful for me in my pre board preparations. Thank you so much

  31. Reply
    Tanmay March 25, 2017 at 5:18 am

    It was very helpful for my board preparation ??????

  32. Reply
    Syed Yusuf March 28, 2017 at 3:11 pm

    Very nice explanation I liked it….it helped me a lot because day after tomorrow is my English board exam thank you

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