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Snake Summary in English by D.H. Lawrence

Snake Summary in English

The poem describes the encounter of the poet with a snake that came into his domain looking for water. On a hot day, a snake went to the poet’s water trough to quench its thirst. The poet who was also the owner of the water trough came for the same purpose in his pyjamas to avoid the heat. On seeing the snake, he feels obliged to stand and wait for the snake because it was there before it.

The yellow-brown snake, who originated from a fissure in the earth wall, slithered slowly to the edge of the stone trough. The snake rested its throat upon the stone bottom and started drinking softly.

The poet while watching the snake observed its mode of drinking and described it as that of cattle. This the snake did without noticing that anyone was watching him.

The poet recollected the voice of his education and realised that he must kill the snake, as golden snakes like this one were supposed to be poisonous. He ignored this instinct to kill the snake, feeling honoured that the snake had sought his hospitality.

The snake having drunk enough to satisfy his thirst turned around slowly and moved with its long curved body towards the direction of its origin. The snake moved in slowly into the hole without any fear. Suddenly, the poet looked around and put down his pitcher, picked up a stick and threw it at the snake. The snake hearing the clatter hastily moved in its remaining body back into the black hole.

At the disappearance of the snake, the poet regretted his action immediately and blamed himself for acting the way he did. He placed the blame on the voice of his education. He feared that he would have to pay for his negative action like the sailor that killed the albatross. The poet now wished the snake could come back, for him to crown it like a king, but believed it would never do so. The poet concluded by feeling that he has to make amends.

Snake Summary Questions and Answers

Question 1.
Based on your reading of the poem, answer the following questions by ticking the correct options:

1. ‘he lifted his head from his drinking as cattle do ’ – The poet wants to convey that the snake
(a) is domesticated
(b) is innocent
(c) is as harmless as cattle
(d) drinks water just like cattle
(d) drinks water just like cattle

2. ‘Sicilian July ’, ‘Etna smoking ’ and ‘burning bowels of the earth ’ are images that convey that
(a) there are snakes in volcanic areas
(b) the poet lived in a hot area
(c) it was a really hot day when the snake came
(d) Sicilian snakes are dangerous
(c) it was a really hot day when the snake came

3. ‘A sort of horror, a sort of protest overcame me ’ – The poet is filled with protest because
(a) he doesn’t want to let the snake remain alive
(b) he fears the snake
(c) he doesn’t want the snake to recede into darkness
(d) he wants to kill it so that it doesn’t return
(c) he doesn’t want the snake to recede into darkness

4. In the line ‘And as he slowly drew up, snake-easing his shoulders, and entered farther ’ the phrase snake easing ’ his shoulders means
(a) loosening its shoulders
(b) slipping in with majestic grace
(c) moving slowly
(d) moving fast
(b) slipping in with majestic grace

5. ‘He seemed to me like a king in exile… ’ The poet refers to the snake as such to emphasize that the snake
(a) is like a king enduring banishment
(b) Is like a king due to be crowned
(c) Is a majestic king who came for a while on earth
(d) is a majestic creature forced to go into exile by man
(a) is like a king enduring banishment

6. ‘I thought how paltry, how vulgar, what a mean act ’ -The poet is referring to
(a) the snake going into the dreadful hole
(b) the accursed modem education
(c) the act of throwing a log of wood at the snake
(d) the act of killing the snake
(c) the act of throwing a log of wood at the snake

Question 2.
Answer the following questions briefly:

a. Why does the poet decide to stand and wait till the snake has finished drinking? What does this tell you about the poet? (Notice that he uses ‘someone’ instead of ‘something ’for the snake.)
The poet respected the snake and felt it to be an honoured guest and did not want to disturb it.

b. In stanza 2 and 3, the poet gives a vivid description of the snake by using suggestive expressions. What picture of the snake do you form on the basis of this description?
The snake appears to be a beautiful creature, majestic and with a grace of its own, based on the descriptions.

c. How does the poet describe the day and the atmosphere when he saw the snake?
The poet describes the day as being a very hot day in July in Sicily, with Mount Etna smoking in the background.

d. What does the poet want to convey by saying that the snake emerges from the ‘burning bowels of the earth ’?
The poet means that even within the earth it was as hot as it was outside.

e. Do you think the snake was conscious of the poet’s presence? How do you know?
The snake does not appear to acknowledge the poet’s presence as it was lazy and unhurried in its movements, with no fear of being harmed.

f. How do we know that the snake’s thirst was satiated? Pick out the expressions that convey this.
‘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’

g. The poet has a dual attitude towards the snake. Why does he experience conflicting emotions on seeing the snake?
The poet instinctively admires the majesty and beauty of the snake and does not want to disturb’d, but then his education and social awareness makes him regard it as a dangerous being which must be killed.

h. The poet is fdled with horror and protest when the snake prepares to retreat and bury itself in the ‘horrid black ’, ‘dreadful ’ hole. In the light of this statement, bring out the irony of his act of throwing a log at the snake.
The poet does not want such a wonderful creature to go back into the dark earth and hide away, even though the snake was moving into the hole very slowly, yet he throws the stick and as a result the snake hurries into the hole.

i. The poet seems to be full of admiration and respect for the snake. He almost regards him like a majestic God. Pick out at least four expressions from the poem that reflect these emotions.
‘But even so, honoured still more’
‘That he should seek my hospitality’
‘And looked around like a god, unseeing, into the air,’
‘And slowly turned his head’
‘For he seemed to me again like a king,’
‘Like a king in exile, uncrowned in the underworld’
‘And so, I missed my chance with one of the lords’

j. What is the difference between the snake’s movement at the beginning of the poem and later when the poet strikes it with a log of wood? You may use relevant vocabulary from the poem to highlight the difference.
In the beginning, the snake is moving slowly, the body is ‘slack’; he ‘trailed’ his body along. When he had drunk the water, he moved as if ‘thrice a dream’. This dreamy state was shattered by the poet who threw a log at the snake, making it move forward ‘in undignified haste’, and making it writhe Tike lightning’, swiftly entering the hole in the ground.

k. The poet experiences feelings of self-derision, guilt and regret after hitting the snake. Pick out expressions that suggest this. Why does he feel like this?
‘And immediately I regretted it.’
‘I thought how paltry, how vulgar, what a mean act’
‘I despised myself
The poet feels like this because he threw the stick and scared the snake away even though it had done nothing.

l. You have already read Coleridge’s poem The Ancient Mariner in which an albatross is killed by the mariner. Why does the poet make an allusion to the albatross?
The poet alludes to it because like the Mariner who killed the albatross needlessly, here the poet scared away the snake needlessly. Also, he is scared that he might have to face similar troubles to pay for the sin of trying to harm the creature, like the Mariner.

m. ‘I have something to expiate ’—Explain.
This means that the poet felt that he had committed a sin and needed to pay for it. He wanted to make amends for his thoughtless, petty act.