The poem Snake written by D H Lawrence is about the poet’s encounter with a snake on a water trough. The poet is conflicted with the idea of whether to kill the snake or respect it. The snake was thirsty and drinking water. After drinking water, the snake started slowly going into the hole and then the poet threw a log at the snake. Then he felt ashamed of his behaviour.


One hot sunny day, the poet sees a snake drinking water on the water trough. The snake was golden-brown. When the poet saw the snake, he was alarmed by its colour and thought it was poisonous but he chose to respect it as it was drinking water quietly. The snake was there first which is why the poet chose to stop and wait for his turn. The snake came from the crack in the earth.

The snake was unconscious of the presence of the author. The poet was conflicted about his decision whether to kill the poisonous snake or respect nature and let the snake drink water.

The poet is conflicted and in his social education says that the golden snakes are poisonous and therefore he shall kill them. But the poet’s natural human instincts make him like it and he feels happy that it came to his water trough to drink water. He was feeling honoured by the visit of the snake. While the snake started to depart after drinking the water, back to the hole from where he had come, the poet suddenly put his pitcher down, took a log of wood and threw it at the water trough. The snake went inside the hole at a lightning speed. The poet further says that he thinks the log did not hurt it. But he regrets doing this act of cruelty.

Question and Answers

Q. Why does the poet decide to stand and wait till the snake has finished drinking? What does this tell you about the poet?

Ans. The poet decided to wait till the snake finished drinking because the snake came before him and he was drinking water. This shows that poets respect nature and every creature.

Q. In stanza 2 and 3, the poet gives a vivid description of the snake by using suggestive expressions. Give examples.

Ans. The snake that came to the water trough from a fissure in the earth was yellow-brown and soft-bellied. He sipped with his straight mouth and softly drank through his straight gums, into his slack long body, silently.

Q. How does the poet describe the day and the atmosphere when he saw the snake?

Ans. The author described the day as a very warm and sunny day. For the author, it seems like a Sicilian July where Mount Etna is smoking.

Q. What does the poet want to convey by saying that the snake emerges from the ‘burning bowels of the earth’?

Ans. From the above line, the poet conveys that, the snake emerged from a fissure in the earth. The snake came from down the earth where it is dark like hell

Q. Do you think the snake was conscious of the poet’s presence?

Ans. No, the snake was not aware of the presence of the author. The snake was drinking water peacefully.

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

Ans. After drinking, the snake silently lifted his head satisfied and flickered his branched tongue from his lips ‘as one who has drunken’ and slowly ‘proceeded to draw his slow length curving round and climb again the broken bank of my wall-face’.

Q. The poet has a dual attitude towards the snake. Why does he experience conflicting emotions upon seeing the snake?

Ans. The poet was conflicted after seeing the snake. On one hand, he wanted to respect nature and let the snake drink water peacefully but on the other hand, he was afraid that the snake was poisonous and that he should kill him.

Q. The poet is filled 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.

Ans. After drinking water, when the snake was slowly moving into the hole the author picked a log and threw it over the snake. Upon hearing the sound of the log, the snake moved faster into the black hole. The author regretted his action and felt dreadful.

Q. The poet seems to be full of admiration and respect for the snake. He almost regards him like a majestic god. Pick out a few expressions from the poem that reflect these emotions.

Ans. The poet considers him ‘like a god’ and wishes the snake would come back so that he could crown him ‘like a king’. He feels he had missed his ‘chance with one of the lords’ when the snake went back into its hole.


Q. What does the poem teach us?

Ans. The poem Snake’ teaches us about respecting nature and treating every creature as equal.

Q. Why was the poet confused?

Ans. The poet was confused after seeing the snake because the snake was yellowish and his social education has taught him that yellowish snakes are poisonous and one should kill them. But the poet wanted to respect the snake

Q. How does the poet describe the weather?

Ans. The poet describes the weather as the Sicilian July and Etna burning.

Q. Why was the poet ashamed?

Ans. Once the snake drank water, it slowly started moving toward the hole it came from and suddenly the poet threw the wooden log over the snake and then he felt ashamed for acting so cruelly.