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   Snake by D H Lawrence

About the poet

David Herbert Lawrence is an English poet, short-story writer, novelist, and essayist. He mainly wrote in English and became a controversial person for the topic he chose for his writing.

About the poem

  • This poem takes us on an introspective journey that depicts the relationship between humans and nature by portraying his encounter with a snake. He describes how he felt a sense of perplexity, fear, and fascination simultaneously due to the entry of a snake.

  • The poem was set in July in Sicily.

  • This poem portrays the theme of social segmentation, the complexities of human nature, desires and impulses, and their relationship with the natural world. He uses a snake as a metaphor for our suppressed desires and a symbol of renewal, wisdom, and introspection to explore humanity in humans. Nature has created all of her creatures beautifully, but humans feel superior to all the species, and harm many of the species. 

  • This poem presents a conflict between the poet’s inner conscience including his feelings, and instincts, and the poet’s consciousness including common beliefs, morality, and thoughts that were taught in school and society.

  • This poem was written in free verse in the 1920s.

  • In this poem, the poet uses images, symbols, and irony vividly to criticize human behavior. The poet also uses the personal pronoun ‘he’ for the snake which is personified throughout the entire poem.

  • The poem ‘Snake’ enriches us with a message that humans need to embrace all the beauties and diversities of the natural world instead of creating any interference.


The poet went to a water trough on a hot summer day in Sicily and looked at a snake that had also come to drink water. He let it drink the water and waited as a second comer. As it was about to leave the water trough, the poet felt fascinated by its graceful movements, and he became afraid of its mysterious aura. His education told him to kill it, but his instinct felt a sense of respect for the same for its beauty and majestic nature. Though the poet wanted to keep harmony with nature, he also felt to use his power.

He was confused if he should kill it as a duty or if he should show respect to it, which is a creation of Nature. Suddenly the poet throws a log at it, and it tries to retreat. It was the time when the poet felt guilt and regret for his actions. He realized he acted according to social norms that taught him about the evil and danger of the snake. He also understood how fear of the unknown made him kill the snake, and how it drank water without giving any kind of threat. As it left, the poet regretted his actions, felt remorse and sadness, and desired to undo his impulsive action.

Multiple Choice Questions

1.D. H Lawrence had to wait under – a)the carob tree b)the coconut tree c)the mango tree d)the willow tree

2. To the poet, the snake seems to be a ______ in exile. a)King b)queen c)captain d)hermit

3. The poet observed a snake come to his water trough on- a) a hot day in the month of January in Sicily. b)a hot day in the month of July in Sicily c) a cold day in the month of July in Sicily d) a hot day in the month of March in Sicily

4. In the poem ‘Snake’, the snake lived in a – a) a fissure in the forest b) a fissure in the mud wall of his house c) a fissure in the cave d) a mud wall of a cave

5.D H Lawrence is an _______ poet. a)Italian b)English c)Indian d)French

6. The snake’s lifting its head like- a)humans do b)birds do c)cattle do d)reptiles do

7. In the poem ‘Snake’, the second comer was – a)a child b)the poet c) a snake d)a bird

8. The poet regrets – a)throwing a clumsy log at the snake b)snatching a pitcher c) his failure to get water d) his feelings of loneliness

9. In the poem ‘Snake’, the poet lived in- a)Isla Nigra b) Cavern c)Sicily d)Ireland

10. In the poem ‘Snake’, the snake looked at the poet- a)vaguely b)clearly c)with courage d)with pride

11. In the poem ‘Snake’, the poet and the snake were under a – a) a bamboo tree b) a mango tree c) a carob tree d) a coconut tree

Short Answer Type Questions 

1. When did the poet observe the snake in the poem ‘Snake’?

Ans: When the poet went to a water trough to drink water on a hot summer day in July, he observed the snake.

2. What is meant by the phrase ‘voice of education’?

Ans: The phrase ‘voice of education’ refers to the poet’s consciousness including common beliefs which were taught in school and society.

3. How did the snake come to drink water at the poet’s water trough? How did he depart from there?

Ans: The snake came to drink water at the poet’s water trough peacefully, pacified, and thankless. He departed from there peacefully, pacified, and thankless.

4. What did the speaker’s voice of education say to him?

Ans: The speaker’s voice of education said to him that the snake must be killed. It said the black snakes were innocent, but the gold snakes were poisonous and harmful in Sicily. It also said if he was a man, he would kill him by breaking him with a stick.

5. What did the speaker regret? 

Ans: The speaker hit the snake with a clumsy log, and later he realized his action gave pain to the snake, and regretted his act.

6. Explain ‘Albatross’.

Ans: Ans albatross is a white sea-bird.  In the poem ‘Snake’ the poet recalled Samuel Taylor’s  ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’  in which the sailor regrets his act of killing an albatross and repents if he has not killed it, then the same albatross becomes alive and meets the sailor. In this poem, the poet compares the snake to the albatross and expects that the snake will come back to meet him in the same way as the albatross does in ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’.

7. Where did the water drip from?

Ans: The water dripped from the tap.

8. What does the ‘burning bowels of the earth’ refer to?

Ans: the ‘burning bowels of the earth’ refer to the hot underground of the earth.

9. Which was the color of the snake which was noticed by the poet?

Ans: The poet noticed the snake which was yellow-brown.

 Identify the figure of speech used in the following :

1. “He seemed to me like a king.”-Simile

2. “I, like the second comer, waiting.”-Simile

3. “I was afraid, I was most afraid.”-repetition

4. “Strange-scented shade of the great carob tree.”-Alliteration

5. “On a hot, hot day, and I in pajamas for the heat.”-repetition

6. “I missed my chance with one of the lords of life.”-Hyperbole


A. Answer the following in a complete sentence:

1. What did the poet throw at the water -trough and why?

2.” In my thought there was darkness”-How does the poet want to explain this darkness?

B. Answer the following in 80 words:

1. What is the theme of the poem ‘Snake’?

2. What was a mean act according to the poet? Why did he think his act to be ‘a mean act’?

3. Describe the poet’s response to his voice of education.

C. Do as directed:

1. I came down the steps with my pitcher. (Change the voice)

2. The water had dripped from the tap. (Replace the underlined word with a phrasal verb)

3. The poet said, “Was it cowardice, that I dared not to kill him? Was it perversity, that I longed to talk to him?” (Change the narration)

4. I picked up a clumsy log. (Turn into a complex sentence)

5. I stared with fascination. (Make it an Interrogative sentence)


trough-a wide and open mouthed container which is used for feeding cattle,♦ carob-tree-an evergreen tree with red flowers,♦ fissure-hole or a crack in the walls, ♦trailed-dragged ,♦slackness- looseness ,♦dripped-fell down, ♦clearness-state of being free from obstruction,♦ gums-the fleshy area where teeth grow, ♦lifted-put up, ♦cattle-cows and other gentle animals, ♦vaguely-not clearly,♦ flickered-vibrate or moving to and fro, ♦mused-thought, ♦burning bowels of the earth-hot underground of the earth,♦ Sicilian July-extreme hot July in Sicily, ♦Etna-highest and active volcano in Sicily, ♦Sicily-largest island in the Mediterranean sea, part of Italy, ♦venomous-poisonous, ♦confess-admit, ♦depart-leave, ♦cowardice-lack of courage, ♦perversity-interested in doing something which is not acceptable, ♦longed-wished, ♦humility-ability to respect other people, ♦honoured-respected, ♦hospitality-the friendly reception and treatment of guests,♦ dreamily-as if he were in a dream, ♦lick-passing the tongue over in order to taste, ♦wall-face-outer part of the wall,♦ dreadful-terrible, ♦drew up-crawled, ♦farther-more,♦ horrow-fear, ♦horried-frightful, ♦pitcher-a container with a handle, ♦a clumsy log-a piece of wood which is too large and heavy to be useful, ♦clatter-sound of hitting by the wood, ♦convulsed-move violently, ♦undignified-lacking in dignity,♦ Writhed-twisted movement of the body, ♦fascination-attraction, ♦paltry-insultingly small, vulgar-scornful, accursed-ill-fated, albatross-white sea-bird, exile-banishment, expiate-accepting punishment, pettiness-mean act (here it refers to vulgar act of hitting the snake)