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Established since 1993

This free website has been created especially for you by Bibi Baxter (International Author, Teacher & ESL/EFL Materials Specialist)  <>()<> This website contains 'something' for everyone <>()<> Established since 1993, Musical English Lessons International are the only world-wide suppliers of special ESL/EFL study ideas by Bibi Baxter (formerly Bibi Boarder)

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The Snake

by D.H. Lawrence

THE CONTENTS OF THIS PAGE

RELEVANT EXTERNAL LINKS

The Snake

by D.H. Lawrence

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,
i o 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.

<>()<>

Taormina, 1923

The Snake

by D.H. Lawrence

Comprehension Exercise

1.     Does the atmosphere in the poem seem fraught, or relaxed?  Why?  ..............................................................................................................

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2.       Why does the owner of the water trough wait until the snake has finished? 

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3.       With what does he compare the snake’s drinking habits? 

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4.       What has been drummed into him by the society in which he lives? 

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5.       Does the owner of the water trough want to kill the snake? 

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6.       Did he throw the log at the snake to hurt it?  

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7.       Did he feel triumphant, or guilty?  

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8.       Did he respect the snake?  

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9.       What was his final opinion of himself and the way he had behaved?

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The Snake

by D.H. Lawrence

The Answer Key to the Comprehension Exercise

1.     Does the atmosphere in the poem seem fraught, or relaxed?  Why?  (The snake is dangerous, but relaxed, so there is no real fear of danger at that moment;  furthermore, temperatures are high, making the snake and onlooker slowmoving and feeling lazy.)
2.       Why does the owner of the water trough wait until the snake has finished?  (He respects the idea of first come, first served and awaits his turn.)
3.       With what does he compare the snake’s drinking habits? (The snake’s drinking habits remind him of cattle when they drink.)
4.       What has been drummed into him by the society in which he lives? (All black snakes are safe and all gold snakes are dangerous and should be killed on sight.)
5.       Does the owner of the water trough want to kill the snake? (No, he is mesmerised by it and feels respectful towards it;  in addition, he feels honoured that the snake had come to drink at his water trough.)
6.       Did he throw the log at the snake to hurt it?  (No. He threw it at the water trough only, as a half-hearted gesture to satisfy the social guilt he felt about doing nothing about its presence.  He only meant to frighten it.)
7.       Did he feel triumphant, or guilty?  (He felt guilty. To his mind, he felt it had been a mean, vulgar and paltry act.)
8.       Did he respect the snake?  (Yes, as he considered him to be an uncrowned king of his own (the snake’s) underground domain.)
9.       What was his final opinion of himself and the way he had behaved? (petty)
 
 
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<>()<>
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