Summary of the Poem Snake


‘Snake’  is a poem composed skillfully on a simple theme. A snake visits the poet’s garden to quench its thirst. It has emerged from the fissures of the earth. The day is hot and it was quite natural that a snake came out of its abode, a hole, to quench its thirst. The poet has come out of his house with a pitcher to take water but he has to wait because it has come at the trough earlier than to the poet.

The poet describes the snake as ‘earth-brown, and ‘earth golden’. The voice of his education told him that such snakes must be killed for in Sicily the black snakes are innocent. The golden snakes are dangerous. It is shows a prejudiced society. In fact, the poet was afraid of the snake. If he doesn’t kill the snake he would be considered as a ‘coward’. The poet instinctively likes the snake. Thus he treats it like a guest. He also feels honoured that it had come to drink at its water trough.

After drinking the water the snake raised its head just like cattle do  and flashed his forked tongue. It drank some more water and started going back. The poet suddenly filled with a protest against the idea of the snake withdrawing into its hole. He puts down his pitcher, picked up a log and hurled it at the snake. The snake twisted violently and vanished into the hole in the wall.

The poet later feels remorse in that act. Furthermore, he is trying to expiate for that ‘mean act’ in future. The snake was frightened by poet’s odd behavior and returns to its abode. The poem is a self-critique. It is also a social criticism. It unfolds the negative impact of social conditioning. Instead of feeling sympathy for other creatures man has become selfish and a ‘fearful being’. The practical wisdom told him that this brown snake is poisonous and it must be killed. This points its finger to man’s prejudice to other creatures.


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