Snake is one of Lawrences most famous poems. Although the poem seems tobe about an encounter with a snake, the true theme of the poem is the conflictbetween emotional behavior and learned behavior. This conflict is displayedthrough setting and symbolism. The poem begins with a very narrative voice andis a pleasure to read for that reason. Lawrence is exuberated in expressing hisreverence for nature. In the first three stanzas of the poem the setting isestablished and the movement of the snake is described.
The poem took place in agarden near his house because the boy was in pajamas and under the shade of agreat dark carob-tree. The movement of the snake is described by thealliteration of the s sound in the words straight, softly, slack, and silently.Symbolism is used throughout the poem. The garden in which the poem takes placecan be a symbol of the Garden of Eden, and the snake, a symbol of the devil. Asnake is a symbol of evil, but a snake is also a symbol of enlightenment andwisdom according to ancient civilizations. The snake, however, is the ultimatesymbol of tension.
The tension in the young boy is caused because he has to makea decision. When he encounters the snake, he is posed with the question to killthe snake or to let it leave unharmed, to act upon his human education or hisinstinct. While the snake is drinking at the trough, the boys emotions are inconflict. Even though the boy was scared, he was even more honored that thesnake should seek his hospitality. Once the snake started to leave, the boystime was running out. He had to make a decision. Because of his accursedhuman education, he decided to act in an evil way and throw a log at thesnake.
Does this suggest that the snake is not evil, but the soul in man isinherently evil? Or is the snake evil because he was retreating into the evildarkness of hell symbolized by the hole in the fissure? Once the boy threw thelog at the snake, he immediately regretted it, revealing I thought howpaltry, how vulgar, what a mean actI wish he would come back, my snake.After the boy threw the log, he recognized the innocence of the snake noting,And so, I missed my chance with one of the lords/ Of life. Thisillustrates man always trying to rob the dignity from all Godly creatures, andhow petty it is. Through this poem, Lawrence has illustrated his point aboutstrife and the clash of opposites.
The symbols used in this poem are veryambiguous because they can be interpreted many ways. The snake can be a symbolof evil, enlightenment and wisdom, or tension. The boy battles through manyemotions in this poem, finally coming to the realization that men are inherentlyevil.