David Herbert Richards Lawrence was born in Eastwood, Nottinghamshire, England on September 11, 1885. His poem Snake was written while he was living in Taormina, Sicily in 1920. The poem is actually derived from an experience there(Groliers). In all, Lawrence published 11 novels in his lifetime, 5 volumes of plays, 9 volumes of essays, and several short story collections. Of these, Snake was one of his most famous poems. The poem can also be related to Lawrence?s views and experiences relating to his own life.
Lawrence?s childhood was not a pleasant one. His parents did not get along very well and they were not wealthy. His mothers frustration with her marriage, his father?s alcoholic degeneration, and their continual marital strife haunted his childhood and provided much of the conflict at the heart of Lawrence?s work (Critical, 1948). Lawrence?s mother struggled to do her best for them, in saving money and encouraging them to take their education seriously. The children had a rather troubled love for their father, who was increasingly treated by his wife as a drunkard who would never do well, and as a consequence he drank more to escape the tensions he experienced at home. Lydia Lawrence consciously alienated the children from their father, and told them stories of her earlier married life the children never forgot, things their father did for which they never forgave him. Arthur Lawrence, for his part, unhappy at the lack of respect and love shown him and the way in which his male privilege as head of the household was constantly being breached, reacted by drinking and deliberately irritating and alienating his family. His behavior, and his spending of a portion of the family income on drink, caused all the major quarrels between the parents, and divided the children’s loves and loyalties (Worthen).
In 1912 he became smitten with ?the woman of a lifetime,? his former language professor?s wife, the Baroness Frieda von Richthofen. Frieda had been known to have a number of affairs, but the one with Lawrence was different. He truly loved her, and she eventually divorced her husband and married Lawrence.
Lawrence also had potent psychological and emotional undercurrents in his writings, such as The Rainbow, which was publicly condemned for obscenity. Some of Lawrence?s works were not appreciated in his own time. Critics, however, soon did grasp Lawrence?s genuine ability to convey what T.S Eliot called ?fitful and profound insights? into human behavior. Virginia Woolf stated that ?Mr. Lawrence has moments of greatness but he has hours of something quite different? (Critical, 1950). Lawrence was admired by his peers, but not all of his works were exemplary. Some of his works were condemned because of his views on human sexuality among other things, none of which I feel pertain to Snake, but nonetheless conveys that he was a controversial writer in his time and nothing stopped him from writing what he felt.
In Snake, Lawrence tells of a confrontation with a snake he had at his water trough. This poem is actually based on an incident that occurred to him and obviously reflects his feelings and emotions. Lawrence was honored by the snakes presence, but was also afraid. ?If you were not afraid, you would kill him?, he said to himself. He simply waits for the snake to finish drinking its water, and then throws a log at it to scare it away. After doing so he immediately regrets doing it because he missed a chance with one of the ?lords of life.?
Throughout the poem Lawrence illustrates his point about strife and the clash of opposites. Education and social conventions make Lawrence think that the poisonous snake must be killed, and that a brave man should undertake the task. For a brief moment Lawrence lacked the faith of his own intuition and missed his chance with one of the lords of life. (Internet, 3) He compares the snake to domesticated farm animals and to a human by referring to the snake as ?someone? and describing ?him? as amusing. Lawrence compares the snake to a god, a king, and a lord of life. It almost seems as he feels the snake is above him. The snake is the first one on the scene, and the first to leave. Lawrence wonders why ?petty? mankind always tries to rob the dignity from all Godly creatures (Masterplots, 1930).
Some religious themes could be drawn from the poem as well. There was a snake in the Garden of Eden. Lawrence is drawn by the snake, just as Eve was in the Bible. He is in complete awe of it, and can not decide to turn away from it or get a chance to understand it. Lawrence?s act of scaring it away could illustrate an attempt to draw closer to God. His inner feelings are fear of the snake ?And truly I was afraid, I was most afraid, But even so, honoured still more.? His Garden was both honored and violated by the snake (Masterplots, 1931). This poem, along with others, convey his inner feelings and conflicts. He is confused on how he should feel about the snake. He is torn between what he thinks society would have him do, and what would be morally right. He has been taught that a snake is something evil, and that he should be scared of. Inside, however, he feels honored by the snake being there. But the pressure of society wins, and he throws a log at the snake and scares it away. He regrets it and wishes he had not done it. He was drawn to what represented evil, but did turn away. Perhaps this has been a frequent occurrence in his life. Whenever he conforms to society or God he regrets it because he did not do what he really wanted to do, which might sometimes be evil.
Snake is an excellent poem that I enjoyed. It deals with a great deal of inner conflict, with good prevailing. But does good prevail, when evil is what you still feel you should have done. The fact that Lawrence actually experienced the account that took place in the poem makes it all the more interesting. You can tell by his writing he has a great deal of inner discord that developed throughout his life.