Study Material of Snake (Summary and Word Meanings)

Summary of the Poem (Stanzas Explanation)
Study Material and Summary of Snake NCERT Class 10th

Stanza 1 and 2: The poem begins about an encounter with a snake on a hot day when the poet was in his pajamas and was going to fill his pitcher on water trough. The water trough was under the shade of a red flowery tree, which let out a strange kind of scent. The poet who had also gone to the trough to fill water in a pitcher waited for the snake to finish, since he had come to the trough earlier than the poet. The poet is very particular regarding protocol, so he believes that he must wait for his turn to take the water.

Stanza 3: The poet stood there watching the snake which slithered down from the crack in the earthen wall and slipped over the edge of the trough of water. The poet describes the snake as having a soft yellow-brown belly. Poet stands there watching the snake as the snake sips the water that is dripping from the trough.

Stanza 4 and 5: The snake relaxed in between and sipping water from the trough which was entering his mouth straight and into its gums. The snake then lifted his head, looked at the poet ‘vaguely’, flickered his two-forked tongue, stopped for a moment and then drank a little more water. The snake was brown like the earth and he had come out from the burning bottom of the earth. It was a very very hot day in Sicily, in the month of July, and Mount Etna, an active volcano, was also sending out fumes, making the day hotter.

Education and social conventions make the poet think that the golden brown snakes were poisonous, so they must be killed. Black snakes were considered harmless but brown ones were dangerous. As a brave man, he must undertake the task of killing the snake.

Stanza 6 and 7: The voice in his head provokes him by saying that if he was a man, he would have taken a stick and killed the snake. ‘Finish him off’ is what the voice urged him to do. But the poet confesses that he liked the snake. The poet was glad that the snake paid a visit to his water-trough. The snake went back into the ‘burning bowels of the earth’ without thanking him.

Stanza 8 and 9: The poet questions himself that was it cowardice that kept him from killing the snake? Or was it his obstinacy that urged him to talk to it? The poet contemplates if it was his humility that made him feel so honored. A voice then challenges him that if he was not afraid, he would have killed the snake.

In these lines, the poet confesses that he was truly afraid. He was afraid that he let the dangerous snake to go and feelings of honour that the snake sought the poet’s hospitality.

Stanza 10: The snake drank enough water to his satisfaction and then raised his head dreamily and flickered his tongue. He seemed to lick his lips. He looked around like a God and then slowly proceeded to curve round and move away from the water trough. The snake moved so slowly as if he was dreaming or was asleep and again went back to climb the wall with the crack, from where he had come.

Stanza 11: The snake put his head inside the crack and then easing his shoulders, entered deep inside the hole. The poet disliked the retreat of the snake into the dark and deep horrible hole. A sort of protest rose in the poet’s mind and he became quite agitated, the moment the snake turned his back.

Stanza 12: The poet put down his pitcher, picked up a log and hurled it at the snake. The snake twisted violently and with great agility vanished into the hole in the wall. The tail of the snake which had been left also vanished in great haste like lightning. The snake had entered the crack in the wall. All the poet could do was to stare with fascination at the manner in which the snake had disappeared.

Stanza 13: The poet regrets for his foolish act of trying to kill the snake. For a moment, his emotions were different. He really hated himself for such a mean act and cursed the voice of education that had always taught him to kill snakes, without any reason. The poet thinks of the ‘albatross’ and wishes that the snake would visit him again.

Stanza 14: The poet felt that the snake had behaved in a dignified manner like a king and he was also the king of the under-world. The snake was inside the earth, like a king in exile. Now enough was enough and the poet wished to give due respect to the snake that was befitting of a king.

Stanza 15: The poet felt that the snake had behaved in a dignified manner like a king and he was also the king of the under- world. The snake was inside the earth, like a king in exile. Now enough was enough and the poet wished to give due respect to the snake that was befitting of a king.

Terms and Meanings from the Poem

• Carob-tree - a red flowered tree originally in the Mediterranean area
• Pitcher - tall, round container with an open top and large handle
• Fissure – crack
• Flickered – moved
• Mused – think about
• Bowels – bottom of the earth
• Pacified - relaxed
• Cowardice - lack of bravery
• Perversity – illogical
• Hospitality – welcome
• Horrid – rough
• Convulsed - violent movement
• Haste – hurry
• Writhed - to twist and turn
• Fissure – crack
• Fascination – interest
• Paltry – worthless
• Albatross - an allusion to Coleridge's "Rime of the ancient mariner" .He wishes for its return
• Exile – banishment
• Expiate – make amends

View NCERT Solutions of Snake
Previous Post Next Post