Class 10 English Snake Summary and Important Questions

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Summary

The poem describes the encounter of the poet with a snake that came into his domain looking for water. On a hot day, a snake went to the poet's water trough to quench its thirst. The poet who was also the owner of the water trough came for the same purpose in his pyjamas to avoid the heat. On seeing the snake, he feels obliged to stand and wait for the snake because it was there before it.
The yellow-brown snake, who originated from a fissure in the earth wall, slithered sl'owly to the edge of the stone trough. The snake rested its throat upon the stone bottom and started drinking softly. The poet while watching the snake, observed its mode of drinking and described it as that of a cattle. This the snake did without noticing that anyone was watching him.
The poet recollected the voice of his education and realized that he must kill the snake, as golden snakes like this one were supposed to be poisonous. He ignored this instinct to kill the snake, feeling honoured that the snake had sought his hospitality.
The snake having drunk enough to satisfy his thirst, turned around slowly and moved with its long curved body towards the direction of its origin. The snake moved in slowly into the hole without any fear. Suddenly, the poet looked around and put down his pitcher, picked up a stick and threw it at the snake. The snake hearing the clatter, hastily moved in its remaining body back into the black hole.
At the disappearance of the snake, the poet regretted his action immediately and blamed himself for acting the way he did. He placed the blame on the voice of his education. He feared that he would have to pay for his negative action like the sailor that killed the albatross. The poet now wished the snake could come back for him to crown it like a king, but believed it would never do so. The poet concluded by feeling that he has to make amends.
 
Q.1 Based on your reading of the poem, answer the following questions by ticking the correct options:

(a) 'he lifted his head from his drinking as cattle do' - The poet wants to convey that the snake
(i) is domesticated (ii) is innocent
(iii) is an harmless as cattle (iv) drinks water just like cattle
 
(b) 'Sicilian July', 'Etna smoking' and 'burning bowels of the earth' are images that convey that
(i) there are snakes in volcanic areas
(ii) the poet lived in a hot area
(iii) it was a really hot day when the snake came
(iv) Sicilian snakes are dangerous
 
(c) 'A sort of horror, a sort of protest overcame me' - The poet is filled with protest because
(i) he doesn't want to let the snake remain alive
(ii) he fears the snake
(iii) he doesn't want the snake to recede into darkness
(iv) he wants to kill it so that it doesn't return
 
(d) In the line 'And as he slowly drew up, snake easing his shoulders, and entered farther' the phrase snake easing' his shoulder means
(i) loosening its shoulders
(ii) slipping in with majestic grace
(iii) moving slowly
(iv) moving fast
 
(e) 'He seemed to me like a king in exile....' The poet refers to the snake as such to emphasize that the snake
(i) is like a king enduring banishment
(ii) is like a king due to be crowned
(iii) is a majestic king who came for a while on earth
(iv) is a majestic creature forced to go into exile by man
 
(f) 'I thought how paltry, how vulgar , what a mean act' - The poet is referring to
(i) the snake going into the dreadful hole
(ii) the accursed modern education
(iii) the act of throwing a log of wood at the snake
(iv) the act of killing the snake
 
Ans. (a) iii, (b) iii, (c) iii, (d) ii, (e) iv, (f) iii
 
Q.2 Answer the following questions briefly.

(a) Why does the poet decide to stand and wait till the snake has finished drinking? What does this tell you about the poet? (Notice that he uses 'someone' instead of 'something' for the snake.)
Ans. The poet decides to stand and wait till the snake finished drinking because he feels the snake was the first one to reach the water trough and he himself came in second; so he must wait for his turn.
 
(b) In stanza 2 and 3, the poet gives a vivid description of the snake by using suggestive expressions. What picture of the snake do you form on the basis of this description?
Ans. Based on the poet's description the snake had a straight mouth, straight gums, slack long body, had a two-forked tongue and was earth-brown and earth-golden in color.
 
(c) How does the poet describe the day and the atmosphere when he saw the snake?
Ans. The poet described the day and the atmosphere when he saw the snake in the following expressions :
 On a hot, day, and I in pyjamas for the heat
 from the burning bowels of the earth
 On the day of Sicilian July, with Etna smoking
 Into the burning bowels of this earth
 in the intense still noon
 
(d) What does the poet want to convey by saying that the snake emerges from the 'burning bowels of the earth'?
Ans. By saying that the snake emerges from the 'burning bowels of the earth' the poet wishes to convey that the earth was heated up in that hot summer and the inside of the earth was so hot that it appeared to be burning.
 
(e) Do you think the snake was conscious of the poet's presence? How do you know?
Ans. The snake was not conscious of the poet's presence. He was very relaxed. The snake moved leisurely and dreamily. This is shown by the following expressions :
 And looked at me vaguely, as drinking cattle do,
 And stooped and drank a little more,
 Depart peaceful, pacified, and thankless
 Lifted his head, dreamily, as one who has drunken,
 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
 He slowly drew up, snake-easing his shoulders
If the snake would have known of the poet's presence he wouldn't have been so easy going and slow acting.
 
(f) How do we know that the snake's thirst was satiated? Pick out the expressions that convey this.
Ans. We know the snake's thirst was satiated as the snake lifts his head satisfied and smacks his tongue as if licking his lips in satisfaction. The following expressions give us the information that the snake's thirst was satiated :
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
 
(g) The poet has a dual attitude towards the snake. Why does he experience conflicting emotions on seeing the snake?
Ans. The poet experiences the conflicting emotions on seeing the snake. He thinks about his education which tells him that Sicilian snakes of earth brown and golden color were poisonous and must be killed. He feared the snake but at the same time was fascinated by the snake. His humanity and liking for the snake conflicted with his education and inner voice. This led to dual attitude towards the snake.
 
(h) The poet is filled with horror and protest when the snake prepares to retreat and bury itself in the 'horrid black', dreadful' hole. In the light of this statement, bring out the irony of his act of throwing a log at the snake.
Ans. The poet admires the movements of the snake and feels the snake had honored him by being his guest and accepting his hospitality by drinking water at his water trough. Just the thought of the snake returning to the dreadful place he had just come out of filled the poet with protest and fear. He hated the idea of the snake going away but he hits the same snake with a log and scares him and forces him to escape and hide in his dreadful hole. The irony of the situation is that he forces the snake into the same hole where he did not wish the snake to return.
 
(i) The poet seems to be full of admiration and respect for the snake. He almost regards him like a majestic God. Pick out at least four expressions from the poem that reflect these emotions.
Ans. The following expressions reflect that the poet almost regards the snake like a a majestic God :
 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
 And I have something to expiate
 
(j) What is the difference between the snake's movement at the beginnings of the poem and later when the poet strikes it with a log of wood? You may use relevant vocabulary from the poem to highlight the difference.
Ans. In the beginning the movements of the snake are slow, graceful and easy going while after the poet hits the snake with a log of wood the movement of the snake shows pain, fear, hurry to escape and brisk movements. The following expressions from the poem support the facts.
In the beginning the poet describes the snake's movements as :
  trailed his yellow-brown slackness soft-bellied down
  rested his throat upon the stone bottom
  Softly drank
  lifted his head from his drinking, as cattle do,
  Seeming to lick his lips
  Slowly turned his head
  Proceeded to draw his slow length curving round
  slowly drew up, snake easing his shoulders, and entered farther
The movement of the snake described later when the poet strikes it with a log of wood:
  convulsed in undignified haste
  Writhed like lightning, and was gone
 
(k) The poet experiences feelings of self-derision, guilt and regret after hitting the snake. Pick out expressions that suggest this. Why does he feel like this?
Ans. The poet experiences guilt and regret because he felt he had hurt a creature which had caused him no harm. In fact the snake was not even aware of his presence and he acted small and petty by hitting it when he turned his back. The snake was just drinking water to quench his thirst on a hot day and the poet had been mean to hit him. The expressions that suggest this are following : paltry, vulgar, mean act, despised myself and the voices of my accursed human education.
 
(l) You have already read Coleridge's poem The Ancient Mariner in which an albatross is killed by the mariner. Why does the poet make an allusion to the albatross?
Ans. The poet makes an allusion to the albatross because just like the mariner killed the albatross and regretted later; the poet hits the snake and regretted his action.
 
(m) 'I have something to expiate' - Explain.
Ans. The poet expresses 'I have something to expiate'. He regrets his petty act of hitting the snake and feels that this was something he had done which needed to be amended. He could get out of his guilt only by rectifying his mistake.
 
Reference to Context Type Questions
 
Q.1 '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 a great dark Carob tree.'
 
(a) Who was the visitor the narrator is referring to?
Ans. It is the snake.
 
(b) Why is the narrator in pyjamas?
Ans. Because it was too hot to wear too many clothes.
 
(c) What is a Carob tree?
Ans. It is a tree found in the Mediterranean region.
 
Q.2 'I came down the steps with my pitcher
And must wait, must stand and wait, For there was at the tough before me'
 
(a) Why did the narrator come down the steps?
Ans. He wanted to fill the pitcher with water to drink.
 
(b) Why did he have to wait before filling water?
Ans. He had to wait there was a snake at the water trough drinking water.
 
(c) How did the narrator react to the snake?
Ans. At first he admired it, but when it turned its back, he hit it with a stick.
 
Q.3 'He reached down from the fissure in the earth-wall in the gloom And trailed his yellow-brownslackness soft bellied down, over the edge of the stone trough'
(a) Who does 'he refer to?
Ans. It refers to the snake.
 
(b) Where had it come from?
Ans. It had come from a hole in the earth wall.
 
(c) Describe the creature as depicted in these lines.
Ans. It was yellow-brown in colour, with a soft, slack body.
 
Q.4 'He sipped with his straight mouth Softly drank through his straight gums, into his slack, long body,

(a) What is being described in these lines?
Ans. The manner in which the snake was drinking water is being described.
 
(b) What is the attitude of the narrator?
Ans. He is respectful, admiring the snake and waiting for his turn at the water trough ,
 
(c) How does his attitude change in the end?
Ans. In the end he hits the snake with a stick.
 
Q.5 'He lifted his head from his drinking as cattle do, And looked at me vaguely as drinking cattle do, And flickered his two formed tongue from his lips and mused a moment'

(a) Pick out the poetic device in the first line.
Ans. It is a simile.
 
(b) Why has the narrator compared the snake to a cattle?
Ans. He does so because at that time, the snake appeared as harmless as cattle.
 
(c) Pick put the word which tells us that the snake was not aware of the narrator/s presence.
Ans. The word 'vaguely'.
 
Q.6 '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.'

(a) Where does the narrator see the snake?
Ans. He sees it in the water trough.
 
(b) Why does he want to kill it?
Ans. He wants to kill it because ir was a golden-brown snake and hence poisonous .
 
(c) What had the 'voice of education' taught him?
Ans. It had taught him that snakes were pOisonous creatures and had to be killed.
 
Q.7 'But must I confess how I liked him
How glad I was that he had come here like a guest in quiet, to drink it my water trough'

(a) What is the narrator referring to in these lines?
Ans. He is referring to a snake which had come to his trough to drink water.
 
(b) What was the paradox as expressed in these lines?
Ans. Though the narrator felt that the snake which had come to drink water at his trough was poisonous and should be killed, he felt he was like a guest and should not be killed.
 
(c) How did the narrator resolve the problem?
Ans. He threw a stick at the retreating back of the snake.
 
Q.8 'And as he put his head into that dreadful hole And as he slowly drew up, snake-easing his shoulders, and entered further, 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.'
 
(a) What is being described here?
Ans. A golden brown snake.
 
(b) Where is the snake going?
Ans. It is disappearing into a hole.
 
(c) What are the conflicting views that the narrator has as he watches the snake?
Ans. First he felt honoured, then wondered whether he should b ll it because it was poisonous and finally he hit the snake's retreating back.
 
Q.9 'And looked around like a god, unseeing into the air.

(a) What is the poetic device used in this line?
Ans. It is a simile.
 
(b) Who is being compared to a god?
Ans. The snake.
 
(c) What does the phrase 'unseeing into the air' tell us about it?
Ans. It is relaxed and not focusing on anything in particular.
 
Q.10 'But sudden that part or him that was left behind convulsed in undignified haste'

(a) Who does 'him' refer to?
Ans. The snake.
 
(b) Why did it convules in undignified haste?
Ans. It did so because it sensed danger after being attacked by a stick thrown by the narrator.
 
(c) How is the movement different from his earlier behaviour?
Ans. Earlier, he was relaxed and moving slowly and lazily without any fear.

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