D H Lawrence’s “Snake”and My Thoughts on Being Judgmental


I think “Snake” is one of the best poems by D.H. Lawrence. Written in free verse, in a conversational form, it portrays the poet’s feelings on meeting a snake while he was living on the island of Sicily. The poet’s observation, inner thoughts, dilemma– all are interconnected here with the appearance of the venomous snake by the water trough early in the morning.

The sight of the snake evoked a plethora of feelings in the poet’s mind. They both were there to drink, as it was a hot day. Perhaps, this mere coincidence made the poet feel a kind of kinship towards the snake, whom he had anthropomorphized (addressed and talked about it as if it were human). He waited for the snake to finish first, as he would wait for any other human being who would have come first. The snake, coming out from his hole as he felt thirsty, flickered out his tongue, looked vaguely at the poet and his postures resembled the benign domestic animals.

At this point, the poet’s civilized, conscious mind spoke to him. Because the golden snake could be venomous, that voice of education told him to get rid of the snake; to finish him off. He wondered whether he was too wimpy to lash out and kill the snake.

Tension has been created here among the opposing voices of the poet’s inner mind; one wants to ‘honour’ the snake and wait for it to go away, the other wants to finish it. The former is the voice of equality between human and nature and the latter is of superiority and pride. The tendency to look upon animals as subservient to humans.

The poet, however, chose to wait for his “guest” but, the nagging doubt persisted in his mind as what had stopped him killing the animal, the fondness for it, or his cowardice. The distant eruption of Mt Etna, the smoky backdrop indicated the emergence of the ‘king’ of the underworld, the slender, graceful, golden snake, whose presence made the poet honoured.

But, somehow, as the snake finished drinking and, was retreating from the trough, the poet’s preconditioned, civilized mind prompted him to pick up a log all of a sudden and hurl it at him. Immediately, he regretted his action but it was too late. The log, though, missed the snake, made him go away in unnecessary, awkward haste. He despised the inner “voice of education”, a feeling of contrition clouded his mind. He could have fatally injured the wild creature and, like the sailor in S.T.Coleridge’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” suffered nightmare visions for killing a creature who had done him no harm.

Lawrence ends the poem saying he needs to amend his treatment towards the snake. It is here that the poem becomes more relatable in terms of today’s world. Modern society and civilization have similar reparations to make towards Mother Nature and her creatures. Not only that, but society has also grown a tendency to point out fingers to fellow humans as well. Behind the invisible but omnipresent social mask, we wear, we all have a shadowy side. That side prompts our actions often. It’s our social mask and conscience which hold us back from making scary and embarrassing flaws.

Still, we can’t avoid being judgmental however hard we try. We fall to the trap of critically nitpicking or find fault in other people, an idea or situation like the poet in the above-discussed poem. It could be our “holier than thou” attitude or simply the fear of hurting our ego. An overtly judgmental person is often a bully. They tear apart the simple goodness to find mistakes, logical flaws and make things look miserably out of shape. It becomes a habit.


But, the question is, WHY? Why does a person behave in this manner? The psychological analysis of a judgmental person reveals interesting points! They do so because they have very low self-esteem and self-confidence. They are afraid of standing in the receiving end. Bringing someone down to their level provides them  a feeling of fulfillment. It momentarily heals up the hole in their soul. They feel rejuvenated.

The difference between judging and being judgmental is very thin.

We must consider another thing here. As most us grow up with a set of rules, norms, social-behavioural ethics and customs, we try to see the whole world with those filters. Anything that is not matching our set of boxes is considered alarming and, we pounce on it. This is essentially judgmental-ism. But, when we consider situations, persons or ideas in a more lenient and empathetic manner, we succeed to pull off those bully glasses and, deliver a critically constructive opinion.

What is a critically constructive opinion?

Let me cite an example. You may not like the gaudy accessories and funny accent of someone, but there are two ways to express your disliking.

— You can make hilarious comments that make her look like a joker to herself and others.

— You can politely express your dissatisfaction by saying she would have looked prettier if the make-up was a simple one.

In the first case, you are judgmental. In the second case, you are simply expressing your opinion.

There’s nothing bad in giving away opinions as long as you are open enough to change it or accept it as to be a wrong/misjudged one. An opinion is actually an idea or a mixed box of ideas. They change with time and situation if we keep our mind’s eye open.

We all have opinions. A person without an opinion is a weather-cock without the directional arrows. It’s the way of expressing it that matters. A little dose of love and empathy can change our attitude towards our fellow humans and this planet. Judgmental-ism leaves only a bitter feeling in your mind at the end. Don’t make it happen.


First Picture Source: Google
Second Picture Source:  Xandria Ooi

22 responses to “D H Lawrence’s “Snake”and My Thoughts on Being Judgmental

  1. Your write up has reminded me of a Hindi small poem. The Composure is unknown to me. The poem is like this:-
    तुम सभ्य तो हुए नहीं,
    शहर में रहना भी न आया.
    एक बात पूछूं
    जवाब दोगे,
    डसना कहाँ सीखा.
    ज़हर कहाँ पाया.
    In English:-
    You never knew civilization,
    You never lived in cities,
    May I ask you
    Will you answer?
    Where did you learn to sting?
    Where did you get poison.


  2. Behind the invisible but omnipresent social mask, we wear, we all have a shadowy side. How true especially in today’s times of uncertainty when we humans drove a wedge between themselves, nature and animals. I love reading about DH Lawrence’s poem about the snake and very profound where you unpeeled the layers. I confess about having low self-esteem in the past and working towards improving myself. There have been times lashing at people but we can always make things right by improving. It matters a lot. As you rightly explain, there is a way of doing things.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. A very thought-provoking post, dear. I loved the way you analysed the poem so deeply. I’ve got to go back and read the poem once again. It’s easy to judge others but once if we walk a mile in their shoes before judging them, we might be able to see why they are the way they are.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Very thoughtfully written, Mani. The treatment of the snake does aptly reflect society’s attitudes. Being judgemental doesn’t serve us much good. As you said, people who do so may have low self-esteem and confidence. Maybe they also need a sense of direction and guidance in life. Hope you are doing well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are right, Mabel. People act in this way as a process of self-defense. They do not want to be on the receiving end and so, act accordingly belittling others…

      Thanks a lot for your valuable input. Glad to see you again ❤❤
      Yes, I’m doing fine… 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Wonderful analysis of the poem relating it to the problem of judgmentalism. You have pointed out some very important aspects in this respect, like, judgmental persons are prone to be bullies.
    Thanks for sharing such a valuable and thought-provoking post.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Was it cowardice, that I dared not kill him?
    Was it perversity, that I longed to talk to him?
    Was it humility, to feel so honoured?
    I felt so honoured.

    Very well-written analysis. “Snake” has as its main theme the ongoing conflict between humans and nature. It raises huge questions about our relationships with animals, of how we are to continue to exist with nature intact, as opposed to totally destroyed.

    Having an opinion or making judgment is also a key part of being judgmental, which depends upon whether it’s constructive or problematic.

    How to make constructive as opposed to problematic judgments is a very complicated question. You tend to be judgmental when your judgments are unempathetic, based on your own idiosyncratic values or tastes, overly based on other people’s character, and ultimately have the consequence of making the other person feel problematically diminished.

    And so, I missed my chance with one of the lords
    Of life.
    And I have something to expiate:
    A pettiness.

    Liked by 1 person

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