English Literature Coursework.
Post 1914 poetry comparison.
D. H. Lawrence, Snake.
Sylvia Plath, Medallion.
By close reference to these poems compare and contrast the views of snakes presented by Lawrence and Plath.
In your answer you should consider:
The tone of the poems and language used.
The moral and philosophical agendas of the poets.
In this essay I will try to compare two poems, the first of which is by D. H. Lawrence entitled Snake. The second is by Sylvia Plath and is entitled Medallion. I will compare the language used, the structure, the theme and the tone of each poem.
Firstly I will look at snake; this is because it was written first. Very simply the theme of snake is that the poet finds a snake having a drink at the poets water hole. However when you read the poem more carefully you notice certain phrases that show that Snake has another theme. This theme is respect; throughout the poem the poet tells us how much he likes the snake. Phrases such as "honoured still more" and "I felt so honoured" prove this point. This I feel also relates to the fact that Lawrence would like cosmic hierarchy reorganised so that either man should not be so high above the snake or the snake deserves to be higher, examples of this are given in phrases like "And I, like a second comer, waiting" or "must stand and wait". Man is higher in the cosmic hierarchy than a snake but still the poet had to wait for the snake. There is also the conflict that the poet has with the snake in the fact that the poet was taught to kill and fear the snake when he was young but now he has seen one he realises that it is a very elegant animal and should not be killed. Seven lines refer to this one point starting at "and voices in me" and ending at "you would kill him!" this is the nature Vs nurture debate. The first thing one notices about the tone when you first read snake is the fact that it changes throughout the poem. At the start of the poem he seems to have a huge amount of admiration for the snake and is very respectful to the snake
Snake does not have a set structure; it is written in free verse this means that there is no set stanza length. However the lines seem to go from a few short lines to a few long lines. This almost gives the impression that there is a snake lying on the page. There is no rhyming scheme in snake only a rhythm set by the repartition of the word and at the start of a lot of sentences in the stanzas.
The first thing that strikes me about snake is the constant personification of the snake throughout the poem "he lifted his head", "He must be killed" and "that he should seek my hospitality". This I think reinforces the emphasis of the fact that the poet has a deep respect for the snake by the fact that the poet treats the snake as a person. He is almost bringing the snake up to human level where he thinks it belongs.
There are also a lot of biblical references made in this poem partly about creation and but more so about the second coming of Jesus. The phrase "Like a second comer" this on a literal level refers to the fact that he literally did come after the snake to the water trough but also on a metaphorical level how he did come after the snake in creation. Towards the end of the poem the poet writes "for he seemed like a king, // Like a king in exile, uncrowned in the underworld, //now due to be crowned again." This I feel refers to the second coming of Jesus to earth but instead of Jesus coming as a human he is coming as a snake
Lawrence uses language that can slow the poem down, he does this to try and reinforce the slow movement that is often associated with a snake and how people often move very slowly in a hot climate. He does this by the repetition of words and phrases in close proximity to each other "as cattle do
/as drinking cattle do" and "On a hot, hot day". This language sows the poem down and the second is also very evocative and sensual. It...
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