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. The snake was ahead of the poet and it was there to drink water from the trough. When the poet came towards the Carob tree, spreading its strange scent, he saw the snake and had to stand and wait.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. Lawrence stands there watching the snake as the snake sips the water that is dripping from the trough.Stanza 4 and Stanza 5:
The snake stood there sipping water from the trough which was entering his mouth straight and into its gums. The poet waited and watched over the snake. 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. The poet then goes on to describe that very hot day of July in the city of Sicily and Etna with the smoky volcano that aggravates the heat. The poet then hears a voice of his education that tells him to kill the snake as black snakes in Sicily are not poisonous as yellow snakes are. That was a yellow bellied 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:
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.Stanza 9:
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 poet describes the pacified snake in these lines who lifted his head, drank water as if he was drunken state, flickered his tongue, licked his lips and looked around like god and slowly turned his head. After quenching his thirst, the snake climbed back the wall and disappeared into the earth.Stanza 11 and 12:
As the snake was slithering back into the hole, the poet suddenly felt a sense of protest and horror and hastily he puts down his pitcher, picks up a log and hurls at the water trough where the snake was stranded.