TEXTBOOK QUESTIONS (SOLVED)
6. Answer the following questions briefly.
(a) Why does the poet decide to stand and wait till the snake has finished drinking water?
Ans. The poet is a stickler for protocol and since the snake has come to the water trough before the arrival of the poet, the snake must have his fill first.
(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. The snake has a long body, he is earth brown in colour with slow movements. He is as harmless as cattle and drinks water in a very unhurried manner. He seems to enjoy drinking water, savouring each drop and licking his lips.
(c) How does the poet describe the day and the atmosphere when he saw the snake?
Ans. It was a very hot day in Sicily, in the summer month of July. The earth was parched and dry and Mount Etna was sending out fumes, which made the day even more hot. But the water trough was under the scented Carobtree.
(d) What does the poet want to convey by saying that the snake emerges from the ‘burning bowels of the earth’?
Ans. Since the snake emerges from the burning and scorching earth, it evokes the poet’s sympathy. The poet feels that the snake is distressed due to extreme heat, so it should be peacefully allowed to drink water.
(e) Do you think the snake was conscious of the poet’s presence? How do you know?
Ans. No, the snake was not conscious of the poet’s presence. He looked around vaguely but did not notice the poet. If he had been conscious, then the snake would not have mused in between drinking water nor would have taken so much time in drinking water. It would have vanished very quickly.
(f) How do we know that the snake’s thirst was satiated. Pick out the expression that conveys this. [C.B.S.E. 2012 (T-2)]
Ans. ‘He stopped and drank a little more’, ‘He drank enough’ ‘flickered his tongue” tell us that the snake had his fill and his thirst was satiated.
(g) The poet had a dual attitude towards the snake? Why does he experience conflicting emotions on seeing the snake?
Ans. The poet is both afraid of the snake and is also fascinated by it. Social education had taught the poet that all snakes are poisonous so they must be struck down, whereas the snake’s dignified manner evokes the poet’s admiration. These dual responses were like two voices that make the poet strike at the snake, much against his wishes.
(h) The poet is filled with horror and protest when the snake prepared to retreat and bury itself in the ‘horrid black’ and ‘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 had appeared most protective and concerned regarding the snake. He never disturbed the snake while drinking water. It is ironical that the poet is the one who tries to kill it and that too when the snake had turned its back.
(i) The poet seems to be full of admiration and respect for the snake. He almost regards him like a God. Pick out four expressions that reflect these emotions.
Ans. ‘And looked around like a god”, “seemed to me like a king”, “a king in exile,” “due to be crowned again.”
(j) What is the difference between the snake’s movement at the beginning of the poem and later when the poet strikes it with a log of wood?
Ans. The snake’s movement at the beginning is ‘slack’ and relaxed. He takes a lot of time to drink water and sips and enjoys it by licking his lips. After drinking water, he moves as ‘dreamily, as one who is drunk’ and very slowly goes back to the crack in the wall. When the poet throws a log at his tail, he vanishes very quickly, with the speed of lightning, in an undignified manner.
(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? [C.B.S.E. 2012 (T-2)]
Ans. The poet deeply regrets hitting the snake. He calls his behaviour “mean, vulgar, paltry and petty.” He curses his social education and feels that he must make amends for his wrong behaviour. The poet curses his behaviour because he had no reason to strike at the snake, when it had not tried to harm the poet and had only come to quench his thirst. The poet feels that the snake behaved in a dignified manner, whereas he behaved in a petty manner. Moreover, hitting someone from behind is an act of cowardice.
(l) Why does the poet make on allusion to the ‘Ancient Mariner’ and the ‘albatross’?
Ans. The Ancient Mariner had also killed the albatross for no reason and here also the snake had proved to be harmless, yet the poet tried to kill it. Later on both the mariner and the poet regret their decision. The Mariner has to make amends by being punished and here also the poet is already thinking of compensating for the crime committed.
(m) “I have something to expiate.” Explain.
Ans. The poet regrets his decision of striking at the snake. The snake had been harmless, dignified and was too thirsty. Trying to kill it was a mean act and the poet wishes to make amends for his violent approach. He wishes to give due honour to the snake, that it deserves.
Q.7. The encounter with the snake and the dual response of the poet to his presence at the water trough reflect a conflict between civilized social education and natural human instincts. The poet writes a diary entry highlighting how he was torn between the two voices. Write his diary.
Today’s entry is based upon my incidental meeting with a snake, yellow-brown in colour, who had come to drink water at the water-trough outside my house. To my surprise, I felt no fear, no aversion but a strange kind of bonding and fascination took possession of me. The snake was drinking water in a very relaxed manner and his majestic movements cast a spell on me. I stood there, with an empty pitcher, with no desire to disturbs him. Since it was a very very hot day, I wanted the snake to have his fill, since he had come from a dark and horrible crack in the wall.
The reasoning of my mind, my rational and social belief told me to kill the snake, but my natural instincts told me not to. I don’t know why, but my social education prompted me to kill the snake. I picked up a log and tried to strike the snake. The snake vanished at once, but a guilt, a void remained in my heart. I don’t know why we submit before our egoism, ignorance, barbarity. O God! how I curse myself. What reason do we have to deprive others of their right to live? We preach of love and sympathy, yet we get misguided by our social beliefs and not natural instincts. I know snakes are poisonous but that snake had not harmed me and yet I behaved like a coward. Yes, I will have to make amends somehow. How! I wonder!