Snake

Popular Poetry Course Poetry | Vocabulary | IPA Symbols | Pronunciation | Literature | Listenings

Poetry

Because of their structure, poems are a great way of learning about the rhythm of the English language. In these Activities you will be able to listen to poetry, read it, and then improve your knowledge of the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) symbols, thus improving your pronunciation. The Activities also include information about the poets and some background to the writing of the poem. Finally, you will have the chance to test how much you have learned about the vocabulary and other aspects of the poems through some interactive exercises.

Vocabulary

Did you know that there are over 600,000 words in English? That's a lot of words, and far more than any human being could ever manage to learn. Even Shakespeare only used around 55,000 different words in all of his works. Mind you, he did actually invent quite a few of them. To get a good mastery of English, you do need to expand your vocabulary as much as possible. The more words you know, the better your English will be. The Activities here will help you to quickly develop your vocabulary.

IPA Symbols

The International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) is an alphabetic system of phonetic notation that was devised in the 19th century as a standardised way of representing the sounds of speech in written form. The British English IPA chart consists of 44 symbols representing the pure vowels (monophthongs), the gliding vowels (diphthongs), and the consonant sounds of spoken British English. The Britlish Library contains a wealth of Activities to help you to learn, remember, and use the British English IPA symbols efficiently whether you are a student or a teacher.

Pronunciation

No matter how good your English grammar and vocabulary may be, if your pronunciation is so bad that nobody can understand a word you say, then your English won't be much good as a means of communication. You might be good at grammar, have a broad vocabulary, and be able to explain all the aspects and tenses of English, but it's not much good if you can't be understood when you speak. I have designed these Activities to help you to improve your pronunciation, as well as other areas of your English.

Literature

Some students like to sit back and listen to some interesting English. It doesn't get much more interesting than some of the old classics from English literature. These Activities have been created to help you get the best from the vocabulary found in some of the old classics. As you listen and read your way through these Activities, you will also broaden your understanding of English culture.

Listenings

Reading is the easiest way to take in English. Listening is a much harder skill and one that has to be developed as you study the language. There are lots of speech features that arise when native English speakers speak English. These speech features, such as elision, simplification, intonation, stress, and rhythm, and the way in which speakers may miss out sounds or whole words, are important to understand if you are to be able to listen to and fully understand spoken English. These Britlish Library Activities will help you to develop you listening skills.  

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Snake is one of D. H. Lawrence's most famous poems and was published in the poetry collection Birds, Beasts and Flowers. I use this poem in this lesson to help you with your pronunciation, your vocabulary, your understanding of the British English IPA chart symbols, and to introduce you to this most beautiful of poems. Poems are a great way to enrich many aspects of your English and I hope that you enjoy the poem and the exercises included in the lesson.

Popular Poetry Course

Snake

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 the great dark carob tree

I came down the steps with my pitcher

And must wait, must stand and wait, for there he was at the trough

 before me.

He reached down from a fissure in the earth-wall in the gloom

And trailed his yellow-brown slackness soft-bellied down, over

 the edge of the stone trough

And rested his throat upon the stone bottom,

And where the water had dripped from the tap, in a small clearness,

He sipped with his straight mouth,

Softly drank through his straight gums, into his slack long body,

Silently.

Someone was before me at my water-trough,

And I, like a second-comer, waiting.

He lifted his head from his drinking, as cattle do,

And looked at me vaguely, as drinking cattle do,

And flickered his two-forked tongue from his lips, and mused

 a moment,

And stooped and drank a little more,

Being earth-brown, earth-golden from the burning bowels

 of the earth

On the day of Sicilian July, with Etna smoking.

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.

And voices in me said, If you were a man

You would take a stick and break him now, and finish him off.

But must I confess how I liked him,

How glad I was he had come like a guest in quiet, to drink

 at my water-trough

And depart peaceful, pacified, and thankless,

Into the burning bowels of this earth?

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.

And yet those voices:

If you were not afraid, you would kill him!

And truly I was afraid, I was most afraid,

But even so, honoured still more

That he should seek my hospitality

From out the dark door of the secret earth.

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,

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

And climb again the broken bank of my wall-face.

And as he put his head into that dreadful hole,

And as he slowly drew up, snake-easing his shoulders,

 and entered farther,

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.

I looked round, I put down my pitcher,

I picked up a clumsy log

And threw it at the water-trough with a clatter.

I think it did not hit him,

But suddenly that part of him that was left behind convulsed

 in an undignified haste,

Writhed like lightning, and was gone

Into the black hole, the earth-lipped fissure in the wall-front,

At which, in the intense still noon, I stared with fascination.

And immediately I regretted it.

I thought how paltry, how vulgar, what a mean act!

I despised myself and the voices of my accursed human education.

And I thought of the albatross,

And I wished he would come back, my snake.

For he seemed to me again like a king,

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

Of life.

And I have something to expiate:

A pettiness.

Taormina

Lawrence wrote this poem after his encounter with a snake at his watering trough in 1920-21 when he lived at Fontana Vecchia in Taormina, a town in Sicily on Mount Tauro, overlooking the Bay of Naxos and in sight of Mount Etna. From March 15, 1919, to early June 1923, the central and north-east craters of Etna were active.

The snake may have been an asp viper (vipera aspis). This is a mountain-dwelling snake which hibernates in rocky crevices, caves or underground caverns and emerges in the spring to mate. The young eat lizards and insects but adults mainly hunt small rodents or shrews. The asp viper is diurnal and is active all day in spring and autumn, but spends the hottest periods of summer shaded beneath a stone. This fits in with Lawrence's description of the snake disappearing back into the ground. The subspecies found in Sicily (Vipera aspis hugyi) is usually a reddish colour, with distinctive red-orange saddles down its back. The venom of the asp viper is potent and could kill you if you tried to handle it so it might well have earned a reputation for being dangerous.

Lawrence also mentions a harmless black snake. This is probably the western whip snake (coluber viridiflavus viridiflavus) because the subspecies found in Sicily is a shiny black colour. This snake has a varied diet, taking not only the usual mammals, birds and lizards, but also snakes, frogs, tadpoles, beetles, slugs and snails. It is found in low-lying country in dry areas with a few shrubs. It can be quite aggressive and will hiss loudly at a perceived threat and sometimes attack it. It is diurnal and at night takes cover under stones or in the burrows of small mammals.

Popular Poetry

There are many poems that are recognised, if not known, by many people, and which have become cultural icons. Far from being dead or irrelevant, poetry still maintains the capacity to strike deep at the heart of what it means to be English. These poems are as English as cathedrals and castles, Maypoles and Morris dancers and should be read and enjoyed by all English speakers and by those who aspire to understand more of what it means to be English.

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During Wind and Rain

This poem will help you to improve your pronunciation and your vocabulary. You can read and listen to this poem, as well as get a deeper insight into it. There are plenty of exercises to help you with the IPA symbols and with your comprehension. This is one of my favourite poems by Thomas Hardy which has taken on a deeper meaning for me as the past 60 years have flown rapidly by.

Categories: Poetry | Literature | Pronunciation | IPA Symbols | Vocabulary | Listenings


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Futility

Futility is one of the most famous poems by one of the most famous poets of World War I, Wilfred Owen, 1893-1918. This poem tells us of an incident where a group of soldiers try to revive an unconscious soldier by dragging him into the sun on a snowy day, but their efforts are in vain because the soldier is already dead. I use this poem in this lesson to help you with your pronunciation, your vocabulary, your understanding of the British English IPA chart symbols, and to introduce you to this most beautiful of poems. Poems are a great way to enrich many aspects of your English and I hope that you enjoy the poem and the exercises included in the lesson.

Categories: Poetry | IPA Symbols | Pronunciation | Vocabulary | Literature | Listenings


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High Flight

This most famous of poems about flying is mostly known and remembered for the first and last lines: Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth, Put out my hand, and touched the face of God. I use this poem by John Gillespie Magee Jr. in this lesson to help you with your pronunciation, your vocabulary, your understanding of the British English IPA chart symbols, and to introduce you to this most beautiful of poems. Poems are a great way to enrich many aspects of your English and I hope that you enjoy the poem and the exercises included in the lesson.

1 Comment Categories: Poetry | Vocabulary | IPA Symbols | Pronunciation | Literature | Listenings


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