Class 9-“The Snake Trying” Complete Analysis

Class 9-“The Snake Trying” Complete Analysis

Not Included in 2023-2024 Syllabus. Complete Analysis and Explanation of the poem ‘A Snake Trying’ by W.W.E. Ross

The Snake Trying

W.W.E. Ross

William Wrightson Eustace Ross (1894-1966) stands as the quintessential Canadian Imagist, albeit briefly immersed in the movement. Born in Peterborough and raised in Pembroke, Ontario, he funded his B.Sc. through geological surveys in regions later celebrated by the Group of Seven. After World War I service, he worked as a geophysicist. Ross delved into poetry in the 1920s, gaining recognition in Marianne Moore’s The Dial and Poetry. His Imagist collection, Laconics” (1930), was groundbreaking. In the 1930s, he translated Max Jacob’s works and pioneered English prose poems in Canada. His letters with A.J.M. Smith and Ralph Gustafson were published, and Shapes & Sounds: Poems of W.W.E. Ross (1968), edited by Raymond Souster and John Robert Colombo, encapsulates his diverse poetic legacy.

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Summary ‘The Snake Trying

In ‘The Snake Trying’ by W.W.E. Ross, the poet explores the physical dynamics of a snake attempting to elude danger and touches upon the cultural perception of snakes. The speaker acknowledges the snake’s beauty and grace, appreciating its form and movements. This positive portrayal challenges common negative cultural perceptions of snakes as symbols of danger or deceit.

The poet challenges ingrained fears associated with snakes in many cultures by asserting that the snake is harmless, even to children. The poem subtly prompts readers to reconsider their preconceived notions and encourages a more nuanced understanding of these creatures. 

Though initially perceived as a potential threat, the snake symbolizes natural beauty and innocence, transcending cultural biases against these animals. This shift in perspective adds depth to the poem, inviting contemplation on the coexistence of humans and the natural world.

Explanation ‘The Snake Trying

‘The Snake Trying’ by W.W.E. Ross is a brief yet evocative poem that captures a moment in nature, focusing on a snake’s attempt to escape a threatening situation. The poet employs vivid imagery and a contemplative tone to convey the snake’s physical characteristics and the cultural perceptions of these creatures.

The poem begins with the snake trying to elude a pursuing stick, using “sudden curvings of thin / long body.” The poet admires the beauty and grace of the snake’s movements, describing it as it glides through the water to avoid the impending strike. This appreciation for the snake’s form reflects a keen observation of nature and an understanding of its intrinsic beauty.

The poem has a plea as the speaker desires to let the snake go “over the water / into the reeds to hide / without hurt.” This plea humanises the snake and challenges common fears or prejudices associated with these creatures. The insistence that the snake is “harmless even to children” confronts cultural perceptions that often depict snakes as dangerous or menacing.

The final lines of the poem emphasize the transient nature of the encounter. Having been observed and chased away, the snake vanishes into the water and reeds. This departure leaves a lasting impression, inviting reflection on the delicate balance between the observer and the observed in the natural world.

To summarize, ‘The Snake Trying’ is a poignant exploration of a simple yet powerful moment in nature. Through the poet’s keen observations and the challenge to cultural perceptions, the poem encourages readers to appreciate the beauty of the natural world and reconsider preconceived notions about seemingly threatening creatures like snakes.

Analysis ‘The Snake Trying

‘The Snake Trying’ by W.W.E. Ross is a concise and vivid poem that explores the dynamics of a snake’s encounter with a potentially threatening situation. Below is an analysis of critical elements in the poem

Nature and Movement.

The poem is grounded in nature, portraying the snake’s movements with vivid and dynamic imagery. The “sudden curvings” and the snake’s ability to “glide through the water” are emphasised, highlighting the grace and beauty of this creature in motion.

The Symbolism of the Snake:

The snake, often a symbol with rich cultural and literary connotations, is presented here more positively. Rather than emphasising the danger or deceit typically associated with snakes, the poet focuses on this snake’s aesthetic qualities and harmlessness.

Cultural Perception and Challenge:

The poem subtly challenges cultural perceptions of snakes. By describing the snake as harmless, even to children, the poet challenges stereotypes and fears associated with these creatures. A plea to let the snake go unharmed suggests a desire to reconsider ingrained prejudices against certain animals.

Shift in Perspective:

The poet initiates a shift in perspective, transforming the snake from a potential threat into a symbol of natural beauty. This shift prompts readers to reconsider their attitudes toward nature and challenges them to see beyond common cultural biases.

Momentary Encounter:

The poem captures a fleeting moment in time. The encounter with the snake is transient, and the snake disappears into the water and reeds. This transience adds a layer of contemplation, emphasising the ephemeral nature of such interactions with the natural world.


The poem’s tone is contemplative and appreciative. The poet’s admiration for the snake’s shapes and movements and the plea for safety create a tone that encourages reflection on the relationship between humans and the natural environment.


In ‘The Snake Trying,’ Ross adheres to several fundamental principles of imagism:

Precise Imagery: The poem is rich in vivid and precise imagery, particularly in describing the snake’s movements, the pursuing stick, and the natural surroundings. The poet uses specific details to create a clear and evocative picture.

Economy of Language: Imagist poetry uses concise and economical language. Ross employs a straightforward and unadorned style, carefully selecting words to convey the scene’s essence without unnecessary elaboration.

Focus on the Immediate: Imagist poems often concentrate on the present moment and direct experience. In this poem, the focus is on the immediate encounter with the snake, highlighting the transient and fleeting nature of the observation.

Objective Presentation: Imagist poetry often presents images objectively, allowing readers to interpret and derive meaning from the sensory details. Ross offers the snake’s actions and the observer’s response without overt commentary, encouraging readers to engage directly with the imagery.

By aligning with these imagist principles, ‘The Snake Trying’ encapsulates a specific moment in nature with clarity and precision, inviting readers to engage with the sensory details and draw their interpretations from the presented images.


  1. Lack of Formal Rhyme Scheme: As a free verse poem, ‘The Snake Trying’ does not adhere to a traditional rhyme scheme. The lines are not bound by a predetermined pattern of end rhymes, allowing for a more natural and flexible expression.
  1. Varied Line Lengths: Free verse often features varied line lengths; this poem is no exception. The lines range from short to longer, allowing the poet to capture the nuances of the snake’s movements and the emotional aspects of the encounter.
  1. Enjambment: The poem utilises enjambment, where lines flow into each other without a strict pause or punctuation at the end. This technique contributes to the fluidity of the poem, echoing the snake’s movements and creating a sense of continuity.
  1. Natural Speech Rhythms: In ‘The Snake Trying,’ the poet’s language feels conversational and unforced, contributing to the accessibility of the poem.

Themes ‘The Snake Trying‘:

While the poem is rooted in a specific encounter, its themes are universal. It speaks to the broader human experience of encountering the natural world, challenging assumptions, and finding beauty in unexpected places.

  1. Nature and Beauty: Ross describes the snake’s movements with phrases like “sudden curvings of thin/long body,” emphasising the beauty and grace in the snake’s natural actions.

The poet’s appreciation for the snake’s shapes and its gliding through the water suggests a deep connection with the aesthetics of the natural world.

  1. Conflict and Harm: The central conflict in the poem is the snake’s struggle to escape the pursuing stick. This conflict creates a tension that propels the narrative forward.

There’s a plea to let the snake go “over the water / into the reeds to hide / without hurt.” This plea adds an ethical dimension, urging a compassionate approach to nature.

  1. Cultural Perception: The poet challenges common cultural perceptions of snakes as dangerous or threatening. Ross prompts readers to reconsider ingrained fears and prejudices against these creatures by asserting the snake’s harmlessness, even to children.

The poem subtly critiques anthropocentrism, suggesting that the snake has a rightful place in the natural world without harming humans.

  1. Transient Nature of Encounters: The poem reflects on the fleeting nature of the encounter between the observer (human) and the observed (snake). This brief moment in nature is depicted as both beautiful and delicate.

The snake’s disappearance into the water and reeds symbolises the ephemeral quality of these natural experiences, inviting readers to appreciate the present moment.

Symbolism ‘The Snake Trying‘:

Snake: The poet emphasises the beauty and grace of the snake’s movements. The snake can symbolise elements of nature that are often misunderstood or feared, challenging preconceived notions about what is considered beautiful or graceful.

The poet challenges cultural perceptions of snakes as dangerous or harmful. The poem symbolically challenges stereotypes and prejudices by asserting that the snake is “harmless even to children,” advocating for a more nuanced understanding of the natural world.

The Pursuing Stick: The stick pursuing the snake can symbolise threats or dangers in life. This could be interpreted metaphorically as challenges, obstacles, or adversities individuals face. The snake’s attempt to escape may symbolise the struggle to overcome or evade these challenges.

Line-by-Line Explanation ‘The Snake Trying‘: 

  1. The snake tryingThe poem begins with a straightforward statement, setting the stage for observing a snake in action. The use of “trying” implies a sense of effort or struggle.
  1. “to escape the pursuing stick,” The snake attempts to evade a threat a stick represents. This line introduces a conflict or danger in the scene.
  1. “with sudden curvings of thin” The poet describes the snake’s rapid and agile movements, using the word “curvings” to emphasise its sinuous motion. The term “thin” suggests the delicate nature of the snake’s body.
  1. “long body. How beautiful” Despite the threat, the poet pauses to appreciate the aesthetic qualities of the snake, highlighting its beauty. This introduces an element of admiration for the creature’s physical form.
  1. “and graceful are his shapes!” The poet continues to praise the snake’s beauty and elegance, emphasising its movements’ pleasing and artistic quality and physical appearance.
  1. “He glides through the water away” The snake smoothly moves through the water, emphasising its graceful and effortless motion. The water introduces a natural element, and the movement away suggests an escape from danger.
  1. “from the stroke. O let him go” The snake is avoiding the impending harm or “stroke.” The speaker expresses a desire for the snake’s freedom, urging that it be allowed to continue on its way.
  1. “over the water” The poet envisions the snake moving over the water, perhaps seeking refuge or safety in a different environment.
  1. “into the reeds to hide” The poet suggests the reeds as a place of concealment, a hiding spot where the snake can find safety from the perceived threat.
  1. “without hurt. Small and green” The poet reiterates the harmlessness of the snake, emphasising its small size and green colour. This challenges common perceptions of snakes as dangerous.
  1. “he is harmless even to children.” The assertion that the snake is harmless, especially to children, reinforces the theme of challenging stereotypes and highlighting the innocence of certain aspects of nature.
  1. “Along the sand” The scene is set on the sand, emphasising the natural environment where the encounter occurs.
  1. “he lay until observed” The snake was initially unnoticed, lying along the sand. The act of observation changes the dynamic, introducing an awareness of the snake’s presence.
  1. “and chased away, and now” The snake is disturbed and forced to leave its resting place. Using “chased away” suggests a disruption to its natural state.
  1. “he vanishes in the ripples” The snake disappears into the ripples, perhaps caused by its movement through the water. This emphasises the transient nature of the encounter.
  1. “among the green slim reeds.” The final image places the snake among the green reeds, reinforcing the idea of finding refuge and safety in its natural environment.

Poetic/Literary Devices ‘ The Snake Trying

Question/Answers ‘The Snake Trying

Q: What is the snake trying to escape from?

A: In the poem’s first line, the speaker states, “The snake trying.” This line doesn’t explicitly mention what the snake is trying to escape from. Still, the following line provides more information:

“to escape the pursuing stick,”

So, the snake is attempting to escape from a pursuing stick. The stick represents a threat or danger to the snake, and the poem begins by describing the snake’s efforts to evade this potential harm.

Q: Is it a harmful snake? What is its colour?

A: The poem suggests that the snake is not harmful. 

“he is harmless even to children.”

The colour “green” is associated with the snake, indicating it is not a venomous or dangerous species. The poet emphasises the innocence and non-threatening nature of the snake, challenging common fears and perceptions associated with these creatures.

Q: The poet finds the snake beautiful. Find the words he uses to convey its beauty.

A: The poet uses the following words to convey the beauty of the snake:

“How beautiful” (Line 4)

“and graceful are his shapes!” (Line 5)

These expressions emphasise the aesthetic qualities of the snake. The poet appreciates not only the physical appearance of the snake but also the graceful and elegant way it moves. The word “beautiful” and the admiration for the snake’s shapes underscore the positive and appreciative tone toward the creature.

Q: What does the poet wish for the snake?

A: The poet wishes for the snake to be allowed to go over the water and find refuge in the reeds without coming to any harm. This wish reflects the poet’s empathy for the snake and a desire to see it escape safely from the potential danger posed by the pursuing stick.

Q: Where was the snake before anyone saw it and chased it away? Where does the snake disappear?

A: The poem provides information about the snake’s location before anyone observes it:

“Along the sand

he lay until observed.”

These lines indicate that the snake was lying along the sand before being noticed by someone. As for where the snake disappears, the poem states:

“he vanishes in the ripples

among the green slim reeds.”

In these lines, the snake disappears among the ripples, presumably in the water near the green and slim reeds. The location is not explicitly mentioned, but the imagery suggests that the snake retreats into the water and reeds, seeking refuge and disappearing from view.

Extra Questions ‘The Snake Trying‘: 

Q: How does the poet challenge cultural perceptions in the poem?

A: The poet challenges cultural perceptions by portraying the snake as harmless and even beautiful, contrary to common fears associated with snakes.

Q: What is the significance of the snake’s disappearance into the water and reeds in the context of the poem?

A: The snake’s disappearance symbolises the transient nature of the encounter and suggests a desire for the creature to find refuge and safety in its natural environment.

Q: What symbolic elements are present in the poem, and how do they contribute to its meaning?

A: Symbolic elements include the snake as a symbol of misunderstood or maligned entities, the pursuing stick as a metaphor for threats or challenges, and the water/reeds as symbols of refuge. These contribute to a deeper exploration of themes in the poem.

Q: Explain the significance of the poet’s wish for the snake to hide “without hurt.”

A: The poet’s wish for the snake to hide “without hurt” reflects a compassionate desire for the creature’s well-being. It adds an ethical dimension to the poem, suggesting a concern for the safety and protection of the natural world.

Q: What is the central theme or idea of ‘The Snake Trying’ by W.W.E. Ross, and how does the poet explore and convey this theme throughout the poem?

A: The central theme of ‘The Snake Trying’ by W.W.E. Ross revolves around the dual concepts of beauty and innocence in nature and the poet’s challenge to cultural perceptions. The poet explores this theme by vividly describing a snake’s attempt to escape from a pursuing stick, emphasising the beauty of its movements and shapes. 

The poet challenges common fears associated with snakes by portraying the creature as harmless, even to children. The wish for the snake to hide “without hurt” reflects the poet’s empathetic stance and desire for the well-being of nature. 

To conclude, the poem conveys a message of appreciating the inherent beauty and innocence in the natural world while challenging preconceived notions.

Extract-Based Questions ‘The Snake Trying‘: 

Extract 1

“The snake trying

to escape the pursuing stick,

with sudden curvings of thin

long body.”

Q1: What is the snake attempting to do in this part of the poem?

A1: The snake is trying to escape from the pursuing stick, exhibiting sudden curvings of its thin, long body.

Q2: How would you describe the snake’s movements in response to the threat?

A2: The snake responds with sudden and graceful curvings of its body as it attempts to evade the pursuing stick.

Q3: What visual qualities highlight the beauty of the snake’s actions?

A3: The beauty of the snake’s shapes is emphasised, portraying a graceful and appealing quality in its attempts to escape.

Extract 2: 

“He glides through the water away

from the stroke. O let him go

over the water

into the reeds to hide

without hurt.”

Q1: Where does the snake move as it evades the pursuing stick?

A1: The snake glides through the water away from the impending strike of the stick.

Q2: What does the speaker wish for the snake as it escapes?

A2: The speaker desires the snake to go over the water into the reeds, allowing it to hide without suffering harm.

Q3: What emotion or sentiment is conveyed by the plea “O let him go”?

A3: The plea “O let him go” conveys a compassionate and empathetic sentiment, expressing a desire for the snake’s well-being.

Extract 3: 

“Along the sand

he lay until observed

and chased away, and now

he vanishes in the ripples

among the green slim reeds.”

Q1: Where did the snake lie before it was noticed?

A1: The snake lay along the sand before it was observed.

Q2: What happened once the snake was observed?

A2: Once observed, the snake was chased away from its resting place.

Q3: Where does the snake disappear after being chased away?

A3: After being chased away, the snake vanishes in the ripples among the green slim reeds.

YOUTUBE: The Snake Trying

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