Snakecharmer and In the Snake Park

Snakecharmer and In the Snake Park

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The poem, “Snakecharmer”, is a poem that conveys an underlying theme of power and control, as represented by the snakecharmer, through the nature of the snakes and their relationship with the snakecharmer.

     There is no consistent rhyme scheme to the poem, and almost all the stanzas in the poem have run-on lines to the following stanza. The effect these create is a general atmosphere of inconsistency and disorder. The run-on lines also place an emphasis upon the last word of the stanza and the first word of the following, helping the poet impress upon the reader the significance of words such as “river”, “tongues”, “snakes”, “shapes” and “rules”. The atmosphere of inconsistency and disorder that is created can also be linked to the free, uncontrollable movement of the snakes.

     The poet also uses repetition of the word snake to impress upon the reader the fact that snakes are all there is in this world, a hypnotic effect that brings clearly to the reader the image of a “world of snakes”. The sibilance of the words Plath chooses to use creates an indistinctly ominous effect that is lazy and almost hypnotic to the reader. The sibilant “s” is present at least once in every line of the poem, exaggerating that effect, which is very much like the movement of a snake holding its prey in thrall before the kill. Thus the atmosphere of disorder and inconsistency is threaded with an indistinct sense of foreboding for the reader.

     In the first stanza, the “snakecharmer” is generalized as he is juxtaposed with “gods” and “man”. The grand style of the first line is continued through to the second as the charming of snakes is likened to the beginning of worlds; “begins a snaky sphere”. Here the reader is made aware of the amount of power the snakecharmer possesses in his control over the snakes. The grand style abovementioned gives a sense of grandeur to the snakecharmer, and the tone of this stanza is subtly respectful towards him. In the last line of the stanza, the word “pipes” is repeated; “mouth-pipe. He pipes. Pipes green. Pipes water”; that has an almost hypnotic effect on the reader. This could be because the repetition of a word coupled with frequent use of caesuras gives a calming effect that can soothe the reader while commanding his attention. This is precisely the effect the snakecharmer has on the snakes.

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Snakecharmer and In the Snake Park Essay

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     In the first line of the second stanza, the poet uses the metaphor of “green water” and “green river’ to describe the snakes and their movement. She continues to use this image by referring to the snakes’ bodies as “reedy lengths and necks and undulatings”. This metaphor allows the mind to visualize the image of the snakes’ long, flexible bodies and the smooth, flowing, and free movements of the snakes. However, the poet ensures that the reader is constantly aware of the snakecharmer’s control over the snakes with the repeated use of “pipes”, and other references to his control over them; “his notes twine green, the green river / Shapes its images around his songs”. “Twine” and “Shapes”, especially suggest the use of control on his part. This awareness, then contradicts the previous freedom, negating it, even.
In the third and fourth stanzas, the snakecharmer seems to need a firm and solid support, but there is “no rocks / No floor” for him, only a wave of flickering grass tongues / Supports his foot”. Although “wave” and “flickering” suggest unsteadiness and instability, the snakes under his control are able to support him. The word “wave” also indicates a very large number of snakes, as do “a world of snakes” and “nothing but snakes” and this creates an almost suffocating effect for the reader.

In the fifth, sixth and seventh stanzas, the poet builds up the pace of the poem through a more frequent use of caesuras. The alliteration in the fifth stanza of “bodies, bough, breast” also helps bring up the pace of the poem as the “b” sound creates an explosive effect that indicates something shocking. This prepares the reader for the sheer number of snakes described later; “snaky generations: let there be snakes!”, after which the pace slows again. The snakecharmer’s absolute power is reaffirmed in ‘he within this snakedom / Rules the writhings which make manifest / His snakehood and his might with pliant tunes”, where “snakedom”, “rules”, “snakehood” and “might” emphasize the fact that the snakecharmer is the ‘ruler’ of all the snakes. The fall in pace and thus in energy at the end of the seventh stanza is from the anti-climactic “And snakes there were, are, will be – til yawns”.

The last stanzas continue this decline in pace and energy ‘til the end of the poem. The surreal atmosphere created by the poet before that anti-climax is suddenly undercut by the very human behaviour of the snakecharmer; “yawns”. When he “tires of music” and “yawns” the reader is reminded, rudely, that he is and ordinary human too, despite his power over the snakes; “snakehood and his might”. It is interesting to see that what the reader would view as powerful, compelling and extraordinary is to the snakecharmer and ordinary job of work.


For the poem, “In the Snake Park”, the basic theme is the same – snakes- but a different view of tem is shared by the poet. Although both poem describe to the reader the movement of snakes, the movement in the second differs from the movement in the first, as the first poem focuses on the vibrancy of their movement. The metaphor “green river” gives the idea of calmness, life, growth and energy. In this second poem, however, a sense of laziness is felt by the reader. The pace of the poem is slow. The poet uses words and phrases such as “lethargy”, “dreaming”, “twitched”, “poured slowly” and “appeared to sleep”, to create this slow, lazy feeling.


The atmosphere of both poems is different as well. “in the Snake Park” has an uncomfortably hot atmosphere, with phrases such as “white-hot midday”, “singing glare”, “the sun throbbed like a fever” and “burning glass” that make the reader feel restless and uncomfortable. This discomfort could also be caused by the way the snakes move; slow and lazy, as if sleepy, but with a sense of underlying danger. Here the rhythm and level of energy of the poem mirrors the movement of the snakes. Contrast this with the cool calm atmosphere of the first poem; “green waters”, “tree”, “leaf”, “Eden”; and the hypnotic movement of the snakes “sways and coiling”. The first poem is a much nicer place to be than the second, from the atmosphere; the first being “Eden” and the second a “white-hot” hell.

In the second poem there is an element of danger brought out into the open. In the third stanza, “it moved. She screamed”, suddenly increases the energy level of the poem with all senses on the lookout for danger. In the fifth stanza, after the reader is lulled by the laziness of the fourth stanza, old Poet Vander creates an eerie, suspense-filled mood by saying “do you see that it has eyes?…it’s watching you.” The fact that the snake was able to camouflage itself so well that it was referred to as “that leaf on top” underscores the idea that it might strike at any time. This ties in with the common idea that snakes are masters of disguise and deception. Thus, the laziness of the snakes throughout the poem gains a special, ominous significance, as the reader wonders if they are simply waiting for the right moment to strike.

The danger is added to with Old Poet Vander’s description of the pain experienced by the man who had been bitten by a Green Mamba. “He was never the same again. / Vomiting blackness, agonising, passing blood / Part paralysed, near gone, he felt…would burst apart…worst agony was in his mind…distress”. This horrible, vivid description also has the effect of causing fear in the reader. The first poem was about the power of the snakecharmer; the second was on the power of the snake. This is shown in “that little head…at all?” The poet’s ominous warning “beware of snakes” ends the second poem on an eerie note, completely unlike the first, in which the snakecharmer goes to sleep; “lids his moony eye.”

In conclusion, although both poems share the same basic theme, that of snakes, both have different ideas about it. The first poem was calm, hypnotic, and about the power of man over snake, while the second was ominously slow, fraught with barely seen danger and about the power of the snake.
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