June 27, 2011


I used to think I was a pretty good BS artist. It kind of comes with being a hillbilly. But this weekend, I was dealt a lesson in humility and now realize I am just a piker.

It went like this...a week or so ago, the Spousal Unit and I went on a hike in the hills surrounding Goat Rope Farm. As usual, we took a camera and got a cool picture of a black snake.

Now, it is a truth universally acknowledged that a blogger in possession of a snake picture must do something with it. I scanned the web in search of a good snake poem for the weekend post. In doing so I discovered that there is something of a shortage of good snake poems.

I did, however, find a fragment of one by Percy Bysshe Shelley that appeared to have been written after said poet hit the laudanum a bit too hard. In case you missed the weekend post, here it is:

Wake the serpent not -- lest he
Should not know the way to go, --
Let him crawl which yet lies sleeping
Through the deep grass of the meadow!
Not a bee shall hear him creeping,
Not a may-fly shall awaken
From its cradling blue-bell shaken,
Not the starlight as he's sliding
Through the grass with silent gliding.

I then asked whether any reader had any idea what Shelley was talking about. Who should step up to the plate by my father-in-law who sent me an email that read in part:

Shelley's poem, is a romantic affirmation of the dreaming state, which to the snake--and to the poet--is often more colorful and meaningful than waking reality. But if you were to ask Shelley to explain the meaning of the poem, he would probably read it, then read it again, pause a while, and read it again. Then he would say, "I don't know what the hell I meant by that poem!"

So I guess we can interpret it in any way we want, and all of us would be right. But let's make another attempt at understanding it: the snake is evidently asleep through the entire segment of the poem. His dreaming journey is not yet finished. So we should not wake him to interrupt that dream.

"Let him crawl which yet lies sleeping...." includes what follows of his dream. If he were awake, and taking this same journey through the grass, would he devour those things he would come across? Perhaps that is why we should not wake the sleeping serpent. As long as he is asleep, he is harmless.

Another interpretation, far more esoteric: can the serpent represent evil? If so, then we should let evil sleep. Once we arouse evil, it can destroy us. It's like that old West Virginia mountain saying: "Let sleeping dogs lie."

Holy hermeneutics, Batman! I know when I've been out-gunned. Now that he primed the pump, I can see a whole range of interpretations. Aside from the obvious Freudian one, it occurs to me that the snake, like most creatures including humans, runs on automatic pilot most of the time, which is analogous to being asleep.

Hats off to you, Pops!

OUT OF AFGHANISTAN. Here's WV's Senator Joe Manchin calling for a stepped up troop withdrawal.

IT'S HAPPENING, BUT WILL WE GET OUR ACT TOGETHER? Here's a fairly optimistic view of how we might finally respond to climate change.





D Sharlip said...

Peril in the Grass
(blogging Shelly in the hereafter)

Let sleeping serpents lie still and lift not sleep's divine blanket,

Under its covers, awaits the devil's display of much deviousness upon the firmament.

El Cabrero said...

You're way ahead of me too!