The Snake Trying

W.W.E. Ross


W.W.E. Ross

W.W.E. Ross was a Canadian poet known best for being the first Canadian to publish Imagist and Surrealist poems.

Ross found inspiration in the poetry of E.E. Cummings and Marianne Moore.

‘The Snake Trying’ by W.W.E. Ross is a short poem describing a harmless snake struggling to go away. The poetic persona in the poem observes the gracious movement of the snake while disturbed by a person.  The poet implores that person to let the snake set free. Moreover, through this poem, the poet tries to give readers a message of showing compassion to the snakes. All snakes aren’t harmful. Even the venomous ones bite a person when it feels unsafe or agitated. So, it’s humans who are responsible for making them feel unsafe. One should appreciate the grace of those beautiful creatures of nature.

The Snake Trying by W.W.E. Ross



‘The Snake Trying’ by W.W.E. Ross talks about how an innocent snake tries to save itself from an approaching “stick”.

‘The Snake Trying’ by W.W.E. Ross depicts a person playing with a small green snake with a stick. The snake is in the water. Each time the person tries to strike it with the stick, it moves away. But, the person doesn’t stop disturbing it. So, the poet requests that person to let it free. Then it can go over the water safely to its hide amidst the reeds. The snake doesn’t even harm little children. It’s meek and innocent. At times, it lies on sand unobserved until one chases it away. At last, the snake somehow manages to escape from the scene among the green slim reeds nearby.

You can read the full poem here.



‘The Snake Trying’ by W.W.E. Ross consists of a total of 16 lines. There isn’t any specific rhyme scheme in the poem. It’s in free verse and the internal rhythm of the poet maintains the flow. However, there are some instances where the poet uses slant rhymes. As an example, “green” and “children” somehow rhyme together. Moreover, in the last two lines “ripples” imperfectly rhymes with “reeds”. The overall poem is composed of the anapestic meter and iambic meter. Being a modern poem, it doesn’t contain a regular meter scheme. Apart from that, the contraction of lines in the poem represents a shift of ideas and images.


Poetic Devices

‘The Snake Trying’ by W.W.E. Ross contains some important poetic devices that make the imagery of the poem more vibrant. Likewise, the most important poetic device of the poem is personification. Here, the poet personifies the snake. The poet also personifies the stick. The stick is also a symbol of cruelty. Hence, it’s an example of a metonymy too. Moreover, the lines of the poem get connected by the use of enjambment. There is a metaphor in “his shapes”. Here, the poet compares the curves of the snake’s body to shapes. In the last two lines, “ripples” is the use of synecdoche, and “slim reeds” contains a personal metaphor.


Detailed Analysis

Lines 1–5

The snake trying

to escape the pursuing stick,


and graceful are his shapes!

‘The Snake Trying’ by W.W.E. Ross takes readers directly to the place of action. There is the imagery of a snake that is trying to escape a pursuing stick. The absent doer in this case is a reference to humanity as a whole. In this way, by using an implied synecdoche, the poet refers to the person who is holding the stick and disturbing this harmless creature. The description of the snake in the first few lines makes it clear the snake is threatened and it tries to somehow save itself from getting hurt. So, the snake mentioned in the poem can be small or not one of the venomous and aggressive ones.

Here, the stick acts as a symbol of cruelty and inhumanity. Moreover, it has a thin and long body. It curves very graciously that pleases the poet. Through this exclamation, “How beautiful/ and graceful are his shapes!” the poet creates a contrast of ideas. Firstly, the imagery was of cruelty. Secondly, the poet refers to the beautiful aspects of this creature.


Lines 6–11

He glides through the water away

from the stroke. O let him go


he is harmless even to children.

‘The Snake Trying’ by W.W.E. Ross presents how the snake tries to escape from that heartless person’s stick. The person attempts to strike the snake to drive sadistic pleasure from its pain. It can also be a reference to the perception of snakes. Generally, people believe snakes are dangerous and mischievous. They can harm a person at any time. It’s not true. Even the aggressive snakes such as mambas become confused and threatened when a man approaches nearby. So, it’s always better to leave them as they are. A snake doesn’t always mean a threat.

Apart from that, the poet requests that person to let it go. The snake is struggling with its full energy to go far from that person anyhow. Just like a child bullied by a group of boys tries to run away to her home, the snake also tries to go to the reeds safely. According to the poet, that small and green snake is even harmless to kids. Moreover, it’s also a reference to the similarity between a kid and an innocent snake.


Lines 12–16

Along the sand

he lay until observed


he vanishes in the ripples

among the green slim reeds.

‘The Snake Trying’ by W.W.E. Ross presents the nature of the snake. The snake lies on the sand in the daytime without hurting anyone. Whenever people find the snake, they chase it away even if it is causing them no harm. Here, the poet introduces two themes, perception vs reality and hypocrisy. Men perceive snakes as harmful creatures but in reality, they aren’t. Moreover, it doesn’t matter if the snake is causing them any harm or not. They have to chase it away.

However, at last, the snake vanishes in the ripples of the water and moves to the reeds. Using “green” and “slim” again this section is a reference to the similarity between the snake and nature. In this way, the poet says that as humans, the snake is also an integral part of nature, and the green reeds as well.


About W.W.E. Ross

The poet of ‘The Snake Trying’, William Wrighton Eustace Ross was born on June 14 1894 in Peterborough, Ontario. He was a Canadian geophysicist and poet. He was the first Canadian poet to write imagist poetry. Ross is often called “the first modern Canadian poet” for his innovation in verse. The American poets E.E. Cummings and Marianne Moore influence him greatly. Moreover, Ross’ first book of poetry is “Laconics”. It was published in 1930. However, he died on August 26, 1966.


Similar Poetry

Like ‘The Snake Trying’ by W.W.E. Ross, here is a list of a few poems that similarly talk about snakes.

You can read about 10 of the Best Nature Poems here.

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Sudip Das Gupta Poetry Expert
A complete expert on poetry, Sudip graduated with a first-class B.A. Honors Degree in English Literature. He has a passion for analyzing poetic works with a particular emphasis on literary devices and scansion.

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