Moya 1

Samantha Moya AP Lit. P.2 Mrs. Elliott January 5, 2009 Formal #2 To the Snakes Every individual has either lived with or for an addiction. Addictions can exist from candy to drugs, from pleasure to adrenaline, from ideals to religion, and from pain to sinfulness. An addiction can be described as, “Firstly, the addictive behavior is maladaptive or counterproductive to the individual. So instead of helping the person adapt to situations or overcome problems, it tends to undermine these abilities… And, secondly, the behavior is persistent. When someone is addicted, they will continue to engage in the addictive behavior, despite it causing them trouble.” (Addictions, Par. 4) With this being mentioned, it is true that human beings tend to pursue things for their advantage. It is also true that an individual is easily overtaken by temptation. An individual is very easily consumed by temptation, especially when the outcome may be harmful. No matter how hard the human being tries to break from addictions there is some distinct individuals who seem to know their wrongdoings but at the same time they seem to ignore the consequences for their actions. Addictions are very powerful and although some are harmless, the simple truth is they are. Only by taking into consideration the simple fact that these individuals don’t recognize that they are causing themselves is wrong. As mentioned, “The harm caused by addiction is particularly difficult to recognize when the addiction is the person’s main way of coping with the other problems they have.” (Addictions, Par. 11) Addicts are causing harm to their mental state and sometimes addictions can cause great danger to one’s body or even worse their essential organs. Denise Levertov wrote a poem, that I believe speaks about

Moya 2

addictions, temptation, and also pleasure. Levertov’s poem, To the Snake, shows has every possible aspect to confirm that indeed its themes are: addiction, temptation, and lastly but not limited to pleasure. Levertov’s To the Snake, can be described as a simplistic dialogue poem between a snake and the speaker; the speaker is an individual who makes his way through a path and encountered a “snake.” Ironically, Levertov excluded the snake’s voice from the poem which can lead the reader to misinterpretation of the poem. Denise tried to have her readers fully engaged in the speaker giving the snake very little importance. Though she gave the snake little importance, evidently, the snake is the protagonist in this piece of literature. Levertov expresses the speaker clearly which makes the reader fully comprehend his dilemma and how he’s reminiscing on the past. Although the speaker does all the talking, the speaker addresses the snake with personification and gives the reader a better understanding of what the speaker is trying to confess. In respect to the same idea that I conceived while reading, the snake has the potential to symbolize a notion of evil or more specifically wrongdoing. The reason behind this is the Catholic Church Bible. For example, Adam and Eve were betrayed by the serpent, serpent that was up to no good and “symbolizes the devil. Upon eating the forbidden fruit Adam and Eve were rewarded with punishment. I personally, take the snake as a symbol or a representation of an addiction that the speaker reflects upon, during his encounter. The reason for this is simply because addictions are likely to be tedious and are weighing people down with stress. Denise made a similar connection to this in her poem, “Green Snake, when I hung you round my neck and stroked your cold, pulsing throat as you hissed to me, glinting arrowy gold scales, and I felt the weight of you on my shoulders.” In these phrases the speaker seems to be reflecting on his

Moya 3

previous experiences, “with the snake.” In comparison, it can be said that they both, a snake and an addiction, only bring problems to those human beings that are insecure or hopeless and have failed to pursue happiness. I immediately made a connection the Levertov’s poem when I read, “the media, in particular, have portrayed addicts as hopeless, unhappy people whose lives are falling apart.” (Addiction, Par. 9) In my opinion, I believe that their addiction is the one to blame and cause of their mental downfalls. As I continued to read through the poem, I began to make more connections to the idea of an addiction. The phrase in the first stanza that had the greatest impact on me was, “I felt the weight of you on my shoulders, and the whispering silver of your dryness sounded close at my ears.” This line apparently resembles that the speaker has recognized the fact that he suffers from an addiction. He is using his conscious to reflect upon his failure to reject temptation. I believe that the “dryness” Levertov is writing about is the speaker’s conscious, which makes him fall into temptation. As I read on I noticed more allegories written by Levertov that showed the speaker’s insecurity and uncertainty in this stanza through her lines. Lines which include but aren’t limited to: “Green Snake--I swore to my companions that certainly you were harmless! But truly I had no certainty, and no hope.” This directly emphasizes the idea that the speaker occasionally commits wrongdoings and receives pleasure from these acts. It may also clarify the idea that the spokesperson had mental problems and recognized that his addiction was indeed causing him mental destruction. The simple fact that the snake has a potential to cause harm can be also known as temptation. This can be interpreted as a devious pleasure that only the speaker of the poem is the only one that contains the ability to relate to. The speaker is the only one that has the potential to know what the speaker is going though. This adds to the characterization of a possible addiction.

Moya 4

Reading more from the text, I realized that the speaker desired to have an experience for a last time. “Only desiring to hold you, for that joy, which left a long wake of pleasure,” this phrase in completely relevant to the idea that temptation and pleasure have consumed the speaker once again. Not only does the speaker desire for more but also to be willing and wanting to go through the obstacles for a second time. Additionally, I believe an addiction will only haunt an individual if the individual fails to resolve their mental problems in addition a mental breakdown can be the cause of this particular behavior. To my surprise I only found Levertov’s ending of the poem to summarize the speaker’s inner emotions. “As the leaves moved and you faded into the pattern of grass and shadows, and I returned smiling and haunted, to a dark morning,” I understood that the speaker again was reminiscing on his past. but this time he saw his past as a dark and gloomy past. This can only mean that he regrets his past and wishes things would have happened differently. All in all, it has been clear to me that Denise Levertov intended her poem, To the Snake, to be about an individual’s addiction and how their mind can be very well lead by temptation and by pleasure. Through Levertov’s lines the reader can evidently assume that the speaker was reminiscing about his past and his addiction. I believe that the speaker recovered from his problems; through that he gained the courage and potential to reject another possible regret. This has showed me that the human mind can be very great at times but can have a simple breakdown in a matter of seconds.