Having moved home recently, I’ve been trying to carve out a new life in a place I haven’t lived for over four years. While I’m enjoying joining libraries and socialising with old friends, I’ve also been indulging in a bit of nostalgia to reconnect me with pre-university life! Consequently, my daily activities have recently been accompanied by the soothing voice of Stephen Fry, as I’ve been listening to my beloved collection of Harry Potter story tapes.
I’m currently on Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, pretty dark for one of the earlier stories and full of serpentine mischief. Harry’s just had his arm broken by a rogue bludger, before Lockhart removes all the bones in his arm..
It prompted me to browse the online abyss for poems involving snakes, as snakes have been used for eternity to symbolise a number of things: cunning, deceit, lust, fertility, etc. It’s always rather fun to see how snakes and worms have been used, especially in phallic poems like Blake’s The Sick Rose.
But seeing as this started with a children’s story, I thought it should finish with a poem by the creator of several children’s classics from the Edwardian era. Edith Nesbit wrote, among others, two of my favourite stories: The Phoenix & the Carpet and The Railway Children.
This poem is more adult-orientated; I thought it was particularly apt as we enter February, the last cold month before spring starts to bloom.
The Kiss by Edith Nesbit
The snow is white on wood and wold,
The wind is in the firs,
So dead my heart is with the cold,
No pulse within it stirs,
Even to see your face, my dear,
Your face that was my sun;
There is no spring this bitter year,
And summer’s dreams are done.
The snakes that lie about my heart
Are in their wintry sleep;
Their fangs no more deal sting and smart,
No more they curl and creep.
Love with the summer ceased to be;
The frost is firm and fast.
God keep the summer far from me,
And let the snakes’ sleep last!
Touch of your hand could not suffice
To waken them once more;
Nor could the sunshine of your eyes
A ruined spring restore.
But ah-your lips! You know the rest:
The snows are summer rain,
My eyes are wet, and in my breast
The snakes’ fangs meet again.