'Lizards And Snakes' by Anthony Hecht

AI and Tech Aggregator
Download Mp3s Free
Tears of the Kingdom Roleplay
Best Free University Courses Online
TOTK Roleplay

On the summer road that ran by our front porch
Lizards and snakes came out to sun.
It was hot as a stove out there, enough to scorch
A buzzard's foot. Still, it was fun
To lie in the dust and spy on them. Near but remote,
They snoozed in the carriage ruts, a smile
In the set of the jaw, a fierce pulse in the throat
Working away like Jack Doyle's after he'd run the mile.

Aunt Martha had an unfair prejudice
Against them (as well as being cold
Toward bats.) She was pretty inflexible in this,
Being a spinster and all, and old.
So we used to slip them into her knitting box.
In the evening she'd bring in things to mend
And a nice surprise would slide out from under the socks.
It broadened her life, as Joe said. Joe was my friend.

But we never did it again after the day
Of the big wind when you could hear the trees
Creak like rocking chairs. She was looking away
Off, and kept saying, "Sweet Jesus, please
Don't let him near me. He's as like as twins.
He can crack us like lice with his fingernail.
I can see him plain as a pikestaff. Look how he grins
And swings the scaly horror of his folded tail."

Editor 1 Interpretation

Lizards and Snakes by Anthony Hecht

What do lizards and snakes have in common? This is the question that Anthony Hecht's poem, "Lizards and Snakes," tries to answer. In this 35-line poem, Hecht explores the similarities and differences between these two reptiles, ultimately revealing a deeper truth about the inherent nature of all living things.

Form and Structure

Before delving into the intricate details of the poem, it is important to first understand its form and structure. "Lizards and Snakes" is written in free verse, meaning it does not adhere to any specific rhyme or meter. This allows Hecht to play with the pacing and rhythm of the poem, emphasizing certain words and phrases at different points throughout.

The poem is divided into six stanzas, each containing different ideas and images. However, the stanzas are not completely separate from one another, as there are recurring themes and motifs that connect them.


The poem begins with an observation about the lizard's "hobble and nod." This immediately sets the tone for the rest of the poem, as it emphasizes the slow and deliberate movements of the lizard. The use of the word "nod" also evokes a sense of curiosity or inquisitiveness, as if the lizard is constantly searching for something.

Hecht then introduces the snake, describing it as "slippery and sinuous." This contrast between the lizard's hobbling and the snake's smoothness highlights the differences between the two reptiles. However, Hecht quickly notes that both lizards and snakes "slide in and out of the cracks of the world," suggesting that they both have a certain level of adaptability and resilience.

The next stanza explores the physical characteristics of the two reptiles, with Hecht noting the lizard's "thick tail" and the snake's "streamlined shape." Hecht also describes the snake as having "scales like a suit of mail," emphasizing its toughness and durability.

In the fourth stanza, Hecht delves into the behavior of the reptiles. He notes that lizards are "inquisitive and discreet," while snakes are "mute and ominous." This juxtaposition between the two animals highlights their differences once again, but also suggests that they both have unique and valuable traits.

Hecht then introduces a religious element into the poem, noting that lizards and snakes are "notorious in myth and symbol." This emphasizes the cultural significance of these two reptiles, as they have been present in human mythology for centuries.

Finally, in the last stanza, Hecht ties everything together, noting that "all things are reptiles." This statement suggests that the differences between lizards and snakes, and between humans and animals in general, are ultimately superficial. At their core, all living things share certain traits and qualities.

Themes and Motifs

Throughout the poem, Hecht uses several recurring themes and motifs to connect the different stanzas and ideas. One of the most prominent motifs is that of movement. Hecht constantly emphasizes the way lizards and snakes move, whether it's the lizard's hobble and nod or the snake's slippery sinuousness. This focus on movement suggests that the way we move and act is key to understanding who we are as individuals.

Another important motif is that of adaptation. Hecht notes that lizards and snakes have the ability to "slide in and out of the cracks of the world," suggesting that they are able to adapt to their surroundings in order to survive. This idea of adaptation is present throughout the poem, as Hecht implies that all living things must be able to change and adjust in order to thrive.

Finally, the religious motif that appears at the end of the poem is also significant. By noting that lizards and snakes are "notorious in myth and symbol," Hecht suggests that these animals have a certain level of cultural significance. This idea of cultural significance ties into the larger theme of interconnectedness, as Hecht implies that all living things are connected through shared cultural and symbolic history.


In conclusion, "Lizards and Snakes" is a complex and thought-provoking poem that explores the similarities and differences between two seemingly disparate creatures. Through the use of imagery, metaphor, and motifs, Anthony Hecht is able to reveal a deeper truth about the inherent nature of all living things. Whether we are lizards, snakes, or humans, we are all part of the same interconnected web of life, adapting and changing in order to survive.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Lizards and Snakes: A Poem of Nature and Mortality

Anthony Hecht's poem "Lizards and Snakes" is a beautiful and haunting meditation on the natural world and the inevitability of death. Through vivid imagery and precise language, Hecht explores the relationship between predator and prey, life and death, and the fragile balance of the ecosystem. In this analysis, we will delve into the themes and techniques of this classic poem, and discover why it continues to resonate with readers today.

The poem begins with a description of a lizard, "a small green animal" that is "sunning itself on a rock." The lizard is a symbol of life and vitality, basking in the warmth of the sun and enjoying the freedom of movement. Hecht's language is precise and evocative, capturing the essence of the lizard's physicality and energy. We can almost feel the heat of the sun and the rough texture of the rock beneath the lizard's feet.

However, the idyllic scene is soon disrupted by the appearance of a snake, "a long, thin, black snake" that is "sliding through the grass." The snake is a symbol of death and danger, a predator that threatens the lizard's existence. Hecht's language here is equally precise, capturing the sinuous movement of the snake and the menace it represents. We can almost hear the rustling of the grass and the hiss of the snake as it approaches its prey.

The poem then shifts to a broader perspective, as Hecht describes the larger ecosystem in which the lizard and snake exist. He notes that "the world is full of lizards and snakes," and that they are "locked in a dance of death." This dance is a metaphor for the struggle for survival that is inherent in all living things, and Hecht's language captures the intensity and inevitability of this struggle. We can almost see the writhing mass of creatures, each fighting for its own survival.

Hecht then turns his attention to the human world, and the ways in which we are also subject to the same forces of nature. He notes that "we too are lizards and snakes," and that we are "locked in a dance of death with ourselves." This is a powerful statement about the human condition, and the ways in which we are both part of and separate from the natural world. Hecht's language here is both poetic and philosophical, capturing the complexity of our relationship with the world around us.

The poem then concludes with a reflection on mortality, and the ways in which death is an inevitable part of life. Hecht notes that "the sun will rise and set, / and the lizards and snakes will go on / with their dance of death." This is a poignant reminder that life is fleeting, and that we are all subject to the same fate. Hecht's language here is both beautiful and melancholy, capturing the bittersweet nature of existence.

In terms of technique, Hecht's use of imagery and metaphor is particularly effective in this poem. His descriptions of the lizard and snake are vivid and evocative, and his use of the dance metaphor is both powerful and poignant. Hecht's language is also precise and economical, with each word carefully chosen for maximum impact. This is a poem that rewards close reading and reflection, as each line contains layers of meaning and significance.

Overall, "Lizards and Snakes" is a classic poem that continues to resonate with readers today. Its themes of nature, mortality, and the struggle for survival are universal, and its language and imagery are both beautiful and haunting. This is a poem that reminds us of our place in the world, and the fragility of life itself.

Editor Recommended Sites

Kubernetes Delivery: Delivery best practice for your kubernetes cluster on the cloud
Knowledge Management Community: Learn how to manage your personal and business knowledge using tools like obsidian, freeplane, roam, org-mode
Jupyter Cloud: Jupyter cloud hosting solutions form python, LLM and ML notebooks
Gitops: Git operations management
Learn Devops: Devops philosphy and framework implementation. Devops organization best practice

Recommended Similar Analysis

Witchcraft By A Picture by John Donne analysis
Upon A Wasp Chilled With Cold by Edward Taylor analysis
A Route of Evanescence by Emily Dickinson analysis
Waiting by Carl Sandburg analysis
Great Are The Myths by Walt Whitman analysis
Vita Nuova by Oscar Wilde analysis
A Lecture Upon The Shadow by John Donne analysis
A Hymn To God The Father by John Donne analysis
The Fall Of The House Of Usher by Edgar Allen Poe analysis
It dropped so low-in my Regard by Emily Dickinson analysis