Securely sunning in a forest glade,
A mild, well-meaning snake
Approved the adaptations he had made
For safety’s sake.
He liked the skin he had—
Its mottled camouflage, its look of mail,
And was content that he had thought to add
A rattling tail.
The tail was not for drumming up a fight;
No, nothing of the sort.
And he would only use his poisoned bite
As last resort.
A peasant now drew near,
Collecting wood; the snake, observing this,
Expressed concern by uttering a clear
But civil hiss.
The simple churl, his nerves at once unstrung,
Mistook the other’s tone
And dashed his brains out with a deftly-flung
Security, alas, can give
A threatening impression;
Too much defense-initiative
Can prompt aggression.
Richard Wilbur's Other Poems
Read poems about / on: snake
Read this poem in other languages
This poem has not been translated into any other language yet.
Comments about this poem (A Fable by Richard Wilbur )
(12 July 1904 – 23 September 1973)
Rainer Maria Rilke
(4 December 1875 – 29 December 1926)
(March 26, 1874 – January 29, 1963)
Edgar Allan Poe
(19 January 1809 - 7 October 1849)
(4 April 1928 - 28 May 2014)
(27 October 1914 – 9 November 1953)
(28 November 1757 – 12 August 1827)
(10 December 1830 – 15 May 1886)
(1 February 1902 – 22 May 1967)
- 04 Tongues Made Of Glass, Shaun Shane
- The Road Not Taken, Robert Frost
- Annabel Lee, Edgar Allan Poe
- If You Forget Me, Pablo Neruda
- All through eternity, Mewlana Jalaluddin Rumi
- Invictus, William Ernest Henley
- Still I Rise, Maya Angelou
- Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night, Dylan Thomas
- Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, Robert Frost
- If, Rudyard Kipling