Winter 1954 • Vol. XVI No. 1 Poetry |

The Man and the Serpent

    The man had seen the coil move And said: "Hah, fiend, I'm one of whom the world will approve     For saving mankind from a curse!"     Whereupon the creature who had been called perverse     (Serpent not man, I would make clear; One might easily be confused) the serpent was captured Before it knew it could be interfered with, Picked up, slipped in a bag and worse, since unused to fear—It was condemned to death. As for justice, there's none. Murder—bent then, to justify what he'd begun,     The man was soon satirizing: "Symbol of ingratitude, compassion when shown To a snake is poor sense. No more harm than you've done; You must die," and heard from the nearly silent thing, "Condemn a beast on sight without hearing a word—    Then not an ingrate hereabout     Could hope for reprieves implored. Suppose you appraise your own deeds; bear me out. You are my model. In my sins, see your own. Cut my life short, say yes or no.

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Marianne Moore published multiple books of poetry. She won the National Book Award, the Pulitzer Prize, and the Bollingen Prize. Her poems appeared in the Nation, the New Republic, Partisan Review, and the New Yorker.

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    The man had seen the coil move And said: "Hah, fiend, I'm one of whom the world will approve     For saving mankind from a curse!"     Whereupon the creature who had […]

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