The Puff-adder

Original Text: 
Kingsley Fairbridge, Veld Verse and Other Lines (London: David Nutt, 1909): 14. Cf. Veld Verse (London: Oxford University Press, 1928): 12.
2    Drowsing beside a boulder in the sun,
3Slumbrous-inert, so gloomy and so still,
4    On the warm steep where aimless sheep-paths run,
6    A wide flat head so lazy on the sand,
7Unblinking eyes that warn of power within,
8    Lies he, -- the limbless terror of the land.
9He is the ablest specialist in death, --
10    This gleam of living velvet - and in this
11He finds his pride; yet, with presaging breath,
12    He warns the unwary footstep with a hiss.
13Go, then, and live. Remain, and in a flash
14    The fangs have found their victim, and the stark
15Strong hand of death with instant awful lash
16    Hath struck thee, choking, to the utter dark.
17Sober and thoughtful, passionless he lies
18    Dreaming strange dreams that are not ours to know,
20    And insects, chirping round him, come and go;
21Unmov'd, unvex'd by hatred or desire,
22    Calm in resistless power he disdains
24    And rests impassive till the sunlight wanes.


1] puff-adder: an ugly, sluggish, deadly African serpent (Bitis or Clotho arietans) that puffs out its upper body when aroused.
rhenoster: rhenosterbosch, the rhinoceros bush, a greyish shrub named because it is a favorite food for that animal. Back to Line
5] chevron-pattern: a pattern where a pair of lines is angled to the other in the shape of a wing. Back to Line
19] through: `though' in 1909. Back to Line
23] ringhals: venomous spitting cobra. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
RPO 2000.