Introduction

The poet William Cowper explores the personal life of the Snail in his poem “The Snail.” The snail, a little creature that stays close to grass, leaves, walls, or fruits, is contented with it’s own wealth and does not rely on others. The Snail depends only on its own strength, determination, and honesty to cope with the difficulties. The  entire poem is about the snail and it’s struggles in life, as well as it’s unique personality.

About The Poet

William Cowper, a notable poet of his time, was born on November 26, 1731, in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, England. By portraying daily lives and scenes of the English countryside, he began to transform the essence of 18th-century nature poems. After transferring from one institution to another, Cowper resumed his study at Westminster School. He has penned several anti-slavery poems. He was a close friend of Newton, who was an outspoken opponent of slavery.

Theme Of Poem

In this poem, the poet suggests that the snail is not among the swarming crowd, who are fearless to communicate with others by going about their life as usual. Instead, the snail is a master at sorting things out alone. The snail is not homeless, he has his own home, which not only comforts him but also symbolizes tremendous power and independence. The snail is a gregarious creature who is also highly active. 

Stanza 1-2

To grass, or leaf, or fruit, or wall,
The snail sticks close, nor fears to fall,
As if he grew there, house and all Together.

Within that house secure he hides,
When danger imminent betides
Of storm, or other harm beside Of weather.

The speaker is observing him closely and documenting his behaviour as an inspiration to humanity. The speaker explains the snail in the poem with a few basic yet figurative adjectives. The snail, according to Cowper, lives wherever he pleases and is not scared of falling. The snail’s shell is enough to keep it safe, indicating self-confidence and self-reliance.

Stanza 3

Give but his horns the slightest touch,
His self-collecting power is such,
He shrinks into his house, with much Displeasure.

The poet says that If you touch his horns even slightly, his self-collecting strength is so strong that he retreats within his dwelling, much to his fury

Stanza 4

Where'er he dwells, he dwells alone,
Except himself has chattels none,
Well satisfied to be his own Whole treasure.

Cowper says that the snail lives alone anywhere he goes. The snail has no other possessions except himself. He is content to be his one and only complete treasure.