It has been some time since my last posting. Summer angling led to fall angling, and a long backpack trip for mule deer into the Eagle Cap Wilderness Area, but now winter approaches bringing these little birds, and to them my own thoughts now turn.
Poet Laureate Ted Hughes moved to Dartmoor in 1961, in a town on the edge of the National Park. His experiences were captured in two volumes of poetry, Moortown (1979) and River (1983) from which his poem “Snipe” is taken:
You are soaked with the cold rain –
Like a pelt in tanning liquor.
The moor’s swollen waterbelly
Swags and quivers, ready to burst at a step.
Some scrap of dried fabric rips
From the marsh-quake, scattering. A soft
Explosion of twilight
In the eyes, with spinning fragment
Somewhere. Nearly lost, wing flash
Stab-trying escape routes, wincing
From each, ducking under
And flinging up over –
Bowed head, jockey shoulders
As if hurled downwards –
A mote in the watery eye of the moor –
Hits cloud and
Skis down the far rain wall
Slashes a wet rent
in the rain-duck
Twisting out sideways –
rushes his alarm
Back to the ice age.
The downpour helmet
Tightens on your skull, riddling the pools,
Washing the standing stones and fallen shales
With empty nightfall.
Ted Hughes – The Snipe 1981.
I would like to reference, and thank, the website Legendary Dartmoor for sharing this poem along with some history of Hughes’ time there. The site author there describes so beautifully snipe shooting in winter:
“For anybody who has trudged laboriously through the sodden tussocks on a wet day this poem will strike a chord of recognition. The rain is pelting down at an angle of 22.5° you are hunched up, head bent in your raincoat and the drips rhythmically cascading off your forehead. Usually you are deep in melancholy thought when all of a sudden a hidden form explodes out from under your foot with a loud, indignant ‘skeep’. Your heart jumps and when you look up you see a flash of dark brown and white frantically zig-zagging low over the moor – “Jack Snipe.””