“Snipe”, Ted Hughes, 1983

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:

 SNIPE

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.

Suddenly

Some scrap of dried fabric rips

Itself up

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

Climbing headlong

As if hurled downwards –

hughes-snipe

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.””

http://www.legendarydartmoor.co.uk/ted_hughes.htm

One thought on ““Snipe”, Ted Hughes, 1983

  1. I remember those days of pelting rain, the little Setter forging ahead in the gusting winds,
    with the Snipe flying, and the guns responding.
    Then back to the house, the bounty to be shared, that night, with guests.
    Looking back, they were magical times.

    Liked by 1 person

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