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To the Snipe Summary and Critical analysis


“To the Snipe” by John Clare is a heartfelt ode dedicated to the snipe, a bird often found in marshy areas. The poem captures the bird’s unique characteristics, its habitat, and its distinctive call. Clare’s admiration for the snipe is evident as he delves into detailed descriptions, celebrating the bird’s presence in the natural world.

Critical Analysis

John Clare’s “To the Snipe” is a reflection of his deep appreciation for the often-overlooked wonders of nature. The snipe, a bird not typically celebrated for its beauty or song like the nightingale or the lark, receives Clare’s undivided attention in this poem. His detailed observations highlight the bird’s uniqueness and its harmonious existence within its environment. The poem serves as a reminder that every creature, no matter how seemingly insignificant, has its own beauty and place in the world.


  1. Appreciation of Nature: Central to many of Clare’s works, this theme is evident in his detailed descriptions of the snipe and its habitat.
  2. Overlooked Beauty: The poem underscores the idea that beauty can be found in the most unexpected places or creatures.
  3. Harmony with Nature: The snipe, with its distinctive call and behavior, is portrayed as being in perfect harmony with its marshy surroundings.
  4. Nature’s Music: The call of the snipe, though not melodious in the traditional sense, is celebrated as a unique form of nature’s music.

Literary Devices

  1. Imagery: Clare’s vivid descriptions, from the “lonely moor” to the “evening’s dewy star,” paint a detailed picture of the snipe’s environment.
  2. Alliteration: Phrases like “wet and weary” add a rhythmic quality to the poem.
  3. Personification: Clare occasionally gives human attributes to nature, such as the “evening’s dewy star” that “listens” to the snipe’s call.
  4. Metaphor: The poet employs metaphors to convey the essence of the scene, likening the snipe’s call to a “bleat” or the sound of a “flute.”


The poem follows a consistent rhyme scheme, adding a melodic quality to Clare’s descriptions. The rhyme scheme can be described as “ABAB,” with each stanza adhering to this pattern, providing a harmonious flow to the narrative.

Stanza-by-Stanza Analysis

  1. First Stanza:
    • Clare introduces the reader to the snipe’s habitat, emphasizing the loneliness and quietude of the moor. The mention of the “evening’s dewy star” sets a serene and peaceful tone.
  2. Second Stanza:
    • The poet delves into the distinctive call of the snipe, likening it to various sounds to capture its uniqueness. The “bleat” and “flute” comparisons emphasize the musical quality of the bird’s call.
  3. Third Stanza:
    • Clare describes the snipe’s behavior, highlighting its swift and unpredictable movements. The bird’s ability to vanish and reappear adds an element of mystery to its character.
  4. Fourth Stanza:
    • The poet speaks of the snipe’s harmonious existence within its environment. The bird’s call, echoing across the moor, becomes a symbol of nature’s undisturbed beauty.
  5. Fifth Stanza:
    • Clare concludes by reiterating his admiration for the snipe. He emphasizes the bird’s resilience, especially during the winter months, celebrating its enduring presence in the natural world.

In “To the Snipe,” John Clare offers a detailed and heartfelt portrayal of a bird that many might overlook. Through his keen observations and lyrical language, Clare celebrates the snipe’s unique beauty and its harmonious existence within the natural world. The poem serves as a testament to Clare’s belief that every aspect of nature, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, deserves admiration and reverence.