Rukhaya M.K

A Literary Companion

Poetry Analysis:Ted Hughes’s “Snowdrop”


The “Snowdrop’ is a poem that is concise and precise in its imagery. The Snowdrop refers to a flowering plant with small white flowers flowering at the end of winter. The snow drop literally signifies a drop of snow that is at once emblematic of transience. Therefore, it is about the winter that approaches life and the idea of how fleeting life is.

The opening lines state that “Now is the globe shrunk tight” suggests the compression and condensation that has set in because of winter. One wonders if the writer had foreseen the impact of globalization, as he declares the same. Nevertheless, here it appears to be the effect of winter having negative consequences upon the globe. The agile mouse’s heart has become very dull ,’round’ as though it has wound around the mouse. The weasel that is busy with its red furry coat preying upon rodent-like animals, and the crow about its duty as scavenger, appear to be moulded in brass. They come across as arrested in brass. Or their sprightly movements have rendered into heavy gaits with the weight of brass. They have been arrested as if in metal, in a cold fixture. They seem to move in an outer darkness. As they reach the winter of their lives, they are with the other deaths. The lines may also mean that with the advent of winter the animals have lost their sense of alertness and become distracted.

“The often used symbolic use of metals in the Bible are hidden puzzle pieces used by God to fit together a bigger picture of the salvation process. Understanding the use of these metals provides a deeper understanding of the magnificent way God wrote the Bible. Brass, silver and gold are metals used to symbolically portray the spiritual refinement and growth of Christians, from salvation to glorification. Particularly in the pattern of Moses’ tabernacle in the wilderness. “(http://www.biblebigpicture.com/biblelessons/brassasymbolofcarnality.htm)”

Therefore, the reference to the animals may metaphorically apply to human beings who turn to spirituality and refinement as they enter the winter of their lives. How their survival instinct (act of preying) may limit itself just to the need for survival. They move in ‘an outer darkness’, but with an inner radiance.

She, too, pursues her ends,

Brutal as the stars of this month,

Her pale head heavy as metal.

The “She” at the end of the poem

may refer to the Snow drop, the flowering plant. It may also signify Mother Earth. The flowers of the flowering plant are laden with snow and therefore heavy and crystal-like. Therefore they are the brutal stars of the night that help the preying animals in their endeavour. Note that they are not “guiding stars’ but brutal stars as they assist the killing of other animals It exemplifies, how for Hughes, violence not only pervaded the animal world, it also permeated the natural vegetative world.

©Rukhaya MK 2010

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1 Comment

  1. I found it very helpful.

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