The Snare Poem By James Stephens - Stanza wise Explanation and Analysis

The Snare

The Snare Poem Summary

The Snare by James Stephens relates a simple story. It is a simple poem with simple words but very effective in bringing out the intended message.

The Snare is a narrative poem. What is special in this narration is that the narrator simply narrates how he imagines the situation of the poor rabbit in a snare.

The narrator’s imagination is based on what he hears; a “sudden cry of pain” of a rabbit in a snare. He keeps on describing the rabbit and its behaviour, as he hears its painful cries.

The poem is all about the narrator’s sentiments about the pathetic plight of the innocent rabbit. The reader is able to feel the distress the narrator is in and thereby empathize with the rabbit in the snare.

The poet has selected an animal which is considered as a symbol of innocence in order to intensify the brutality of human actions against innocent animals. Thus the poet raises a voice against man’s cruelty to animals.

The Snare By James Stephens

I hear a sudden cry of pain!
There is a rabbit in a snare:
Now I hear the cry again,
But I cannot tell from where.

But I cannot tell from where
He is calling out for aid!
Crying on the frightened air,
Making everything afraid!

Making everything afraid!
Wrinkling up his little face!
And he cries again for aid:
- and I cannot find the place!

And I cannot find the place
Where his paw is in the snare!
Little One! Oh, Little One!
I am searching everywhere

The Snare Poem Stanza Wise Explanation

I hear a sudden cry of pain!
There is a rabbit in a snare:
Now I hear the cry again,
But I cannot tell from where.

The narrator hears an unexpected cry of an animal in pain. He comes to a conclusion that it’s the sound of a rabbit who is caught in a snare. He realizes that the poor animal cries in pain. The narrator tries to find the place where it is caught in the snare but fails.

But I cannot tell from where
He is calling out for aid!
Crying on the frightened air,
Making everything afraid!

The second stanza begins with the same remark which says that the narrator is still unable to find the rabbit. He feels that the agonized cry is a call for help. He is disturbed by the painful cries and his inability to find the poor one. The narrator feels that himself and the surroundings as well are shocked by the sound of the rabbit in pain.

Making everything afraid!
Wrinkling up his little face!
And he cries again for aid:
- and I cannot find the place!

The narrator still can hear the cries and imagines the little face of the rabbit which is wrinkled up with pain. He can feel that the rabbit is still looking for help. He continues to look for the rabbit but still fails.

And I cannot find the place
Where his paw is in the snare!
Little One! Oh, Little One!
I am searching everywhere

He is worried since he is still unable to find the rabbit. He imagines how its little paw is caught in the snare and becomes very emotional. At this point, he almost breaks down from despair, yet out of concern for the innocent animal, he is unable to discontinue his search.

The Snare Theme

According to the literal meaning the poet is talking about an innocent rabbit caught in a snare and its sufferings. The main message conveyed from the poem is obviously an appeal to all human beings to stop brutality towards animals. The poet suggests that the defenseless animals deserve love and care from humans.

According to the profound meaning, there are innocent people who are victims of the cruelty that exists in the society out there. There are also those who are compassionate towards others and extend their helping hands. They are moved by the pathetic plight of the victims. They may be the victims of poverty, war or oppression by the powerful. However, it is not always easy or possible to rescue those who are in trouble. Hence, the poet has a universal appeal to those who are in power to refrain from exercising their power to hurt the innocent.

One can also interpret its profound meaning by considering the rabbit as a metaphor for the narrator’s inner-self. His inner self is trapped in snare and unable to freely move and come out into the surface. He has a role to play in the outside world which is full of responsibilities and seriousness. He is burdened with the type of life he has to lead while his inner child of innocence is suppressed down like a rabbit caught in a snare, unable to move. He is continuously searching for his early life of innocence but unable to reach since trapped in a snare.

The poem may appeal to kids as well as the grownups alike since it has its surface meaning for the kids while it has a much profound meaning for the adult.

The Snare Analysis

The poem talks about the way the rabbit is caught in the snare, its cry of pain, its paw and how the narrator feels about it. The poet does not directly use any words to describe the rabbit’s pain. Instead, the poem is written in a manner that the reader feels its pain and develops empathy towards the pathetic plight of the innocent rabbit. The reader cannot help himself but feel an urgency to seek the rabbit the same way the narrator feels.

The only incident or happening in the poem is that the narrator overhears the painful cries of the innocent. It suggests the helplessness of the animal trapped in the snare.

The reader realizes how merciless it is to hurt animals since they are neither able to escape on their own nor ask for help from anyone. They are unable to express their pain in words and the only way of expression would be a painful cry. Thus the poet is able to intensify the gravity of human cruelty by emphasizing only what the narrator can hear.

The phrase “Wrinkling up his little face” makes the reader empathize with the small animal for the pain it undergoes. “Where his paw is in the snare” makes the reader imagine the helpless plight and human’s brutality. It creates determination in the narrator to search everywhere so that he can rescue the animal. The narrator’s imagination also creates a sense of urgency even in the reader to look for the rabbit.

The expression ‘Little one , Oh little one” shows how deeply the narrator has felt sorry for the rabbit and that his heart aches for it.

The expression “Making everything afraid” suggests that not only the narrator but the entire surroundings also could feel the suffering of the poor creature. It also creates a very effective melancholic mood in the reader’s mind.

The deeper meaning of the words “Making everything afraid” suggests that man, animal and the environment are not separate from each other. They are entangled in one whole web of action and reaction. One man’s action of cruelty upon another man, animal or the environment has its effect on everyone else and the environment at large.

Repetition of the phrases “But I cannot tell from where” , “And I cannot find the place” shows that the narrator is continually in distress. The poem concludes with a note of despair yet the narrator does not give up on searching for the rabbit.

As far as the length of the poem is concerned, the reader is able to realize that the rabbit is in pain for a long period. The poem concludes without an ending to it, which suggests that it would be a very slow and painful death for the poor one in the snare. Simultaneously, the narrator is drowned in a deep ocean of sorrow and despair for his inability to help.

Having read the poem, the reader realizes that human beings should be sensible enough to understand the gravity of his responsibility and accountability towards every other living being including mankind, the helpless animals and the environment.

Poetic Techniques Used - The Snare Poem


The last word of each line rhymes with another in a pattern which creates a musical rhythm. It makes the poem appealing to the reader.

Last word of the first line rhymes with the last word of the third line. Last word of the second line rhymes with the last word of the fourth line. The pattern continues till the last stanza except for the first and the third lines of the last stanza. The rhythm breaks there giving it a sobbing like effect when the narrator calls out for the rabbit saying “Little one ! Oh, little one!”

Stanza 01

  • Pain - again
  • Snare - where

Stanza 02

  • Where - air
  • Aid - afraid

Stanza 03

  • Afraid - aid
  • Face - place

Stanza 04

  • Snare - where


The last line of each stanza has been repeated as the first line in the next stanza. Said repetition intensifies the attached meanings and also binds the stanzas together. The repetition here may suggest the continuation of the pain of the rabbit and the urgency and anxiety of the narrator to find the poor rabbit. It also provides for an uninterrupted flow of expressions.


The phrases such as “Wrinkling up his little face”, “Where his paw is in the snare” are able to create very strong images and thereby evoke sympathy in the reader’s mind. These words are capable of creating a very clear image of the defenseless creatureI who is struggling for life.

Monologue style of narration

This poem has a very effective Monologue style of narration. The narrator is speaking to himself without expecting any responses from a third party and creates very strong emotions in the reader’s mind.


The poet has used a rabbit as the animal in the snare. “Rabbit” is considered a symbol of innocence. In fact, it is a very conventional symbol yet effective.

The Snare - Poet

The snare is written by an Irish poet and novelist, James Stephens. James Stephens is famous for his retelling of Irish fairy tales and compassionate poems about animals. “The Snare” is one good example of his poems about animals.

He was born in Dublin in February 1880 and had a childhood spent as an orphan. His first book of poems was “Insurrections” which was published in 1909 and the last; a volume of verse, “Kings and the Moon” was published in 1938. A remarkable combination of humour and lyricism found in most of his retelling of Irish myths and fairy tales are appreciated.

He also wrote several novels such as “The Crock of Gold”, “Etched in Moonlight”, “Demi-Gods”. He was honourded by the Irish Tailteann gold medal for service to literature and an honorary DLitt from Trinity College, Dublin. During his last days he was occupied in radio broadcasts to BBC until his death in 1950.

Word Meanings

  • Sudden - quick , unexpected
  • Pain - suffering , fear, grief
  • Snare - trap
  • Cry - scream, shout
  • Aid - help
  • Frightened - afraid , feeling of fear
  • Afraid - scared , feeling of fear
  • Wrinkling - making lines or folds in your skin.
    (Here, it refers to lines on the face from pain)
  • Paw - the foot of an animal usually with claws and pads
  • Searching - looking for

The Snare - Model Questions

  1. Is the poem “The Snare” a mere depiction of the cry and pain of a rabbit caught in a snake? Does it entail a deeper meaning? give reasons.
  2. Can you justify killing animals for food and pleasure by human beings? Give your opinion referring to the poem “The Snare” by James Stephens.
  3. Do you think that the narrator of this poem is kind hearted? Support your answer.
  4. What is the theme of the poem “The Snare” by JAmes Stephans? Support your answer with justifications from the poem.
  5. How does the narrator express his feelings towards the rabbit? What are the techniques used? Explain with examples.


A Poison Tree Poem By WIlliam Blake - Stanza wise Explanation and Analysis

“A Poison Tree” is from WIlliam Blake’s volume “Songs of Experience”. The poem discusses the emotions of people, how suppression of emotions can lead to bitter results for those who harbour them and also for those who are subjected to them....

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