Summary and analysis of Sandpiper by Elizabeth Bishop: 2022


Born on 18 February in the year 1911 in Massachusetts, Elizabeth Bishop did not get much appreciation in the literary world until after her death. Known as a perfectionaist, this American poet, story writer and painter is famous for her ability to create magnificent scenes and situations through her words.


“Sandpiper” by Elizabeth Bishop is a brilliant composition that expresses the poet’s view that living beings have a tendency to become so self absorbed and narrow minded that they forget to appreciate small blessings in life.


The poem is set on one of the beach of Atlantic ocean.  


“The roaring alongside he takes for granted”
“The beach hisses like fat”
“The world is a mist. And then the world is
minute and vast and clear.”
“Watching, rather, the spaces of sand between them”
“The world is a mist. And then the world is
minute and vast and clear. The tide”
“looking for something, something, something.”


The speaker observes that sandpiper (a kind of bird) ignores the roaring ocean that has the ability to shake the earth while running awkwardly here and there, sometimes in north and then in south. The bird runs straight through the flowing water watching his toes, leaving the beach and the waves behind. He stares rather at the sand holes from where the Atlantic drains, rapidly running down and back, the bird stares at dragging grains. According to the speaker, the world is a mist, it is vast and contains within it the time and the moments of life itself but the bird is least appreciative of this beautiful world, the bird is preoccupied. The bird is looking for something in the grains obsessively, he is so self absorbed that he forgets to enjoy the miracle that his existence is.


This brilliant composition laden with vivid imagery portrays the importance of appreciating the world we are surrounded with and enjoy the life for its own sake rather than for the sake of achieving an end.


The tone of the poem is very calm and quiet, the poet uses vivid imagery to create a very articulate picture.


The poem reminds the readers to love life and appreciate the beautiful world that surrounds us.
Contributor: Radhika Goel

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