in a state of controlled panic, a student of Blake
I would suggest that the reference to Blake indicates the nature of his poetry and the task of students. The task of students is to analyze the whys and wherefores of literary works through the meaning and form of all the whats. They approach the whats in awkward, student scholarship, being finicky over the assortment: literary technique, literary device, enjambment, allusion, rhetorical scheme, synecdoche ....The student's task is foreboding. Blake's poetry can be forbidding ... certainly philosophically.
So the little sandpiper runs steadily about the pursuit of his purpose, ever playing a game of tag, advancing and retreating, with the ocean's surf in the same manner with which students approach the difficult task of foraging intellectual nourishment from Blake's works: in a state of controlled (sandpipers and students must both control their dread of having nourishment wash away in the tide) panic (the emotional result of the realization of the daunting challenge at hand).
A Divine Image
Cruelty has a human heart,
And Jealousy a human face;
Terror the human form divine,
And Secresy the human dress.
The human dress is forged iron,
The human form a fiery forge,
The human face a furnace sealed,
The human heart its hungry gorge. (William Blake, looking forbidding)