“The Thought-Fox” by Ted Hughes is a poem about the creative process, in particular the process of writing poetry. It is also, like Shakespeare's “Sonnet 18,” a testament to the enduring power of art to transcend the limitations of time and place.
On this reading, the snow depicted in the poem is the white sheet of paper on which the poet writes his work. The thought-fox of the title is the poem itself, a product of the poet's imagination.
The fox sets “neat prints” in the snow, implying that the poem will endure long after it has been written. Unlike the prints that a real fox would make in snow, these “neat prints,” these products of the poet's imagination, will last forever. They are permanent and enduring, invulnerable as they are to the passage of time.
It is here that we can how “The Thought-Fox” stands, as we've already seen, as an eloquent testament to the transcendent power of art. Though real-life foxes will die, and the snow that many of us encounter each winter will eventually melt, the poem, as a work of art, will live on, transcending the time and place in which it was written to speak to successive generations of readers.