She can ill afford the chances she must takeIn rowing toward the grasses that she eats. (3-4)
You go, girl! At least the turtle is on the move here, heading for her favorite meal despite all the dangers along the way. The reference to "chances" reminds us of the odds stacked against her. How free are we if bad luck can sabotage our best-laid plans at any moment?
She's often stuck up to the axle on her wayTo something edible (8-9)
Everyone gets stuck occasionally, but this turtle seems unusually accident-prone, as she "often" ends up stuck during her forays for food. Either she's doing something wrong, or she really was born under an unlucky star. Or maybe nature just isn't fair.
[…] and almost any slopeDefeats her modest hopes (6-7)
In the musical South Pacific, the heroine confesses: "I'm stuck like a dope with a thing called hope, and I can't get it out of my heart." The turtle's "modest hopes" are repeatedly dashed. At what point does discouragement become despair? When the turtle is stuck in the mud, does she still have any hope stuck in her heart?