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Analysis of The Bull Moose
"The Bull Moose" by Alden Nowlan is a finely crafted poem which reminds us of how far man has strayed from Nature. Through a carefully constructed series of contrasted images, Nowlan laments, in true Romantic fashion, man's separation from Nature.
The strength of the old moose is impressive. On his death march, he nonetheless comes "lurching" and "stumbling" in ponderous and powerful strides to "the pole-fenced pasture''- the edge of civilization. A crowd quickly gathers, a crowd of men and women, old and young - all notable for their insensitivity and lack of respect. They confuse the moose with one of their own domesticated animals, like the cattle or collie or gelded moose or ox, failing to see the nobility and ancient wisdom of this moose from "the purple mist of trees." The scene becomes obscene as men "pry open his jaws with bottles" and "pour beer down his throat." The symbolic crown of thistles hammers home the innocent suffering perpetrated by these giggling and snickering buffoons.
But this moose is no "shaggy and cuddlesome" doll. Living in freedom beyond the fences of civilization, this king of the spruce, cedar, and tamarack meets his degraded executioners with overwhelming power. The deep roar of this magnificently horned ancient "blood god" contrasts sharply with the puny and cowardly whine of the automobile horns.
Nowlan's sympathy for the moose and his disgust for mankind is forcefully expressed in a natural free verse. This poem calls us to rethink the arrogant self-righteousness we hold toward Nature. By fencing ourselves in, perhaps we shut ourselves away from those qualities necessary to make us truly human.
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