The Bull Moose

The Bull Moose

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The Bull Moose

 

"The Bull Moose" is a poem by one of the great Canadian poets, Alden Nowlan. It is a finely crafted poem by a very talented poet. It reminds us how far away from Nature the lives of ordinary men and women have strayed. This is something common to all of us who live so much our lives in buildings and who so rarely experience Nature in its raw form. Nowlan creates powerful layers of images, and contrasts them in a way to make us feel just how damaging to our minds and souls this separation from Nature has been. His poem is Romantic in the way it tries to remind us of how far we have fallen and how hollow our idea of progress is. Indeed, Nowlan suggests that we may be more of a beast than the moose.

 

The moose presents a picture of strength to the reader. I think he is searching for a place to die, but it can be seen that he still seems very powerful in the way he comes "lurching" and "stumbling" in such a powerful way, until he reaches the edge of his world, and the beginning of our world, at the "pole-fenced pasture." A crowd composed of men, women, and children seems to have materialized out of thin air. These are the representatives of civilized life, and they are uniformly marked by insensitivity and ignorance in the way in which they treat the moose. The people can't seem to understand that the moose is not the same kind of animal as their domesticated cattle, or their pet collie, or the gelded moose they remember having seen. They suffer from a severe kind of blindness which cannot recognize the deeper significance of this moose which has come to them from "the purple mist of the trees" as if he were some kind of mystical being full of ancient truths. The scene quickly develops into a pageant of obscenity as some of the men "pry open his jaws with bottles" and then "pour beer down his throat." The moose's crown of thistles is a symbol which serves to remind us of the unjustified suffering of Christ. In this way it makes us see our fellow humans in a revolting light as they proceed toward the humiliation and execution of one of the "lords of life."

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But the people who think this moose is no more dangerous than a "shaggy and cuddlesome doll" are quickly brought to their senses. It lives a free life very different than theirs, beyond the symbolic fences of civilization. This moose is a king we are told, and he rules over his kingdom of spruce, cedar, and tamarack trees. He faces his tormentors with a power that overwhelms them. This "blood god", magnificently attired in his huge antlers, lets out a deafening roar which makes a great contrast with the chorus of heartless automobile horns.

 

Alden has a great deal of sympathy for the moose and a great deal of disgust for his fellow humans. He writes in a very natural sounding, but forceful free verse. The poem's message, in my opinion, is to make us reconsider the arrogant way we approach Nature as well as attacking the self righteous superiority we feel toward Nature. By putting fences around ourselves, we just may be cutting ourselves from many of the qualities that are necessary to make us truly human.

 

 

 
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