Summary (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
“The Moose” is a careful description of a bus journey through Nova Scotia. Its twenty-eight six-line stanzas employ an irregular pattern of slant rhyme which links two, sometimes four, end words in each stanza. Through most of the first half of the poem, the bus’s journey is described in terms of the landscape that the bus traverses. The riders are scarcely mentioned at all. Instead, readers see the changing scenery. The bus moves from “narrow provinces/ of fish and bread and tea” past the Bay of Fundy, with its enormous tides, and then past the mud flats and the farmhouses and neat white churches. The battered old bus itself is not described until the fifth stanza. Stanzas six and seven picture the bus waiting for a passenger to say good-bye to the relatives he or she is leaving behind. Even the collie is noted here, and then the landscape reasserts itself in a description of flower gardens and little communities. In the thirteenth stanza, a woman enters the bus with some small fragments of conversation. At that point the bus is traveling by moonlight into the forest. The passengers fall asleep, and Bishop pictures them entering a world of dream filled with the comfortable voices of home and the details of daily life which, as the poet reminds her reader, also involves death. In the twenty-second stanza, the bus jolts to a stop, and the driver cuts the lights so that the passengers can look at a moose that has wandered into the road. Huge and homely and harmless, she sniffs at the bus while the passengers marvel and share a sudden sense of joy. Then the bus resumes its journey, leaving the moose on the dreamy moonlit road.