Explication of "Bushed" by Earle Birney?

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literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Earle Birney's poem "Bushed" contains many different, yet intertwined, meanings.

What one should always do first, when examining a literary piece, is examine the title. "Bushed" can mean a few different things. First, one can be bushed--which means overly tired. Second, one can be in bushes (the shrubs or bushy plant life which is typically found in the wild).

The opening line of the poem foreshadows a negative end. The rainbow was created by God (who used it to symbolize that the earth would never be destroyed by water again). The rainbow is immediately destroyed by a lightning bolt.

The second stanza tells about the man detailed in the poem. He is alone, a trapper out on the hunt. Over the rest of the poem, the power of nature is described. The mountain "was clearly alive," "the moon carved unknown totems / out of the lakeshore" and "owls in the beardusky woods derided him." Nature is most certainly taking a stand against the man intending to kill off some of their own.

In the end, the man locks himself in his cabin, awaiting the wrath of nature to come down upon him.

then he knew though the mountain slept the winds
were shaping its peak to an arrowhead

And now he could only
bar himself in and wait
for the great flint to come singing into his heart.

The poem could be deemed as one of the Naturalistic nature. Naturalists believed that nature was far more powerful than man. No matter what man would do, nature would always rise above and "win." Essentially, the poem speaks to the power of nature, the power of nature over man and man's, eventual, acceptance of this "law."