What are the three main points of "Bushed"?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The three central points that are crucial to understand in this poem are firstly, the attitude of the man to nature; secondly, the way nature is presented; and lastly, the impact of this on the man in the poem at the ending. Birney's poems are characterised by a presentation of nature as something that is magnificent and also very powerful, and a predominant theme in his works is the way in which man ignores the power of nature at his peril. This poem certainly supports this theme, as the man in "Bushed" is shown to be rather arrogant about his own abilities to survive in nature. Note the reference to the "quills on his hatband" that act as a symbol of his arrogance as he makes his shelter and assumes that he will be able to live a peaceful and contented life in the wilderness he has chosen for his home.

However, it is his inability to appreciate the majesty and danger of nature that turns nature into such a psychological force that battles against him. He is dominated by the figure of the tall mountain that is so much bigger than him and seems to loom threateningly. All of nature conspires against the man and become servants of the mountain who wants to see him leave. Note, for example, the following quote:

When he tried his eyes on the lake ospreys
would fall like valkyries
choosing the cut-throat.
He took then to waiting
till the night smoke rose from the boil of the sunset.

The ospreys are converted to "valkyries," avenging soldiers of the mountain sent out to kill him and end his life. All of nature in this poem is converted to being opposed to the man and his presence, as the goats are transformed into guards and the owls mock him at every turn. This, at the end of the poem, results in a psychological oppression that is so great that all the man can do in response is to retreat to his shelter and await the death that he thinks is out there for him. The irony of the poem is clear: the man came to this spot to impose his will and dominion over nature, but finds instead that nature imposes its will and dominion over him. The message is clear: man cannot take nature for granted.

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