The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“Bushed” is a free-verse poem in lines of irregular length that convey the experience of a man who succumbs to nature’s intimidating force. The title’s denotations and connotations are all pertinent to the poem’s meaning. In the first place, the title indicates location: the “bush,” which in Canada refers to those vast areas of wilderness remote from human settlement. Second, to be “bushed” is to be exhausted, to be bereft of strength and therefore incapable of countering force with force or even cunning. In this case, it means also in effect to be swallowed up by the “bush,” by the wilderness that, in the man’s mind, seems to lie in wait for its prey and at the moment of greatest vulnerability makes its ambush without mercy. The poem is written from the point of view of an observer who tells the story with both emotional intensity and philosophical detachment.

“Bushed” begins with an observation that foreshadows disaster. “He,” or humankind, “invented a rainbow” and saw in it divine assurance that nature would not ultimately destroy human life. Then nature’s power, through lightning, turned that dream into cold comfort by smashing the rainbow into a mountain lake. At the edge of that lake, far from civilization, a solitary trapper builds himself a shack. He has “learned to roast porcupine belly” and wears the “quills on his hatband.” Soon, however, he senses that he has invaded enemy territory whose...

(The entire section is 412 words.)