Symbolism in poetry is used to portray one thing but really mean another. Animals for instance, are sometimes used as symbols to represent human tendencies and to manifest the similarities a person may have with that of an animal's. Animals are also used as symbols to demonstrate ones separation with nature as it was illustrated in Alden Nowlan's "The Bull Moose and "Traveling through the Dark" by William Stafford. Both poets used animals as symbols to interpret the theme of their poems.
Nowlan's "The Bull Moose" was a poem about a moose that was traveling through the mountains and seemed to have been dying. Being too tired to go on the moose stopped at a "pole-fenced pasture" (stanza 1, line 5) where it "stood with the cattle" (stanza 2, line 7). Throughout the poem, Nowlan shows how inhumanely people's actions can be by illustrating how badly the moose was treated by them. "The children teased him with alder switches" (lines 12 &13, stanza 3) and "the young men snickered and tried to pour beer down his throat" (lines 18 & 19, stanza 4). The moose did not react to any of the torture for he was too tired. As the wardens came to kill him, the moose "gathered his strength" (line 29) and "when he roared, people ran to their cars" (line 32). Those lines reveal how one should never underestimate the weakness of others. Nevertheless, the vulnerability others might bestow at times. .
In "Traveling through the Dark", Stafford used a dead deer as a symbol of nature ruined by the act of man. The poem illustrates the choices one should make between being aware or careless about the world and oneself; hence, choosing certain paths through life. The poem was based on a story about a man traveling alone at night who encounters a dead deer. He pulled over to roll the doe off the road because he felt that if he did not move the deer other drivers might have come upon the deer, try to swerve and end up killing themselves: "It is usually best to roll them into the canyon: that road is narrow; to swerve might make more dead" (stanza1, lines 4 & 5).