William Stafford: Poems
Morally Right Versus Logically Correct
Encountering a dead deer on the road is not an unusual occurrence; oncoming drivers see the road block and handle the situation accordingly. Some drivers will swerve to miss the animal -- it is safe to say that most drivers will swerve -- but a select group of drivers will stop to move the deer out of the road. An example of a driver in that select group can be found in William Stafford’s poem “Traveling through the Dark.” After moving the deer out of the road, this particular driver must choose between the decision that his heart recognizes as morally right and the decision that his mind recognizes as logically correct.
The driver, who is also the speaker of this poem, comes across the deer in the first two lines of the poem: “Traveling through the dark I found a deer / dead on the edge of the Wilson River road” (lines 1-2). Even though it was not he who caused the death of the animal, he knows what he must do with its carcass: “It is usually best to roll them into the canyon” (line 3). By saying “it is usually best…,” the driver is giving past knowledge to this type of incident; this is not the first time that the driver has had to do such a thing (line 3). It is in the line that follows that the driver offers justification...
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