An Analysis of “Singing to Wolves”
The poem, “Singing to Wolves” is a modern poem, that tries to explain to the reader how wonderful solitude is, but also considers it’s negative side, with the example of a lonely girl. The poem starts off with a brief encounter into the history of Wales, and talks about the Llanthony monks, who the reader is told were unloved by the Welsh, and thus driven to a lonely life in the wilderness. By reading this poem, it seems as though being unloved is a popular reason for solitude. After this brief insight into Wales’ history the reader is then taken back to the realms of modern day
“Why should we stay here singing
This opening sentence seems to act as a kind of question, which is answered in the course of the poem. At first it sounds like a stupid thing to do, but eventually the reader realises that the wolves become very symbolic in the poem. Wolves are thought of as being ruthless hunters of the wilderness, and one could hardly imagine them being impressed by the singing of any person.
For the monks the Wolves were those that despised them (the Welsh), and by “singing” to them, they were actually trying to convince them of their belief etc. And seeing as no-one ever listened to them, they may as well sing to the wolves, as they take just as much notice of them.
However the wolves also have another interesting metaphorical meaning in the poem. These days they no longer roam Britain, and have all died out, with very few exceptions. This may be symbolic for the singing of the monks, whose songs would hopelessly die out, just like the only living things that could hear the songs.
Lastly wolves are also known to be fairly viscous animals, that are natural born hunters. No matter whether the monks would stay in the populated areas of Southern Wales, where they first came to, or whether they lived alone in the wilderness, either way they were hunted and unloved.
“…finding themselves unloved…”
The however does not merely talk about the life of these monks, but just uses them as an example of people that live in isolation. The second stanza talks about sights and sounds very familiar to the reader. Here the poet has made a leap into modern day, away from the old monks and their solitary life. The stanza is filled with what seems like a load of contradictions, however when one casts a second glance over the stanza, one realises that these apparent contradictions make perfect sense.
“The tidied ruins are a favourite summer place.”
When one thinks of ruins, such as old castles etc., the last word one would use to describe them as is tidy. However the author wishes to express how characterless our society has become. Everything has to follow certain rules and fulfil various expectations. Ruins could never be left in the state they were found in, in the first place, as they might inflict injury on somebody accidentally and so on. It seems as though the author is trying to get the read to reflect upon his society, and see what we are missing.
In the final stanza, the author leaves the world of children “dashing under arches”, and “crowded restaurants”. Still staying in the modern time, he looks at isolation in a similar way as was done in the first stanza. Once again it becomes an important aspect of loneliness and being unloved. This time the reader gets a picture of a “tiny girl” in his minds eye, that is all alone, and wondering through the “wilderness”.
“…to risk encircled beauty…”
Just like the monks, she also has to contest with the dangers of the wilderness, and one would imagine that a girl of that age would be dashing around with all of her friends. However this is not the picture the author wants us to create. Instead we are brought back to the idea of the wolf and the danger as well as ignorance it symbolises.
The language in the poem is also very interesting, in as far that the author uses colour and movement as his most predominant themes. This is especially noticeable in the second stanza, where he uses colours to emphasise that life seems to speed past us, and that our entire life is part of this predestined and sterile society. the example for this being the tidy ruins again.
“On this burning day…to dash under arches, burst from shade to sun, shifting points of colour, as intense as flowers…”
Another interesting thing that the poet makes use of is semicolons. These are used throughout the three stanza’s. The point of these semicolons is to make the sentences seem longer, and bring a certain amount of continuity to it.
“…said Llanthony monks; and left for soft living…”
Once one has recognised the ideas behind the text, one realises that the poem tries to make the reader think about the world he lives in, and maybe even prompt him into looking more deeply into his way of life, and try not to simply follow the pattern that everybody else makes. The poet has don this by using the example of the monks in the past years, and the little girl in our modern world. Maybe he wants the reader to find a medium between becoming a statistic, and singing to wolves.