Wildwood is a song of lost love and the illusions of love. The ‘Wildwood’ is a metaphor for that illusion.
When writing this song, I modeled it loosely on the olde English ballads; the Childe Ballads. These told long stories in verse (ballads) with repeated phrases and images. (The band, ‘Fairport Convention’ utilized modern versions of such ballads in their recordings of ‘Crazy Man Michael’, ‘Matty Groves’ and ‘Renardine’. A further side-note: ‘Fairport Convention’ and ‘The Incredible String Band’ were dear influences on me in my younger days.)
Once again, this song is based on my personal experience. (I’ll leave the ‘when’, the ‘where’ and the ‘whom’ to your imagination.) Most of the song deals in the creation of atmosphere. As such, it references all five senses (sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell) as well as the sense of danger and trepidation.
‘She said, “I think that you should take a walk with me.”
She said I’d be surprised at what I’d likely see’
The song begins with an invitation by a female suitor to take a walk. She offers the vague promise of a new experience. It is obvious that the woman is taking the lead and has assumed the dominant role in the nascent relationship.
‘…we took a walk across a foreign land’
The sub-text of the invitation is to a likely romantic encounter; the ‘foreign land’ of romance.
‘Silver beetles chiming in the Wildwood
Cotton candy clouds spun ghostly white’
The lighter, friendlier images of ‘silver beetles’ and ‘cotton-candy clouds’ invoke the innocent invitation to ‘take a walk’.
‘A narrow twisted track through Wildwood
that led us on and on…’
As yet, the lover is unaware – perhaps by choice – that the woman is the source of the enchantment. He attributes it to his surroundings; nature.
‘Dusk had darkened to a gloomy twilight
Shadows cast by moon-beans in our way’
As the walk proceeds, night begins to fall; dusk turns to twilight and then to night as the moon shines and the stars appear.
‘The valley disappeared into the twilight’
The known world recedes. It becomes remote, then vanishes.
The southern stars wheeled in mute display’
The world is turned on its head. The familiar stars of the northern sky are supplanted by the ones from the southern sky. (Clearly, our lover is not an ‘antipodean’.) The appearance of the southern stars underscores his having entered a foreign land. Moreover, the stars whirl and wheel overhead, inciting dizziness and disorientation.
‘Black cicadas chirring in the Wildwood
Night-shade clouds obscured the moon’
With the disorientation and the dissolution of the normal perceptions, the innocent, friendly mood changes to a darker, more ominous one.
‘Her scented presence promised me the Wildwood,
As she led us on and on…’
Though the senses are heightened, they are illusory. The Lover is know aware that the woman is the enchantress as her perfume – her personal scent – weaves a spell which cannot be resisted.
The wordless middle section is meant to convey the intoxicating illusion; the glamour of love. The transcendent euphoria heightens the senses yet disorients the lover. The guitar solo conveys a gentle rain shower which builds to a tempest.
‘We came upon a long winding staircase
That ascended steeply in the gloom’
The stair-case symbolizes the rising hopes of the singer for romantic love to result from this walk as well as his euphoric state of mind.
‘She turned and held me face in her weathered hands
And kissed me – oh, so sweetly – in the gloom’
The woman’s ‘weathered hands’ indicates that she is an ‘old hand’ at weaving this illusion. The sweet kiss seems to deliver the promise of romance as the trek through the Wildwood continues.
The repeated word, ‘gloom’, is meant in the older sense of partial darkness yet carries the connotation of despondency and doom of the burgeoning, albeit, flawed love affair.
‘We wandered widely in the Wildwood
Never looking for escape’
Led by the ‘enchantress’, the couple moves through their eerie courtship – the Wildwood – as though through a fantasy which has no ending.
‘Then – she left me in the Wildwood
Where I stumble on and on…’
Abruptly, the enchantment of love ends. The enchantress departs.
‘I’ve wandered blindly in the Wildwood
Always looking for escape’
Left alone, the lover regains a sense of reality but the fantasy is replaced by further disorientation. He strives to regain the illusory promise yet also seeks to re-enter the illusion.
‘Since she left me in the Wildwood
I’ve stumbled on and on
I’ve stumbled on and on…’
Lost between two worlds, reality and illusion, he blunders along, lost in the wilderness of the Wildwood without guide or route for egress. He remains lost between the two worlds, babbling to himself in his madness.
‘Wildwood’ is a love song…
(To quote pioneering saxophonist, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, “I’m not bitter. I’m just bitter-sweet.”)