Any song on Wilder Mind that’s upbeat is a surprise. In the case of “Ditmas,” it’s certainly a pleasant one. The song nearly lilts as it rushes through the story of yet another love that isn’t working out, this time through the fault of a woman who accuses Mumford of having changed even while she leaves him behind for a “[a] life lived much too fast.” The song is sad, but it’s not mournful; Mumford argues deftly and powerfully-he won’t let the blame for the end of this relationship fall on him.
That Mumford & Sons can write upbeat, energetic songs about failed relationships is impressive and a good thing. Otherwise, this album could have been quite depressing. But while “Ditmas” nearly pops off the record with its power and enthusiasm, this song, like “Broad-Shouldered Beasts” and “Believe,” tugs at the heartstrings and is one of the easier-to-understand songs on the album. That clarity helps to drive home the heart-breaking story that Mumford bemoans as he longs for his once-close lover.
According to the internet, “Ditmas” could be either a last name or (per Urban Dictionary) the name of a park in New York City, “[h]ome to a lot of flowers, trees, squirrels and [V]ictorian houses.” While not mentioned in the song, this song’s title, like “Tompkins Square Park,” also could be a reference to a New York City park.
Mumford begins the song by looking into a bleak future: “And in time / As one reminds the other of the past.” Down the road, they may reminisce together, but for now he’s missing his lover. He blames a “life lived much too fast to hold onto,” and asks, “How am I losing you?” He’s bewildered and lost, and doesn’t understand what’s happening.
He calls their relationship a “broken house”; Mumford and his love, at one point, saw themselves as a family, but they lost that closeness. And instead of returning to that state, Mumford spends “[a]nother dry month waiting for the rain,” attention and effort on the woman’s part. However, she doesn’t offer it, a refusal that saddens Mumford. He’s been “resisting this decay / And thought [she’d] do the same.” The relationship has been on the rocks for a while, and Mumford’s still willing to make it work.
In the chorus, Mumford argues that it’s not him who’s different; it’s her. She tried to “tell [him] that [he’d] changed,” but he ardently denies it. While the preceding verse was quieter and less energetic, this chorus is a powerful and loud denial; he shouts, “But this is all I ever was / And this is all you came across those years ago.” He checks her accusations by crying, “Now you go too far!” But he’s not angry, merely defensive and sad, as demonstrated by the final line of the chorus: “And now I’m losing you.”
Verse 2 laments that “[t]he world outside just watches as we crawl.” While the relationship is a difficult struggle, the world provides only problems for them to overcome. Life offers no easy solutions, and, sadly, even what the two are struggling towards is not enviable. It’s “a life of fragile lines / And wasted time” (the last part of which could stand for time spent apart).
The “lines” mentioned could refer to rules that Mumford must observe in this relationship. He wanted a passionate and loving romance, but now their relationship comes with a list of do’s and don’t’s that he doesn’t want to have to observe because he has a “Wilder Mind.” But since the lines are “fragile,” they are easy to step across and to break, and Mumford must be especially careful for fear of pushing her even farther away.
In the verse’s second stanza, Mumford sings, “And so I cry / As I hold you for the last time in this life.” They are saying good-bye. Mumford’s, “And now I’m losing you,” was an understatement. The relationship may actually be over, and he wishes to hold on as tightly as possible by not acknowledging the end of the relationship until he absolutely must.
He tried as hard as he could to make it work; he references the “life I tried so hard to give to you” and asks, “What would you have me do?” He’s given all he can to make it work, but this woman is no longer interested and seems to simply want to leave him for something else (a situation similar to the one in “Monster” perhaps).
In the bridge, Mumford reminisces about how good their relationship used to be. He remembers how “[w]here I used to end was where you start / You were the only one,” but now her “eyes move too fast.” She’s not willing to pause her plans to be with Mumford. She’s always on the move, a state that includes her leaving him. He ends the bridge with a sad echo of “[y]ou were the only one”; he was faithful, and he valued her above all others, but he was giving nothing in return.
The aftermath of the relationship has Mumford confused and “wandering without that much to say.” He sings, “Your words are empty as the bed we made.” Not only can he not trust what she says or the professions of love that she had made, but he’s also unhappy with the way she wouldn’t become vulnerable with him, perhaps emotionally or physically. She told him she loved him, but never actually proved it, and now he realizes the mistake he made in trusting her and becoming vulnerable himself.
Mumford wonders, “Is there another way? / Oh, love, is there another way?” When no answer comes, he relaunches into the chorus and finishes the song with the mournful, “And now I’m losing you.”
“Ditmas,” then, is about a relationship that failed, not for lack of effort or steadiness on Mumford’s part (a constant theme in Wilder Mind), but because the woman he loved would not be vulnerable with him. She tried to remain apart and to use him as a temporary diversion. Now, other things have distracted her, and she’s moved on, leaving a few half-hearted accusations of Mumford having changed. Mumford defends himself against those and is still willing to take her back.
What do you think about “Ditmas”? Whose fault was the relationship ending and why did it happen? Is Mumford in the right? Let me know in the comments and don’t forget to like/share this post!
Thanks for reading! I’m a college English instructor, university writing center director, and online entrepreneur (college for under $15k, anyone?) who cares deeply about TRUTH and MEANING. I’m married to the gloriously beautiful Wife April and love to swing dance and juggle.Follow me on Facebook to keep up with and discuss song meanings!