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.

“The Meaning”

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.

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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.

Screen Shot of Mumford & Sons Website IIHe 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.”

Marcus Mumford

“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!

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Clifford Stumme
Clifford Stumme

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!

Check out my explanations for other songs on Wilder Mind.

  • thewb

    Ditmas Park is a neighborhood in Brooklyn, not an actual park. The description still stands though, particularly where the Victorian houses are concerned.

    • Oh, thanks for the head’s up! Do you live in NYC?

      • thewb

        I live on the south end of Ditmas Park, albeit on a block of apartment buildings wedged between the blocks with the Victorian houses.

  • I have to disagree. I think this is a breakup song for the fans of the “old” Mumford. I think they were anticipating some #BringBackTheBanjo pushback while they were building this new version of themselves, and this was their way of saying, “This is the way it’s going to be. We’re the same band. Take us or leave us.”

    Lines like “a life lived much too fast to hold on to” call to mind Mumford’s rapid ascension to fame. “Don’t tell me that I’ve changed because that’s not the truth” is an allusion too transparent to miss, in my opinion.

    • Ashley, that’s an interesting way of looking at it! And I can see where it looks like that for sure. It’d be super appropriate based on how everyone has reacted. Here are my thoughts: The hook or chorus seems like it could support this: “But this is all I ever was / And this is all you came across those years ago / Now you go too far / Don’t tell me that I’ve changed because that’s not the truth.” But isn’t it a little melodramatic to say that “And I had been resisting this decay” refers to their old songs? How would you explain stuff like that or “And so I cry / As I hold you for the last time in this life”? I’m interested in hearing more of your thoughts.

      • layceepee

        I think there’s some support for Ashley’s theory if you look further into the reference to Brooklyn’s Ditmas Park neighborhood in the song’s title. “Ditmas” was recorded in a studio in the neighborhood, one owned by Aaaron Dressner of The National. He bought one of the VIctorian homes, build a studio in the garage, and lives in part of those house. (I think the other part of the house is rented to his bandmate Matt Berninger.)

  • ellie

    Nothing to add except to say a big thank you for this post!! :))

  • Cliff, I understand your line by line analysis. However, if Mummy is known for one thing besides the banjo, it is allegories behind their songs. Though I may be wrong, I think in Ditmas Mumford is drawing a comparison between the relationship you described, in which the wife leaves the man, and man’s nature to leave God, it’s spouse and maker. Forgive me if I’m wrong, but that seems signature of Marcus Mumford.

    • Oh, man. I like that a lot. I think I may considered it at first, but turned away because it seemed weird for Mumford to put himself in God’s shoes, but now that you say it, I wish I’d considered it more. Do you think the lyric about making a bed together hurts your theory?

    • Tim

      Hi Lyle,

      I would have to agree with you on this one. They just put together a music video and shot on location at Kiev. What came to mind when I saw it was the how despair can lead to feeling abandoned by God. But the way the rider tames the horse seems to illustrate two things to me: the way that God woos His people and the favor of God that man feels from the blessing of taming an animal.

      I’m eager to know what you guys think.

      • Thanks, Tim! I just saw that MV too and added it to the blog post. For some reason, this page was gaining more traffic than usual, so I Googled it and found the MV. Super great stuff that!

        I can see what you’re saying making sense. While it’s been a while since I’ve looked over this song, I don’t remember it being very much about God–I thought it was more relationship centered. Though, the man training the horse in the MV does suggest someone more powerful helping someone to overcome his “free spirit” so that he can do amazing things. Thoughts?

  • I don’t. Here’s why. A bed signifies physical vulnerability at the highest level between spouses. Furthermore, the bed, between a husband and wife, is significant of something intimate and pure. Similarly, God wants our relationship with him to be vulnerable, intimate, pure. Like that of a husband and wife in bed. Again, I could be wrong about his meaning, but that’s where, in my humble opinion, I thought he was going with that line.

    • Okay, that makes sense. It would be kind of daring and artsy/avant garde to use it as a simile, but it would also be somewhat founded in Scripture because of the way the man/woman relationship is based on the church/God relationship. Cool, I could see that.

  • I don’t think Mumford is trying to put himself in God’s shoes, and being human, none of us are in that position. But I think that, given what he knows about God, he writes lyrics from the perspective of God. Though he doesn’t identify as a Christian, I think his beliefs do align with a lot of what Christianity preaches, especially regarding The nature of God. I have loved the faith input in his last two albums, and I’m looking forward to readin into the next. Thanks for all of your insights and song analysis! I’ve really appreciated them.

  • *reading

    • Thanks for all of the good discussion, Lyle. You’re an interesting and thoughtful person, and I think you’re cool! ‘Preciate your time. 🙂

  • Stacy

    I was looking to see what “Ditmas” meant and I found your site. I’m gonna come back to it again and again!! Thanks so much!!!

    p.s. Yes, I know that only one exclamation point is necessary. But I love Mumford & Sons. !!!!!! 😄

    • Stacy, that’s awesome! Glad you liked it and especially glad I could help! (Obligatory mention that if you want notifications of new posts, feel free to follow!) Heck, when it comes to Mumford and Sons, anyone can use as many exclamation points as they like. lol

  • So glad I read this, this song has been on loop for days but now I know what it means, I love it more. Thanks man!

    • Yeah, no problem. It’s one of my favorites from the album. What’d you like about this song?

  • Eve

    I love Mumford and sons and this new album rocks…Ditmus and Monster being my absolute favorite!

  • eve

    I love Mumford and Sons and this new album is just awesome….Ditmus and Monster being my absolute favorite!

    • Yeah, I really like Ditmas from this album. Monster’s up there too, but I also really like Tompkins Square Park. That song is super good.

  • Sam

    “Ditmas Park” is a neighborhood, not a park. It is the home base of the band The National, and is also where the track (and perhaps the whole album) was recorded.

    • Sam

      Erp, sorry — I missed that someone else had already left a similar comment!

  • Nick

    I personally don’t think this is a song that is related to religion at all. Judging by some of the later performances of this song, I’d have to say that this one is definitely about a relationship going sour and I don’t think it’s a relationship with God of which is being spoken but one with a significant other. I don’t know who it was exactly that wrote this one, as the guys have been pretty quiet about who contributed to which songs (the only one I know of for sure is Believe, in which Marcus stated he didn’t have as much involvement as usual). If you watch Marcus perform this song, there seems to be a personal element to it because of the overwhelming emotion that he puts into it. I’ve seen one performance where he was near tears because of this song. These are just a few of my thoughts, but I feel that there is something very personal about this song to Marcus and chances are we’ll never know what it is.

    • Interesting. Thanks for sharing, Nick. I’d have to say though that a relationship with God may be even more personal than a relationship to some people. You could be right in general, but there’s a unique difference/balance/similarity between the emotions concerning God and significant others.

  • Sara

    I think I’m on the side of the “for the fans” theory. In every live performance of Ditmas I’ve seen (BBK Live in Spain or outside lands in San Francisco) Marcus goes into the crowd when singing this song, mixing with the fans in a non pleasant situation. he goes back to the stage sweating, half breathing and as happened in Spain, nearly naked.
    Love this song anyway 🙂

    • Thanks, Sara! This is a really interesting theory and if someone else thinks it, there may be something more to it than I gave it credit for at first. My big question though is why he’d write as part of this album. I thought everyone was on board with him, but if this song is about people not liking Wilder Mind, this song wasn’t out yet.

      However, based on what you say, he may have repurposed this song after the album came out? Help? (And thanks for commenting.)

  • Sara

    Maybe this was the album they wanted to write even knowing it was going to be confusing or disappointing for the fans. They wrote it and made an excuse song… don’t know if this makes sense… it does in my head 
    Here you have a bit of an interview that helped me thinking about this. Maybe it helps my theory; maybe I see what I want to see:
    “I don’t think [Wilder Mind] is a reaction to what anyone else thought,” says guitarist Winston Marshall, sitting with his bandmates in a luxurious Nolita apartment, and who just last year told Vulture, “Fuck the banjo.” “It was a reaction against the fact that we’d done six or seven years of touring with four instruments that largely weren’t our first instruments. I’m a guitarist, Ted [Dwane]’s a guitarist, Marcus [Mumford] is a drummer, but we’ve been playing banjos and accordions and all of this stuff. By the end of that, we were desperate to play something else, to do anything new.” The baby-faced, erstwhile banjo-picker — a former member of a ZZ Top cover band — now has long, rock-god hair and a plays a Gibson electric. At recent shows, he’s even head-banged while playing new songs like “Snake Eyes” and “Tompkins Square Park.”

    Full interview here: http://www.vulture.com/2015/04/wilder-mind-mumford-and-sons-interview.html

    • That does help a lot. Thanks, Sara. And I think your first idea in this comment makes some sense–kind of a safety or backdoor they could use for multiple purposes. Maybe they saw it coming?

      • Sara

        Maybe. 🙂 anyway I dont get al that noise about changing the style. I really love this new mumford as much as I love the old one. Marcus voice and those lyrics that keep me thinking is what I need to enjoy them.

        Like your blog BTW

        • Yeah, while I like the old stuff better, I REALLY respect them for not caring about popular opinion. And even still, their new stuff is still deep.
          Thanks! Glad you like it. 🙂

  • Anonymous

    hey.. honestly.. i don’t quite understand mumford and son’s lyrics but i sure do LOVEEE their songs so thanks for letting people like me understand the deep meaning. btw LOVE mumford and sons especially MARCUS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Someone! Thanks so much for your encouragement! Keep on loving M&S–it’s so worth it!

  • Just found this and love your blog. And I love M&S too, and listen to them while I write. While much of Wilder Mind seems to deal with a relationship ending, seeing that Mumford is supposedly happily married it seems a strange subject to put in an album at this time in his life.

    He seems to be exploring the boundaries of himself, and his relation to the wider Universe. The breakup of a love relationship is an allegory for this. He seems to feel alienated perhaps from “moving too far too fast,” and while the outer circumstances in his life have changed, he doesn’t feel different inside. Perhaps there are different expectations now, bigger concerts, more traveling, pressure perhaps to be “more commercial” and he experiencing cognitive dissonance from how life is now and how he perceived it in the past.

    Or maybe my writer’s brain is associating symbols too freely.

    Either way, thanks for the interesting think.

    • Beth, thanks for the kind words! Haha, and thanks for sharing. This is some good stuff. 🙂