The Wolf Is On The Hill
By: Beck Hansen

Written by: Beck Hansen

Versions:
  1. The Wolf Is On The Hill
    Available on Song Reader.
 
Lyrics:
The Wolf Is On The Hill [Version (a)]:

The wolf is on the hill
The bird is in the briar
The thorn is on the rose
And your time is on the wire

Those days of grave concern have turned themselves to silence
While the winter fires burn what was left of kindness
So hide what you have learned, show off what you've squandered
And give yourself a turn, see how far from home you've wandered

The wolf is on the hill
The bird is in the briar
The thorn is on the rose
And your time is on the wire

Take apart circumstance and set it on a fault line
An avalanche of the past locked inside a goldmine
And when you cannot stand on the legs God gave you
The road has turned to sand that your will has sunken into

The wolf is on the hill
The baby's in the briar
The worm is on the rose
And your word is on the wire
 
The Song:

Beck wrote "The Wolf Is On The Hill" for his Song Reader book, and it is one of its main 20 songs.

You can hear interpretations of the song here.

The song's history began in 1873, with a song of the same name by C.A. White. Sheet music for it exists. You can see it here. As you can see, Beck's artwork is identical to the older sheet music (and he credits it to an "unknown artist, 1874"). This is not unusual, throughout Song Reader, Beck borrowed titles and artwork from older sheet music which had slipped into the public domain.

However, the music he wrote is entirely original, only sharing a name. That original "Wolf" is called "hunting quartette for male voices" and, reading the lyrics, it seems it actually is about hunting a wolf. Beck's "The Wolf Is On The Hill" is noted "for male and female voices" and seems to be much more of a metaphor than actually about a wolf.

A wolf in fairy tales, and often in song, tends to indicate fear. Here Beck's wolf is quite ominous, threatening death, disrupting your life. And the song seems to take place in those moments right before actual terror. Beck's song seems to express those fearful moments when you are far away you are from comfort, knowing that time is running out fast. Escape routes are vanishing, your legs are useless, fear is about to conquer you.