Call Of The Wild Chapter 1 Poem

What does this short poem mean? It’s a poem at the beginning of chapter 1 in The Call of the Wild. I think to most modern readers it’s a riddle in two ways. First of all, it is filled with the literary element of foreshadowing. It offers clues to what the book will be about. And then, secondly, practically speaking, the words of this poem were published with The Call of the Wild in 1903. They are archaic and I find an unfamiliar word in every line.
“Old longings nomadic leap,
Chafing at custom’s chain;
Again from its brumal sleep
Wakens the ferine strain.”

nomadic— adj.
roaming about from place to place aimlessly, frequently, or without a fixed pattern of movement
chafing— intransitive verb
to rub and thereby cause wear or irritation
brumal— adj.
Of, relating to, or occurring in winter
ferine— adj.
custom— repeated practice; the whole body of usages, practices, or conventions that regulate social life
I unmasked the poem’s meaning after I read the first chapter and researched the background of the story. The poem is referring to Buck, the domesticated dog living a wonderful life on a large estate in California. Life drastically changes for Buck when he gets stolen away. He learns of another life so different than the pampered life he’d always known. A wild nature rises up in him as he discovers the cruel, harsh life of being a sled dog in the frozen region of the Yukon Gold Rush territory.

1 Comment

  1. sara

    December 10, 2009 at 7:26 pm

    Thank you so much for the explanation of the poem.
    I actually had to do an analysis paper on The Call of the Wild and I found this very helpful because I had to explain this poem in my paper.
    Thanks once again

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