"Wolves" is one of Louis MacNeice's best-known and most-anthologized poems (it often appears in tandem with "Snow"). MacNeice wrote it in 1934 and it was published in 1935. Hence, it is often viewed as a reflection of that dark decade and as a prescient view of what was to come.
This may be so. But treating the poem merely as an artifact of the Thirties (although a particularly fine one) does not do it justice. After all, the thought of wolves lurking in the dark woods goes far deeper than a specific historical period. "Grandmother, what big teeth you have!" And so on. Although MacNeice was certainly preoccupied with the events of his time (his early poetry often has a journalistic feel to it), I think that "Wolves" goes beyond current events.
I do not want to be reflective any more
Envying and despising unreflective things
Finding pathos in dogs and undeveloped handwriting
And young girls doing their hair and all the castles of sand
Flushed by the children's bedtime, level with the shore.
The tide comes in and goes out again, I do not want
To be always stressing either its flux or its permanence,
I do not want to be a tragic or philosophic chorus
But to keep my eye only on the nearer future
And after that let the sea flow over us.
Come then all of you, come closer, form a circle,
Join hands and make believe that joined
Hands will keep away the wolves of water
Who howl along our coast. And be it assumed
That no one hears them among the talk and laughter.
Louis MacNeice, Poems (1935).
A poem that MacNeice wrote later in his life (in 1958) perhaps echoes what he may have been getting at in "Wolves," but without the historical context.
'What is it that goes round and round the house'
The riddle began. A wolf, we thought, or a ghost?
Our cold backs turned to the chink in the kitchen shutter,
The range made our small scared faces warm as toast.
But now the cook is dead and the cooking, no doubt, electric,
No room for draught or dream, for child or mouse,
Though we, in another place, still put ourselves the question:
What is it that goes round and round the house?
Louis MacNeice, Solstices (1961).