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Fern Hill Essay, Research Paper

The poem “Fern Hill” by Dylan Thomas explores childhood memories and the

melancholy reality of lost youth. “Fern Hill” compels the reader to come back over and

over again to seek more insight into the joy and pleasure of a time of innocence lost. The

figurative speech causes the reader to seek the elusive youth and boyhood days of the

character and encourages the reader to mourn and celebrate with the writer for the once

glorious days of his youth.

From the opening line, the memories of boyhood days are revealed. The writer

recalls his carefree life. A beautiful playground, a wooded valley full of apple orchards

and fresh green meadows, which bring the boy great happiness, “happy as the grass was

green”, can be visualized. Each line is full of boyhood memories. The boy, as many

young innocent boys do, pretends many things in his playground, his cloistered world. It

is his golden time, his “heyday” to be young and carefree, to pretend to be “prince of the

apple towns”. There is a sense of such joy in this time in his life; he sings, happily in

his home on the farm. And yet amidst this joyful memory, is a sense of sadness as we

realize youth and innocence does not last. This reality and sadness begins to become

mingled with the joyful memory as we read, “in the sun that is young once only, time let

me play and be golden in the mercy of his means”. Blended with this awareness of

reality, more boyhood memories are offered; memories of pretending to be”huntsman

and herdsman”. All our senses are beckoned into the pleasures of this joyful time in the

boys life, we are invited to hear the sounds of the calves singing and the foxes barking

clearly and coldly, as

he plays his horn. We are welcomed to sense the lovely calmness of sabbath days that

seem to be slow and quiet as a babbling brook. We are encouraged to visualize the “hay

fields, as high as the house”; to hear the sounds of the wind whistling through the

chimneys. We are swept away into our own memories of childhood bedtime, as we are

beckoned to hear the valley’s sounds, “owls, nightjars, and horses prancing in the corral in

the dark”. A sense of peace and awe is evoked as the writer remembers awaking each

morning to the sight of the farm, “the meadow white with dew”, the sounds of the rooster

crowing, the horses whinnying as they walked out of the stables on to the warm, sunny


Then the poem brings us back to the present reality; the young and carefree believe

they will live forever, that life will always be this carefree; “Under the new made clouds

and happy as the heart was long, in the sun born over and over, I ran my heedless ways”.

The reality of life is that life is all too short, that the joy and innocence of youth is all too

brief; “Nothing I cared, in the lamb white days, that time would take me up to the

swallow thronged loft by the shadow of my hand, in the moon that is always rising, nor

that riding to sleep I should hear him fly with the high fields and wake to the farm forever

fled from the childless land”.

The last three lines of the poem bring us to the poignant reality of the joys and sadness

of life, “Oh as I was young and easy in the mercy of his means, time held me green and

dying though I sang in my chains like the sea”. All good things must come to an end, and

when they do you will look back on the times that you had and wish that it was that way


To conclude, this poem helps us to appreciate both the joys and the sadness of life. It

is in the remembering that we can cherish the joys of what was; it is in the same

memories we can be sad for that which is no more, and it is in knowing both, that we

realize that we can live life to the fullest.

It has something to do with ageing. Dylan Thomas is looking back at his childhood as

being carefree and happy as time let him do what he pleased but the whole time he was

getting closer to death.

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