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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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