Fern Hill Summary
The poem begins with the speaker happily recounting spending time outside during a picturesque landscape with green grass, apple trees, and a starry sky where he felt sort of a “prince.” He details his adventures as a youth, recalling how he acted as both a “huntsman and herdsman” and saying that point allowed him to play within the sun “once only”—the first hint that this happiness won’t last.
Throughout the primary three stanzas, the speaker continues to detail his adventures and their landscape. He rules his natural dominion, pertaining to himself as “prince of the apple towns” and “famous among the barns,” and it seems he alone is present during this wildlife alongside the animals. within the second stanza, he expands on his adventures as a “green and carefree” boy, his greenness (or youth) matching that of the landscape. He repeats the phrases “time let me ___” and “golden within the mixture of his ___,” beginning lines with them even as he did within the first stanza.
In the third stanza, he continues to elaborate on the landscape, getting trapped in his descriptions as he lists thing after magical thing, beginning several lines with “and…” within the fourth stanza, he compares witnessing the approaching of the day to Adam and Eve in Eden and God creating the universe.
The next stanza begins the poem’s ending tone of regret, alluding to the Pied Piper because the speaker begins, with the phrase “nothing I cared,” to characterize himself as “heedless,” indicating his later regret. The speaker ends the poem lamenting his carelessness and mourning the loss of his childhood and innocence, beginning the stanza by repeating the phrase “nothing I cared” from the previous stanza.
Fern Hill Analysis
Personifying the “lilting” house at the beginning of the poem sets the stage for the landscape the speaker describes: it’s so lively and vivid that it’s almost a personality itself. Time is similarly personified, becoming almost sort of a playmate to the young boy. Thomas’s use of the phrase “once below a time” emphasizes the facility of time—the speaker is simply a guest in time’s domain—and instantly reminds us of fairy tales beginning “once upon a time,” calling to mind stories of childhood innocence.
The line “in the sun that’s young once only” within the second stanza is that the first hint that the speaker’s joyful innocence won’t last. Though time “lets” he plays, it remains on top of things. within the second stanza, he also mentions the Sabbath and “holy” water, marking the primary of the many Christian references which will grow richer because the poem progresses and giving Fern Hill a sacred aura. the colors green and gold, which can become recurring images, also appear.
The third stanza continues the celebration of Fern Hill because the speaker recalls the sweetness of both days and nights at Fern Hill. His simple recollection of Fern Hill—”it was air”—is telling. Air is, of course, necessary for all times , but also invisible and straightforward to require without any consideration, even as the young narrator doesn’t fully appreciate Fern Hill. The poem’s images become more abstract and dreamy, like the vague adjectives “lovely and watery” and therefore the unnaturally “green” fire. Again, green is employed to mean filled with life.
In the fourth stanza, Christian imagery deepens dramatically. Invoking “Adam and maiden,” the speaker conjures the image of the Biblical paradise of Eden—a comparison that becomes explicit within the fourth stanza. This comparison adds to the sooner hint that the speaker’s happiness at Fern Hill will end—after all, Adam and Eve are eventually exiled from Eden. He also mentions the Creation and its aftermath—”the birth of the straightforward light.” The fields themselves seem to “praise” God, and therefore the stable is personified, “whinnying.” Notably, he mentions the color “white,” often related to purity. this is often Adam and Eve before the autumn.
In the fifth stanza, Thomas continues to believe personification, because the speaker describes the “gay house” and his “wishes” that “raced,” again emphasizing how alive the landscape of Fern Hill feels. But all of this must end because the children follow time “out of grace”—regard to the Christian concept of God’s grace, the love, and mercy that permits for salvation despite one’s sins. The image also alludes to children following the Pied Piper, a figure from a German legend who led a town’s children away together with his magical pipe. The sun, previously described as young “only once,” is now “born over and over,” and therefore the clouds are “new made.” But the renewal of the natural landscape experiences is inaccessible to the kid.
By the sixth stanza, the speaker is forever cast out of Eden, awakening to recollect what he has lost and realizing that he’s “dying.” Again, his previous days are described as “white,” characterized as a time of innocence and purity.
“Not how it feels to be young, the theme of ‘Fern Hill’ is how it feels to possess been young,” writes William York Tindall. “But art, directly in time and out of it, is time’s great evader and destroyer. ‘Fern Hill’ is Thomas’s victory over what he laments. The green and golden joy of childhood and therefore the shadowy sorrow of maturity become the enjoyment of art.” during this manner, the loss to time isn’t total; it’s possible to use art to recapture the happiness of innocent youth.