Fern Hill  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Fern Hill (1946) is a poem by Dylan Thomas—the last poem included in his book Deaths and Entrances. The poem starts as a straightforward evocation of his youthful visits to his aunts:

Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs
About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green,

In the middle section, the idyllic scene is expanded upon, reinforced by the lilting rhythm of the poem, the dreamlike, pastoral metaphors and allusion to scenes from the Garden of Eden. By the end, the poet's older voice has taken over, mourning his lost youth with echoes of the opening:

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.

The poem uses internal half rhyme and full rhyme as well as end rhyme. Thomas was very conscious of the impact of spoken or intoned verse and explored the potentialities of sound and rhythm, in a manner reminiscent of Gerard Manley Hopkins. He always denied having conscious knowledge of Welsh, but "his lines chime with internal consonantal correspondence, or cynghanedd, a prescribed feature of Welsh versification".

The house Fernhill is just outside Llangain in Carmarthenshire. Thomas had extended stays here in the 1920s with his aunt Annie and her husband, Jim Jones. His holidays here have been recalled in interviews with his schoolboy friends, and both the house and the Thomas family network in the area are detailed in the same book.

Musical composition

Fern Hill has been set to music by the American composer John Corigliano, for SATB chorus with orchestral accompaniment.

The Poem

    Fern Hill
    Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs
    About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green,
      The night above the dingle starry,
        Time let me hail and climb
      Golden in the heydays of his eyes,
    And honoured among wagons I was prince of the apple towns
    And once below a time I lordly had the trees and leaves
        Trail with daisies and barley
      Down the rivers of the windfall light.
    And as I was green and carefree, famous among the barns
    About the happy yard and singing as the farm was home,
      In the sun that is young once only,
        Time let me play and be
      Golden in the mercy of his means,
    And green and golden I was huntsman and herdsman, the calves
    Sang to my horn, the foxes on the hills barked clear and cold,
        And the sabbath rang slowly
      In the pebbles of the holy streams.
    All the sun long it was running, it was lovely, the hay
    Fields high as the house, the tunes from the chimneys, it was air
      And playing, lovely and watery
        And fire green as grass.
      And nightly under the simple stars
    As I rode to sleep the owls were bearing the farm away,
    All the moon long I heard, blessed among stables, the nightjars
      Flying with the ricks, and the horses
        Flashing into the dark.
    And then to awake, and the farm, like a wanderer white
    With the dew, come back, the cock on his shoulder: it was all
      Shining, it was Adam and maiden,
        The sky gathered again
      And the sun grew round that very day.
    So it must have been after the birth of the simple light
    In the first, spinning place, the spellbound horses walking warm
      Out of the whinnying green stable
        On to the fields of praise.
    And honoured among foxes and pheasants by the gay house
    Under the new made clouds and happy as the heart was long,
      In the sun born over and over,
        I ran my heedless ways,
      My wishes raced through the house high hay
    And nothing I cared, at my sky blue trades, that time allows
    In all his tuneful turning so few and such morning songs
      Before the children green and golden
        Follow him out of grace.
    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.
    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.




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Fern Hill" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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