Fern Hill: Dylan Thomas - Summary and Critical AnalysisFern Hill by Dylan Thomas is an autobiographical poem in which Thomas uses the memories of childhood days in order to explore the theme of a journey from innocence to experience. The theme is based on William Blake’s division the world of experience and it is reinforced through the use of Wordsworthian double consciousness.
The poem can be divided into two parts: the first three stanzas are related to the poet’s experience as a child when he uses to spend his summer holidays at his uncle’s farm (Fern Hill, it is in Wan sea in Wales) but the last three stanzas are about an awakening in the child which signifies the loss of the world of innocence. At the center of this loss of the innocence are the myths of fall of the first human beings (Adam and Eve). The world of innocence (child) as described in the first three stanzas is like the Garden of Eden. This is a world in which the child is in complete union with the nature.
This world of fantasy offers the child an Edenic bliss. The way Thomas describes this world; it appears to be a timeless world without a sense of loss and decay. In the third stanza the poet slowly moves towards the transition between the world of innocence and the world of experience. In the fourth stanza the speaker’s sleeping is a symbolic sleeping which ends a flashing in the dark. This flashing is a kind of awakening as hinted by the first line of the fourth stanza. In this awakening the child (speaker) initiates into the world of maturity. “Sleeping” in the poem is symbolic that refers to the loss of innocence that equates the Adam and Eve who had slept after a fall from the Grace of God. This initiation of the world of maturity entails the loss of Edenic bliss, innocence, grace and freedom. Moreover poet loses creative imagination and fantasies in which a union with nature was possible.
In the last stanza the poet once again contemplates on the memoirs of his childhood but this time the awareness, becomes dominant. In the last line the poet refers to his chained situation in the world of experience. Now he is in chain, green color is withered now.
So, this poem is the journey from childhood to manhood when the manhood comes, the man suffers from agony. Now I am not what I was in the past. The use of verb “song” hints that the losses can be captured through art in the last line stanza.
The poem is composed of six nine-line stanzas that rhyme (mostly with slant rhymes) abcddabcd. The lines have a very flexible accentual rhythm. Lines 1, 2, 6, and 7 have six accents each; lines 3, 4, 8, and 9 have three accents; and line 5 usually has four accents.
Dylan Thomas ties the poem together effectively with strong verbal formulas. The “I” is described as “young and easy,” “green and carefree,” “green and golden,” and finally “green and dying.” Furthermore, he is “happy as the grass was green,” “singing as the farm was home,” and “happy as the heart was long”; he is “honoured among wagons,” “famous among the barns,” “blessed among stables,” and “honoured among foxes and pheasants.” His adversary, time, is also accorded verbal formulas: “Time let me hail and climb/ Golden in the heydays of his eyes”; “Time let me play and be/ Golden in the mercy of his means”; “time allows/so few and such morning songs.” There are other formulaic systems to charm the ear, such as the conversational “Now as I was,” “And as I was,” and “Oh as I was”; the spatial “About the lilting house” and “About the happy yard”; and the temporal “All the sun long” and “All the moon long.”
The color scheme is pervasive and insistent. Implied or explicit, it portrays the Edenic color scheme of nature and its growing things: green, golden, yellow, white, and blue. Even fire is “green as grass.” Green is the most pervasive color, with gold second, as is appropriate for a poem about childhood ripening into adulthood.
There are delightful images, such as the half-concealed list of the four elements in lines 20-22 (“fields,” “air,” “watery,” and “fire”). The eternal day of creation (Genesis 1:3-4, 16-18) is elegantly described as a time and place in the passage “So it must have been after the birth of the first simple light/ In the first spinning place.” God sets the sun spinning in a place called “day”; God the Creator spins the cosmos out of chaos as a woman spins a strong, even thread from a random mass of raw cotton or wool or flax, then to weave it into the fabric of the material world.