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Fern 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.

Dylan Thomas is one of the writers who have often been associated with Welsh literature and culture in the last sixty years; furthermore, he is possibly the most notable Welsh author. Dylan Thomas was born in Swansea, Wales, in 1914. After he left school at the age of sixteen, he started working as a journalist in Swansea. At that time, he also started writing, notably short stories and essays. Thomas also published radio-plays that have been broadcast on the BBC, such as “Under Milk Wood”, which portrays typical Welsh peasants. Moreover, he wrote numerous poems of which “Fern Hill” is the best known. It was part of a sequence of Thomas´s poetry, named “Deaths and Entrances”, released in 1945. The analysis of “Fern Hill” is an authentic example with which to draw a comparison to Thomas´s biography. It’s content, its language and its imagery mirror his sincere relationship to Wales and lead to the assumption that the speaker of the poem is Thomas´s alter ego. On November 9, 1953, he died after a heavy drinking binge in a Manhattan hotel (USA), at the age of 39. Later, Thomas´s body was brought “home” to Wales. He was buried in the churchyard of Laugharne.

Fern Hill is one of Dylan Thomas' most well known poems. The poem is based on Thomas’s own childhood vacations spent at Fern Hill, a farm owned by his mother’s oldest sister, Ann Jones, and her husband. In Fern Hill Thomas presents an idyllic (heavenly/sublime) picture of childhood on a farm, filled with vivid imagery that presents a child’s view of the world. This is contrasted in the final stanzas with the regret of the adult as he recalls the loss of the innocence and splendor of childhood. In this poem, the speaker looks back at the innocence of childhood. The poem was first published in 1946. In the poem, the speaker fondly remembers his days on the farm, and he marvels at the happy innocence of his childhood. The first line of Fern Hill says, 'Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs (branch).' The past tense verb 'was' indicates that the speaker is now an adult. The first stanza is full of pastoral imagery, with the poem mentioning 'apple boughs', starry skies, 'trees and leaves', and other natural objects.

The poem consists of six stanzas and is written in free verse. Each stanza consists of nine lines. In the first part of the poem, a young child describes his carefree and enjoyable life. In contrast the second half of the poem portrays the thoughts of a child threatened and thus changed by the German air raids in World War II. The poem as a whole vividly depicts time´s influence on our existence.

The plot is not told from a present point of view, yet the narrator looks back and treats in a sense of dream. The first twenty lines reflect ease, joy, and peace. The child describes his adventures and games in natural surroundings; he refers to animals and conveys a remarkably detailed image of the Welsh landscape. Suddenly, this balance changes, night begins, and the young boy feels terrified and anxious. He awakes and again utters ‘liberty’; nonetheless, his condition has changed since he appears to be haunted and have surrendered to a higher power. Finally, the narrator realizes that childhood is over and the poem ends with an allusion to death.


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, 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 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.


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