Part 2. Project 3. Exercise 3

For this exercise I am to carry out a close reading of Fern Hill by Dylan Thomas. I am then to answer the following questions;

  • What’s the mood of the poem? How does it make you feel?
  • What poetic devices does Thomas use and what effect do they have on the poem?
  • How do the poetic devices help to evoke the sense of time and place? Can you identify any other theme running through this poem?
  • What is the poem saying about itme and place? (and any other theme you’ve identified)
  • What lines or images stay with you? What do they remind you of or how do they make you feel?
  • Whats the rhythm like? Is it choppy or is it flowing and smooth? How does they rhthym ipact on the poem?
  • Is the ‘speaker’ important? What are his views? Are they apparent or inferred?
  • Are there any lines that you don’t get? Can you hazard a guess as to what they mean or allude too?

Thomas, D. and Thomas, F. (2019). Fern Hill Poem by Dylan Thomas – Poem Hunter. [online] PoemHunter.com. Available at: https://www.poemhunter.com/poem/fern-hill/ [Accessed 18 Jul. 2019].

To try and show where I have identified poetic devices I have used a combination of italics or bold writing on each line. The poetic device identified is then in brackets.

Fern Hill – Poem by Dylan Thomas

Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs
About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green, (similie), (alliteration)
The night above the dingle starry,
Time let me (personification) hail and climb
Golden in the heydays of his eyes, (personification)
And honoured among wagons I was prince of the apple towns (metaphor)
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 (metaphor)
About the happy yard and singing as the farm was home (similie)
In the sun that is young once only,
Time let me (personification)  play and be
Golden in the mercy of his means, (personification) , (alliteration)
And green and golden I was huntsman and herdsman (metaphor), (alliteration) the calves
Sang to my horn (similie), the foxes on the hills barked clear and
cold,
And the sabbath rang slowly (metaphor)
In the pebbles of the holy streams.

All the sun long it was running, it was lovely, the hay
Fields high as the house (alliteration) (metaphor) , the tunes from the chimneys, it was air
And playing, lovely and watery
And fire green as grass.  (alliteration) (metaphor)
And nightly under the simple stars (alliteration)
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 (similie), (alliteration)
With the dew, come back, the cock on his shoulder (personification): it was all
Shining, it was Adam and maiden, (metaphor)
The sky gathered again
And the sun grew round that very day.
So it must have been after the birth of the simple light (similie)
In the first, spinning place, the spellbound horses walking
warm , (alliteration)
Out of the whinnying green stable
On to the fields of praise. (similie)

And honoured among foxes and pheasants by the gay house
Under the new made clouds and happy as the heart was long, (similie)
In the sun born over and over,
I ran my heedless ways,
My wishes raced through the house high hay (metaphor)
And nothing I cared, at my sky blue trades, that time allows
In all his tuneful turning (personification) so few and such morning songs
Before the childrengreen and golden (alliteration)
Follow him out of grace. (personification)

Nothing I cared, in the lamb white (metaphor) 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 (personification) the high fields
And wake to the farm forever fled from (alliteration) the childless land.
Oh as I was young and easy in the mercy of his means,
Time held me green and dying (personification)
Though I sang in my chains like the sea. (similie)

  • Similie –  8
  • Metaphor – 8
  • Personification – 9
  • Alliteration – 12

Whats the mood of the poem?How does it make you feel?

The initial verses of the poem depict fond childhood memories. They seem to rotate around time spent growing up in the countryside, I grew up in the countryside myself so I can understand the sense of freedom and happiness that Dylan puts across.

  As the poem moves into verse 4 the mood of the poem starts to shift. ‘Fern Hill’ seems to depict an entire life cycle within it’s verses. Verse 4 is where I get the first sense of Autumn setting in, the rhythm of the poem seems to subtly speed up although I can’t quite put my finger on why I get that impression!

  The poem makes me feel sad. It reminds me of the awesome childhood I had and that, for me, further reinforces the sense that I have wasted years of my life in military engineering. It’s to start escaping from that, that I signed up for a Creative Arts degree! It won’t be the complete answer but I’m hoping it’ll be a gateway qualification into something a lot more satisfying. So for me personally, reading this poem is like rubbing salt in a wound, not an experience I enjoy.

  • What poetic devices does Thomas use and what effect do they have on the poem?

There are several poetic devices within this poem which I managed to spot. I can sense that there are others which are currently alluding me so I will keep coming back to it.

  The use of alliteration and personification is most prevalent (from what I’ve picked out so far). The use of personification in relation to the figure ‘time’ describes it as something of a kindly protector, reminds me of an Uncle? Something which allows the author of the poem to enjoy the freedom of the childhood at Fern Hill without the imposition of the outside world ruining that innocent era.

  The alliteration seems, to me, to be where I would normally expect to see more obvious rhyming words? Maybe it’s being used to have a similar effect?

  The metaphors and similes are used to increase the engagement of the reader with the authors narrative. By describing feelings and attitudes of youth with metaphor it becomes something more easily imaginable and identifiable by the reader.

  • How do the poetic devices help to evoke the sense of time and place? Can you identify any other theme running through this poem?

Time and place are key themes to this poem, in addition to this I also feel that Nostalgia plays a strong part.

 The description of childhood sensations and experiences through the use of simile and metaphor allow the reader to very easily identify with the author at the approximate age the poem is set at, the spring of youth.

  • What is the poem saying about time and place? (and any other theme you’ve identified)

The poem is saying that time passes, that while you sleep, both literally and metaphorically, seasons pass and time goes on. Place is somewhere that can be immortalised in memory even though the passage of time may render that place a different experience. An example of this is Chernobyl. Chernobyl was once a thriving vibrant community but due to just one event, the idea of the place will forever be associated with one particular moment in time until perhaps we have moved beyond living memory.

 Nostalgia can be both a blessing and a curse. In this poem, it seems to be a blessing. The reminiscing of the experience at Fern Hill is described as a golden age, and not one to be mourned, for without it there would be no author to tell the story.

  • What lines or images stay with you? What do they remind you of or how do they make you feel?

After reading the poem I am left with an image of a sun-soaked countryside farm with animals, trees to climb, wildflowers growing and big open skies. The poem reminds me of growing up in the countryside, of long summers and endless possibilities. It makes me feel homesick (I’m currently working through this module sat on a desolate barren island in the South Atlantic) and nostalgic in equal measure.

  • What’s the rhythm like? Is it choppy or is it flowing and smooth? How does they rhythm impact on the poem?

The rhythm of the poem is smooth but it does get faster as the verses go on. I couldn’t figure out why so I did some further reading on the Internet. At the webpage address https://poemanalysis.com/fern-hill-by-dylan-thomas-poem-analysis I read that it is the frequent use of the word ‘and’ at the start of sentences that contributes to the speed of the verse. In the article it is likened to a child gabbling through a tory in order to tell the entire tale.

  • Is the ‘speaker’ important? What are his views? Are they apparent or inferred?

The speaker is essential to the poem. Fern Hill is a poem about childhood memory and nostalgia told from the viewpoint of the author, without the ‘speaker’ there is nothing to the poem.

  The views of the speaker are apparent rather than inferred. Word choice throughout the whole piece describes the time and place of Fern Hill as being a positive experience. Specific word choices such as ‘green and carefree’, and ‘happy as the heart was long’ confirm this overall impression of positivity.

  • Are there any lines that you don’t get? Can you hazard a guess as to what they mean or allude too?

There were a couple of lines which I did not understand.

  1. The night above the dingle starry, – I Google searched the word ‘dingle to discover that it means a small wooded hollow.
  2. blessed among stables, the nightjars flying with the ricks – I Google searched the word ‘nightjars’ to discover that it is a type of nocturnal bird

 Now that I understand these lines I re-read the poem and noticed something that hadn’t really registered before. The poem starts with quite a strong sense of realism. As it moves through to night time the description of the place becomes slightly more surreal. It is as though the concept of Fern Hill at that time and place is not just evolving to represent a life cycle but quite literally slipping away like a memory. The line that finally made me twig was “the nightjars flying with the ricks”. I’m assuming that by ‘ricks’ Dylan Thomas is referring to hayricks otherwise I imagine this is becoming quite a strange analysis of the poem!

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