Reschooling with Poetry: Fern Hill

This is one of several poems I’ve come across lately about childhood, school, and growing up.

I read “Fern Hill” for the first time in high school English. It captured my nostalgia for what I remember as a fairly idyllic childhood, which gave me a bit of a Peter Pan complex. Why grow up if being a kid is this magical? I’m sure it wasn’t actually quite so perfect for any of us, but like many, I tend to romanticize the past. I especially love the last line of this poem.

Fern Hill
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,
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 night-jars
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.

Comments (2)

  1. Gilliebean

    Oh, I love this poem. He really does capture the way I remember being a kid– living in the moment, being carefree and full of energy, playing pretend whenever possible. I think we should make a fort in the living room this Christmas as a way to recapture that spirit. No boys allowed, Brian and Darren!

    Reply
  2. Melia

    It’s one of my favorites. Lines like “I ran my heedless ways” and “Nothing I cared, in the lamb white days” remind me of playing Hide-and-Go-Seek Tag outside until dusk and camping out on the front porch with blankets when it rained.

    Maybe we could build the treehouse we always wanted and pull up the ladder so the boys can’t come up, even if they know the password.

    Reply

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