Fern Hill

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Fern Hill (1945) is a poem by Dylan Thomas, first published in the October, 1945, Horizon magazine, with its first book publication as the last poem in Deaths and Entrances.

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.[1]

Linguistic considerations[edit]

The poem starts as a straightforward evocation of his childhood visits to his Aunt Annie's farm:

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,

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 Eden.

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...
With the dew, come back, the cock on his shoulder: it was all
Shining, it was Adam and maiden,

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.[2]

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".[3]

Musical composition[edit]

Fern Hill has been set to music by the American composer John Corigliano, for SATB chorus with orchestral accompaniment.[4]

Samples of the Fern Hill poem read by Dylan Thomas himself are used in the track Apple Towns[5] by the one-man act Reflection Nebula. [6]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Dylan Remembered 1914-34, vol 1, by D N Thomas, Seren 2003
  2. ^ Dylan Thomas on BBC Wales Arts page
  3. ^ Seymour H Sound and Form in Modern Poetry page 255
  4. ^ Providence Singers Musical background notes
  5. ^ Apple Towns
  6. ^ Reflection Nebula

External links[edit]