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Shifting of Literary Elements in Dylan Thomas’ “Fern Hill”

The poem “Fern Hill” is said to be the last poem written by Dylan Thomas to be included in his Death and Entrances collection of his poems. The poem illustrates the poet’s reminiscence of his childhood life in his aunt’s farm in the countryside (Strachan and Terry 116). It is believed that Dylan Thomas has loved his childhood experiences in that farm which is quite evident in the construction of this poem. The shifting of the mood and tone is a significant aspect of the poem because it further demonstrates the emotions and symbolisms that Thomas intend to convey in his literary piece.

Shifting of Literary Elements in “Fern Hill” The first and second stanza is clearly the most cheerful in tone because this symbolizes the speaker’s age of innocence. As little children, they know nothing about the miseries and sins of the world. The world is a playground where they can always be free of running and playing around with other kids their age. They have nothing to worry about; no problems; no realizations of how the world in reality is; and no responsibilities to take care of. The first two lines already reveal the liveliness and appreciation of a grown-up reminiscing a part of his childhood that he enjoyed.

“Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs / About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green,” (lines 1-2). Thomas used words such as “young”, “lilting”, and “happy” to establish the cheerfulness of the child he is describing. The speaker is clearly reminiscing on his childhood and how happy and innocent he has been. “The night above the dingle starry, / Time let me hail and climb / Golden in the heydays of his eyes,” (3-5). The third, fourth and fifth lines illustrates how time for the speaker has allowed him such happiness as a child.

He considers time as golden as he was “honoured among wagons I was prince of the apple towns” (6). The line reveals the childlike gestures of a playful child who considers himself a “prince” of an apple farm. This enables the reader to visualize and relate to their own childhood as it is frequent that children pretend to be some royalty of a kingdom where other kids play along. “And once below a time I lordly had the trees and leaves / Trail with daisies and barley / Down the rivers of the windfall light” (7-9).

Thomas also details the image of the place of his childhood in a way that can easily be conjured in the imagination of the readers. His way of combining common details makes it easier for readers to visualize a very paradise-like place to have an impression of the happiness and joy that the place bring to the speaker. “And as I was green and carefree, famous among the barns / About the happy yard and singing as the farm was home,” (10-11). Thomas uses the metaphor “green and carefree” as a way to figuratively describe the speaker.

The usage of such metaphor gives the impression that once in the speaker’s life, he was fresh and free from limits and boundaries just as kids are free. The third and fourth stanza shifts to the image of summer and the concept of sleeping and waking up. These stanzas noticeably become averagely cheerful but a bit melancholic by the end of the fourth stanza. Lines twenty five to twenty seven describes how the night looked to the speaker as he sleeps. “All the moon long I heard, blessed among stables, the nightjars / Flying with the ricks, and the horses / Flashing into the dark” (25-27).

The construction of the stanza seems to suggests that little by little creatures on the farm are somehow leaving or being taken away as he sleeps. This is an indication of the speaker’s innocence about to be lost. The fourth stanza includes lines which show an image of awakening in reality. “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,” (28-30). The allusion to Adam and Eve’s original sin symbolizes the speaker’s entrance to the sins and realizations of this world.

He assumes that his awakening as stated in the fourth stanza, “So it must have been after the birth of the simple light” (33). A complete change of the speaker’s voice and mood of the poem is very apparent in the last two stanzas of the poem. In these stanzas, the speaker reminisces with obvious regret the life that he had lived after that happy childhood in the farm. “In the sun born over and over, / I ran my heedless ways,” (39-40). He talks about how he changed into a reckless man as time goes by.

The speaker’s childhood innocence is finally gone and the tone of the stanzas is not lively and cheerful anymore. This can be an indication of regret in the speaker’s way of life. Regret is further demonstrated in the fifth stanza where the speaker tells how time could never bring him back in the place where “the moon that is always rising, / Nor that riding to sleep” (48-49). He further illustrates the longing to go back in the subsequent lines, “I should hear him fly with the high fields / And wake to the farm forever fled from the childless land” (51-52).

The change in tone and mood is also undoubtedly present as he describes himself as “green and dying” (53) which suggests that he is starting to rot and die in contrast to his description in the second stanza which is “green and carefree” (10). Conclusion The change in the literary elements in Dylan Thomas’ “Fern Hill” is a very significant feature of the poem because it allows Thomas to effectively convey his message of how happy and carefree his childhood had been.

The use of shifting the mood of the poem gradually demonstrates the growth of the speaker as well. In addition, the concept of regret and longing to go back in time makes it more clear to the readers by the use of childhood reminiscence and present grown up experiences. Works Cited Strachan, John R and Richard G. Terry. Poetry. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2000. Thomas, Dylan. “Fern Hill. ” Legacies: Fiction, Poetry, Drama, Nonfiction. Eds. Jan Zlotnik Schmidt, Carley Rees Bogarad, Lynne Crockett. Cengage Heinle, 2005. p. 173-174.

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