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Home » , » Discuss the theme of childhood in Dylan Thomas poem ''Fern Hill''

Dylan Thomas returns to childhood time and again in many of his poems to escape from the odds of adult life. Childhood remains as an endless source of joy and a protective force against the agonies inherent in adulthood. In “Fern Hill” we find the poet expresses the feelings of a child in the backdrop of an adult world. He creates a magic spell over the child’s vision of the world. However, a sense of pathos at the loss of childhood accompanies joyous memories. 

In childhood Dylan finds a symbol of joyous things that life can offer. The speaker remembers his own childhood memories in his aunt’s farm where, along with other playmates, he enjoyed all the delights of a child’s fantasies. The farm house then appeared to him lilting and musical. Everything was covered with delight and amusement. He enjoyed his lordly role in the farm, ‘the apple towns’ where wagons loaded with apples appeared to be another dreamland. ‘Time’ supported him to play the role of a lord. He had fantasies that the farm was being carried away at night when everybody was asleep. The owls were carrying away the farm just as we find it happens in the folk stories. He also dreamt that the night jar carried away the ricks, the large piles of hay. The child also had the vision that the horses were running quickly in the light of the moon. When the boy went to sleep the farm was actually taken away. But it returned in the morning. The unlimited vision of childhood is nicely presented in the following lines: 

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.’ 

The poem is full of ‘ands’. It points at a child’s accumulative energy and gusto in telling the listeners what matters most. Here ‘and’ is not a simple ‘connective’ but a way of making all sentences instantaneously one. The whole poem is thus a recreation of child’s vision where everything flows forward and there is no full stop. 

Unchained by any adult interference the child carried on his boyish activities under the blue sky. The turning of Time allowed him to enjoy the sweet songs of life. But such ‘turnings’ were not many. The child who was allowed by ‘Time’ to enjoy life as green and golden soon went out of the grace of ‘Time’. 

He was always a slave of Time, though he did not realize this truth in those happy boyhood days. Now he was dying like all green things. Thus the lyric is an outpouring of the poet’s nostalgia for a vanished past. 

The surrealistic images of a floating, merging and mixing world in the childhood suggest that the childhood portrayed in “Fern Hill” is his Very personal childhood where reasons and rhymes never reflect the ordinary reality. However, his growth into adulthood, a painful fact reminds that Time is a haunting enemy, the key player in everybody’s childhood days. Here lies the universal significance of the poem.


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