How can I compare and contrast "Fern Hill" by Dylan Thomas and the extract from "Cider with Rosie" by Laurie Lee?

1 Answer | Add Yours

huntress's profile pic

huntress | College Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

Posted on

Both texts are pastoral and note the passage of time and the coming of age of their protagonists. Both narrators muse, from the perspective of the aged, the golden by-gone days, before motorcars and electricity, when life was simple. Lee is focused on the speed of life and the work involved, the boredom of it. Dylan sings of the beauty of his childhood home, his fascination with it. 

In Lee's excerpt, death and change pervades the village. The small animals are "sacrificed" to the new motorcars and buses. The old life is no more, in the end, than "the false strength that precedes death." She says that "eight miles an hour was life and death, the size of our prison," suggesting her village was a prison where people worked quietly and painfully until they died. Dylan, though, is not mourning the loss of by-gone days so much as remembering them with the fondness of a man who, as a boy, lived fully, even though life seems to have come and gone without his really noticing. He did not care that "time would take him," that someday he would "wake to the farm forever fled from the childless land." Even when he realizes that he is a prisoner to Time, who holds him, paradoxically, both "green and dying," he still sings "in [his] chains by the sea." He still finds beauty and pleasure, has acquiesced to his imprisonment to life and change, and accepted it without a fight (unlike Lee's villagers, where "the old folks...had strokes and seizures, faced with speeds beyond comprehension"). Dylan goes with the flow, appreciating life as it comes where Lee's townsfolk fight change--and lose. 

Dylan also clearly wishes his childhood had lasted longer. Even in his dotage, he clings to his childhood haunts. His world is not full of death, but of life. There are foxes and calves, wheat, daisies and barley. Even the sun and moon and brook are alive. He thanks Time for letting him "play and be / Golden in the mercy of his means"--in contrast to Lee, who sees Time as the enemy, inexorably killing a village and a way of life that has survived a thousand years. In the end, Dylan does not care, even when he's old (in his "lamb white days") that Time controls him and "that riding to sleep / I should hear him fly with the high fields / and wake to the farm forever fled from the childless land." In contrast, Lee's village doesn't have much of a childhood; people work silently at backbreaking labor and boredom, "waiting on weather and growth." 

In both cases, the land is childless in the end, but Dylan's old man stays, while Lee's narrator abandons the village, which would "break, dissolve, and scatter," and "become no more than a place for pensioners." The childlessness symbolizes the death of the generation Lee speaks of, and Dylan also acknowledges that the younger generation, at some point, moved on (he wakes "to the farm forever fled from the childless land"); life is stagnant and dying in both cases, but Lee's narrator seems to be dying with it, mourning, while Dylan's accepts and is even celebrating the beauty of change, thanking Time for giving him so much beauty and happiness. Were I to choose an overarching lesson through the comparison of the two, it would be this: life is what you make of it--not what it makes of you.

We’ve answered 318,947 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question