The speaking voice belongs to a male adult recalling his childhood and its inevitable end. “Fern Hill” re-creates and communicates the experience of a child who (for the first part of the poem) has not yet grown into historical awareness and who consequently lives in an eternal present in the Garden of Eden (“it was Adam and maiden” and “the sun grew round that very day,” lines 30 and 32).
The boy’s life is composed of repetitions of the cycles of nature, so to him there seems to be no passage of time; from his adult vantage point, however, he realizes that time was toying with him (“time let me,” he says in lines 4 and 13) until, inevitably, it exiled him from the privileged land of childhood.
In a casual, conversational tone, the poem begins by introducing the innocent boy in the context of a “middle landscape” composed of nature, the cultivation of domesticated plants and animals, and the art of song (the “lilting house”) in a small Welsh valley with wooded sides (a “dingle”). Because he still lives in the innocent world of the fairy tale (“once below a time”), he has the power of a lord to command the trees and leaves, to have them do his will. This time of life, as the poet idealizes it, is a windfall—an undeserved and unexpected boon, like a ripe apple that has blown off a tree on a stranger’s property and that the hungry passerby has a right to take and eat.
The second stanza reinforces...
(The entire section is 498 words.)