Discussion Topic

The portrayal of both the positive and negative aspects of childhood in Dylan Thomas's "Fern Hill."


In "Fern Hill," Dylan Thomas portrays childhood positively by depicting it as a time of innocence, freedom, and joy, filled with vibrant imagery of nature and play. However, he also highlights the negative aspect by reflecting on the inevitable loss of this innocence and the passage of time, which leads to a nostalgic and bittersweet tone.

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What negative aspects of childhood does Dylan Thomas touch on in "Fern Hill"?

The poem discusses a carefree and joyful childhood, where time doesn't seem to matter, the sun shines, and life is easy. However, the last line states, "Time held me green and dying/though I sang in my chains like the sea." this last stanza discusses the fact that, though the author or speaker had a "carefree" and "heedless" childhood, time eventually runs out. The same concept of time that in stanzas one and two lets the speaker "hail and climb" and "play and be," eventually no longer allows him these freedoms. The comparison of Adam and Eve's fall from the Garden of Eden shows the boy's fall from the paradise of childhood ("before the children green and golden/followed him out of grace...). Time holds him "green and dying" as an adult, yet he still "sang in (his) chains like the sea." It is a beautiful metaphor, although he is chained by life, by only the certain amount of time that is given him, he can still sing in those chains. The knowledge and experience that comes with adulthood teaches us that time is fleeting and ignorance cannot last forever.

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How is childhood glorified in Dylan Thomas's poem "Fern Hill"?

Fern Hill” is a poem by Dylan Thomas. In this poem, the poet reminisces about his childhood. We can see that in the first line, which reads “as I was young,” a clear indication of the fact that the poet is talking about the time when he was a child.

He recreates his childhood by describing the physical surroundings of his memories in detail, such as the “lilting house”, the “apple boughs” and the “daisies and barley,” which help the reader to imagine the rural landscape in which the poem is set. This positive and inviting description of his surroundings clearly create an optimistic image, which underline the poet’s fond childhood memories.

The poet also uses very positive words, such as “happy yard” and “it was lovely,” which further underline the fact that the poet is glorifying his childhood.

In addition to describing the surroundings, the poet also recreates his happy childhood memories by describing his activities on the farm. He tells us that he was “singing” and that “time let (him) play.” The poet also tells us that he used to engage in imaginative play by pretending to be a “huntsman and herdsman.” These are all activities that a reader would easily associate with a happy childhood. Therefore, these descriptions further help the reader to imagine the poet as a child. They send a clear positive message about the poet’s innocent days as a child.

This is further underlined by the lamenting tone of the very last stanza. Here, the poet shows us how he misses his innocent childhood days. We can see that the poet is lamenting the loss of his childhood, for example, in the line “oh as I was young.” The exclamation “oh” has been chosen by the poet in order to express his regret. This highlights the poet’s fond and glorified memories of his childhood.

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