The Longing for Youth [Figurative Creative Idea: A Reader Response Analysis of "Fern Hill"
Bryce Lawrence, 2008
In Dylan Thomas's Fern Hill the author uses rural and natural imagery, Biblical references, as well as a lyrical flow to craft an idyllic setting as the speaker looks fondly back on youth.
There is no wrong in the youth of the speaker, as the imagery shows us. Everything is green and golden, the sun shines and the speaker is the "prince of the apple towns" (Line 6). All of the images give off a feeling of intense energy, exuberence, and joy. There is no mention of school, parents, or and other humans for that matter. Only the speaker in this pristine natural playground. The world is almost dreamlike, as if your memories have mixed with bits of surrealism and art, "fields high as the house," (Line 21). Even at night there are only pleasent sounds, no rattling trees or creaking doors. The reader cannot help but conjure up these scenes of a vibrant youth running wild and undisturbed through an almost surreally perfect nature.
Thomas also employs the use of Biblical references to further capture the joy and wild energy of youth. Everything in the piece points to perfection and a world without sin. There are no humans, only a host of friendly animals that beckon to his call. The speaker sees holiness everywhere: the stables are blessed, the streams are holy. When the speaker awakens the world appears to him as a new Eden, "so it must have been after the birth of the simple light" (Line 36). All these ideas of ideal and even heavenly perfection impress upon the reader the beauty of youth in all its simplicity and joy.
The lyrical rhythm and flow of Fern Hill also add to the impressions of youth. Thomas writes in almost a lilting manner, almost going to fast to finish ideas. Each stanza reads as a run-on sentence that just gives off the feeling of elation and excitement. There are no droll stops, odd punctuations, or unneccesary spacings. Commas connect everything in a constant flow, like a river cutting across the countryside. It sounds as if a child is feverishly retelling a story of great importance. The reader is drawn into this excitment and pure joy as the poem dances this way and that.
No analysis of this poem would be complete however without mentioning the final stanza, in which the speaker reminds us that he is only reminiscing about this beautiful time. The reader cannot help but feel a little wistful, even though the speaker is not overdramatic. As an adult, the speaker realizes that even as time gave such youthful glory, time also was running out: "Oh I was young and easy in the mercy of his means,-Time held me green and dying-Though I sang in my chains like the sea," (Lines 57-59)