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The Use of Imagery in the Poetry "Fern Hill"


"Fern Hill" ranks among Dylan Thomas' most famous poems. Originally included in "Deaths and Entrances" published in 1945, the piece employs simple yet lyrical language and imagery to evoke the happy period of childhood. Concerned with youth and nostalgia, its speaks of a span of life when the concept of age is unimaginable.

Time

Time is personified in "Fern Hill." "Time let me hail and climb / Golden in the heydays of his eyes" and "Time let me play and be / Golden in the mercy of his means," Thomas writes, creating imagery that conveys a sense freedom from the existence of time -- the narrator of the poem is young and unaware of its passing. The final stanza again uses imagery of time as a sentient being: "Nothing I cared ... that time would take me ... Time held me green and dying ... ." Thomas conveys the sense that though time does indeed pass, it is merciful to the youthful narrator who dwells in a timeless idyll.

Pastoral Idyll

The imagery of the farm represents the Garden of Eden. "... It was all / Shining, it was Adam and maiden ... So it must have been after the birth of the simple light In the first, spinning place." This imagery coupled with references to apples -- "Apple boughs" and "apple towns" -- conjures a sense of the Christian concept of paradise. Thomas also repeatedly uses the words green and golden: "happy as the grass was green," "Golden in the heydays of his eyes ... I was green and carefree" and "the children green and golden" among other images create the sense of beginning, before decay is imposed by time.

Sun and Moon

Thomas repeatedly refers to the sun and moon. Imagery of the sun, including "the sun long it was running" and "the sun born over and over" conveys the idea of endless day, contributing to the theme of youth untouched by time. References to the moon are in opposition to this idea. "All the moon long I heard ..." and "the moon that is always rising" conjure images of night and the sense that darkness -- as in the final darkness or end of time -- is always present even in an idyllic world.

Youth

The narrator in "Fern Hill" is young, existing in a world he views as untouched by time. Thomas uses imagery of youth to convey this idea. "I was young and easy" and the "children green and golden" create a picture of the carefree days of childhood. Even the sun itself is subject to this imagery. "... The sun that is young once only" conjures the idea of the sun as something born or created, and that it ages as humans do. In the the final line of the poem, the narrator uses the imagery again, stating that he is "green and dying" -- young but mortal.

About the Author

Karen Clark has been writing professionally since 2001. Her work includes articles on gardening, education and literature. Clark has also published short literary fiction in the "Southern Humanities Review" and has co-authored a novel. Her professional experience includes teaching and tutoring students of all ages in literature, history and writing. She holds a Bachelor of the Arts in political science and a Master of Fine Arts in writing.

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