Fern Hill (Dylan Thomas)
The "Poetry Explications" handout from UNC states that a poetry explication is a "relatively short analysis which describes the possible meanings and relationship of the words, images, and other small units that make up a poem."
The speaker in "Fern Hill" dramatically embraces memories from his childhood days at his uncle's farm, when the world was innocent; the second part brings out the speaker's loss of innocence and transition into manhood. This explication will identify and critique Thomas' tone, imagery (including metaphors) and expressive language (as it contributes to the power of the poem). ("Fern Hill" uses 6 verse paragraphs; there are 9 lines in each paragraph.)
"Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs / About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green / the night above the dingle starry / time let me hail and climb / golden in the heydays of his eyes / and honored among wagons I was prince of the apple towns / and once below a time I lordly had the trees and leaves / trail with daisies and barley / down the rivers of the windfall light…"
He uses color imagery effectively in this stanza; grass is green so we know the speaker was happy in his youth. Youth is considered a time of golden moments that will never occur again; in his youth ("below a time") he was lord of all he observed, he was in control the metaphor "down the rivers of windfall light" brings the reader into the movement of time.
"And as I was green and carefree, worship. Imagery connects nature ("foxes…barked clear and cold") with the nurturing of domesticity as herdsman / shepherd (a biblical allusion).
"All the sun long it was running, it was lovely, the hay / fields high as the house, the tunes from the chimney, it was air / and playing lovely and watery / and fire green as grass / and nightly under the simple stars / as I rode to sleep the owls were bearing the farm away / all the moon long I heard, blessed among stables, the nightjars / flying with the ricks, and the horses / flashing into the dark…"
The speaker is symbolically being called away from his timeless youth by the eerie hooting of owls; he addressed "time" again (it is his master, his leader) through the image of "all the moon long" and "all the sun long"; in the 1st verse the night sky is "dingle starry"; but he is moving on from his childhood and illustrates that through "simple stars" and that the horses are "flashing into the dark" (into the unknown of adulthood perhaps).…
For example, in the third stanza, he describes the dawn as " yellows bright as wood -columbine (8) The metaphor used in the following line also attests to the beauty and mystery of nature or was only a fuzzed moth in a flannel storm (9) Note as well the use of alliteration in the above line, which adds to the harmony and depth of the metaphor. In his search for meaning through
Gallaudet.edu/englishworks/literature/poetry.html). Other components which are very important in understanding poetry's power to express include "tone" (the poet's attitude toward the subject); "theme" (what statement is the poet making regarding the subject being embraced?); and "structure" (the format through which the poem is present). The Unknown Citizen: Wystan Hugh Auden, the author of the poem, was not at all an unknown citizen. He became a very well-known and highly respected poet, in fact.
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