Comparing Loss In Thomas’s Fern Hill And Wordsworth’s Ode: Intimations Of Immortality

1802 words - 7 pages

Loss of Childhood in Thomas’ Fern Hill and Wordsworth’s Ode: Intimations of Immortality

Through the use of nature and time, Dylan Thomas’s "Fern Hill" and William Wordsworth’s “Ode: Intimations of Immortality” both address the agonizing loss of childhood. While Wordsworth recognizes that wisdom and experience recompense this loss(Poetry Criticism 370), Thomas views "life after childhood as bondage"(Viswanathan 286).

As “Fern Hill” progresses, Thomas’s attitude towards childhood changes from one of happiness and fulfillment to sadness and loss. In the first five stanzas of "Fern Hill," Thomas uses nature as a pleasing memory of childhood, but in the last stanza his memories of nature during childhood reveal what he has lost. In this last stanza, Thomas, instead of reveling in the memory of childhood, can conjure only pain. The metamorphosis of the words "green" and "gold" through his poem, ranging in connotation from freshness to decay, helps to convey Thomas’s perceived loss of innocence and insouciance. Thomas initially personifies Time as "Golden" in line 5; time views Thomas as "prince of the apple towns," (line 6) worthy of the riches nature has to offer. Thomas again refers to "green and golden" in line 10: "green and carefree…" to describe himself as young and blessed. The ironic statement: "green and golden I was huntsman…calves sang to my horn,"(line 15) demonstrates the power childhood gives him. A horn traditionally "sings" to another object, but Thomas’s calves sing to his horn demonstrating that childhood bestows power unattainable at any other stage of life. Thomas as an adult lacks power to do the unexpected because childhood’s magic can no longer create these kinds of illusions. The power of childhood imagination makes him feel like he could do the unforeseen. At this first suggestion of the blessings of youth, the reader realizes the poem is not written in the present; a child does not have the insight to recognize this blessing. Thus, we deduce, the adult Thomas reminisces about his childhood. The first stanza’s memories of "apple boughs," "lilting house," green grass, and being "prince of the apple towns" appear to conjure positive feelings especially when Thomas refers to children as "green and golden" and "carefree." His childlike hyperbole emphasizes the magic of imagination. The description of the "tunes from the chimneys" as "watery"(lines 20-21) indicates the harmonious, flowing quality of the sounds of his childhood days at Fern Hill. The word "watery"(line 21) also replaces the expected smoke which comes out of a chimney. This description of the "tunes from the chimneys" as "watery" emphasizes that childhood refreshes and invigorates; however, the "watery tunes"(smoke) also foreshadow Thomas’s later message that adulthood smothers. Although the "fire green grass"(line 22) seems a contradiction because fire is usually red, it is also bright and warm, like the grass of Thomas’s childhood. This synesthesia mixes...

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