“And nothing I cared, at my sky blue trades, that time allows/In all his tuneful turning so few and such morning songs/Before the children green and golden/Follow him out of grace.”
Here, the speaker begins to take on a tone of remorse as he describes his regret at not realizing how fleeting these wonderful days were. Though it guarded him earlier in the poem, time begins to lead him outside of his paradise and away from the “grace” of God. Just as Adam and Eve, who are referenced earlier, were cast out of Eden, the speaker is as well. Thomas alludes to the story of the Pied Piper, a character from a medieval German legend who was hired to lure a town’s rats away with his magical pipe, but then leads the town’s children away as well after the townspeople refuse to pay him. The Pied Piper is sometimes understood as a symbol of death; the children may have died of a disease, perhaps carried by the rats (although early versions of the story didn’t contain any mention of the rats.)
"So it must have been after the birth of the simple light/In the first, spinning place, the spellbound horses walking warm/Out of the whinnying green stable/On to the fields of praise.”
Here, Thomas alludes to God declaring “let there be light” in Genesis as the speaker compares the wonder of creation to the landscape in front of him. Rather than describing whinnying horses, the speaker mentions a whinnying stable, personifying it to suggest it and the landscape as a whole are as vibrant as a living creature. Though he’s praising the landscape, the speaker describes “fields of praise,” unifying his feelings with the landscape itself. This phrase also underscores the religious tone of these lines: the fields are so beautiful that their mere existence seems to be praising God.
“And wake to the farm forever fled from the childless land./Oh, as I was young and easy in the mercy of his means,/Time held me green and dying”
The poem’s happy tone has now become a tone of despair and sorrow. Instead of waking up to "the farm, like a wanderer white / With the dew," the speaker awakes to realize that the farm he remembers is forever gone from his life. The line beginning “time” carries a double meaning: while time held him both when he was young and when he was dying, it also held him when he was both at once. Even as he was young and free, he was slowly dying—after all, every day we live brings us closer to death.
Fern Hill Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Fern Hill is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.