Fern Hill

Fern Hill Symbols, Allegory and Motifs

Adam and Eve (allegory)

In “Fern Hill,” Thomas references the story of Adam and Eve found in Genesis. Just as Adam and Eve are cast out of Eden, the speaker loses his innocence and must leave his own Eden, Fern Hill, in the poem. In Christian theology, the story of Adam and Eve is part of the concept of original sin—all humans inherit the first sin by the original humans, necessitating their salvation. Similarly, the child of Fern Hill inevitably ages just as everyone else does, inheriting the departure from Eden that every person experiences.

Green (symbol)

Throughout the poem, the color green symbolizes youth, innocence, and naiveté. In line 2, the speaker is "happy as the grass was green,” possessing a simple, innocent cheerfulness.” He repeatedly describes himself and his landscape as green—the word appears seven times in the poem, and at least once in each stanza. Late in the poem, children are "green and golden," but led “out of grace,” altering the association of “green” to naiveté rather than sweet childhood innocence. Finally, time holds the speaker “green and dying,” associating the color that once represented youth and life with death instead.

Gold/golden (symbol)

The word “golden” appears in the poem four times, second only in frequency to “green.” Early in the poem, the speaker describes himself as “golden” when he is in time’s favor and mercy. Yet eventually, the "green and golden” children are but led “out of grace” and out of Eden, and, like green, golden becomes a color of corruption and loss of innocence.