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Themes

Rather than just a clock ticking on the wall, Time in "Fern Hill" is almost like a character. Thomas personifies time throughout the poem, as something with immense power. At first, he's the guy who lets the speaker frolic, all happy-like among the meadows. But then time becomes the one who yanks our young and carefree speaker out of his graceful youth and into ugly adulthood. In other words, despite his strong start, time winds up being a real jerk.

Questions About Time

  1. What figurative language does the speaker use to describe his relationship with time? In what ways does his relationship with time change, and how is that change expressed in the language of the poem? 
  2. Besides using the word "time," how else does the speaker express the presence of time in the poem? A clock with wings? No, but where in the landscape do we see the speaker's awareness of time as something he can see or touch?
  3. The poem takes place on a farm, but in what ways does the poem take place in time? Consider time as days passing, but also as a rhythmic structure of the poem. How does the poem exist in time on the page? 
  4. What is the relationship between time and memory in this poem?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

In "Fern Hill," the speaker's relationship with time pulls the old switcheroo and shifts from a feeling of being set free to a feeling of being chained by time's inevitable passing. Sneaky little bugger, ain't he?

Time flies when you're having a good time, but luckily for us, the speaker avoids using cliché phrases like that. Instead, he uses natural images, such as rivers, streams and the sea to embody his shifting understanding of time as something beautiful but also fleeting.

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