Study Guide

Fern Hill

By Dylan Thomas

Fern Hill Introduction

Dylan Thomas was a Welsh rock god of lyric poetry. What, you wanted that title? Too bad, it's already taken.

In fact, Dylan Thomas is considered one of the most talented and well-known lyric poets of the 20th century, and that accolade is well deserved. Five minutes with "Fern Hill," and you'll be singing Thomas's praises, too.

To be fair, his rock star status may have a little something to do with his rock star ways. He was infamous in the literary community for boozing, passionate public readings, and scandalous love affairs. Plus he died young. If that doesn't fulfill the stereotype, then we don't know what does.

But before he died, he left behind some of the best lyric poems ever written, including "Fern Hill," which is from his 1946 book, Deaths and Entrances.The poem is a lengthy recollection of the speaker's younger days on a farm when all was "lovely," and ends in lament that those days are gone. It's sort of a "if I only knew then what I know now" kind of thing, but poetry-style, with wistful images and a lilting sound.

Lilting is a traditional-style Gaelic singing, which, being jaunty enough on its own, is rarely accompanied with instruments. Read "Fern Hill" aloud, and you'll hear just how hard it is not to get caught up in the rhythms and tone of this poem. Still not convinced? Check out this choir singing the poem, and you'll get the idea.

And once you read this one, you'll be hard pressed to keep yourself from lilting along. After all, Thomas was a master of form and meter, and he never shines more than he does in "Fern Hill."

What is Fern Hill About and Why Should I Care?

Shmoopers, all the clichés are true. Being young is awesome. You gotta live it up while you have the chance. It doesn't last forever. Life's short. Yadda. Yadda. Yadda.

But in all seriousness, these cheesy adages have a point. Remember the bygone days of ice cream trucks and swimming holes and paper routes and "More Ovaltine please!"? Dylan Thomas sure does, and he misses those days. We sympathize. The real world crashes down on us all too fast these days, and too many of us miss the chance to linger in those moments of being "young and easy under the apple boughs."

The Lindsey Lohans and Honey Boo Boos of the world all grow up a little too quickly for Shmoop's taste. So maybe we should all take a moment, and take a page out of ol' Dylan's book. Let's hold on, while we can, to whatever scraps of youth we have left.

Fern Hill Resources

Websites

Row, Row, Row your Boat
A website dedicated to the boathouse where Dylan Thomas lived? Sign us up for a sail.

The Goods
Check out this short bio and pic of the man himself lighting a smoke

Like Father, Like Daughter
To preserve her father's legacy, Dylan Thomas's daughter Aeronwy created this site, filled with tons of cool info on the man, the poet, the legend.

BBC Wales Art Page
You know you've arrived when the BBC makes a webpage for your poem.

Video

The Orchestral Treatment
Complete with a choir, singing the verses… oops we mean stanzas.

Hannibal Lecter Loves Dylan Thomas
And by Hannibal Lecter, we mean the man who played him—Anthony Hopkins, who also just so happens to be Welsh.

Audio

Straight From the Source
The prince of the apple towns himself reads "Fern Hill."

A Cappella
Famous Welsh actor Richard Burton gets a little worked-up while reciting "Fern Hill." We wish this guy would read everything to us.

Images

What a Dapper Lad
Picture of DT sporting a polka-dot bowtie. We really should bring those back.

Rural Wales
Okay, so it really is that green, and that gorgeous.

Books

In All His Tuneful Turning
This book has almost every poetic word Dylan Thomas ever wrote. And a cool cover to boot.

Movies & TV

The Edge of Love (2008)
If you're into wildly inaccurate biopics, this one's just the ticket.