Fern Hill (Dylan Thomas)

I read this poem for the first time when my college Chorale sung the Corigliano’s beautiful setting.  The last stanza was my email signature for years. My childhood wasn’t idyllic in any sense of the word, but the last stanza has come back to me as I re-realize each day how impossible it is to introduce your child to how terrible the world is gradually enough. Eventually, it will crush him or her.  The best one can hope for is to look back at childhood naiveté and happiness and still feel that that is the better way.

Darkness aside, it’s wonderful that I rediscovered the song (I have an odd bias towards piano even when there is an orchestral arrangement available, but I think it’s especially appropriate for this piece):

The poem:

Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs
     About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green,
       The night above the dingle starry,
         Time let me hail and climb
       Golden in the heydays of his eyes,
     And honoured among wagons I was prince of the apple towns
     And once below a time I lordly had the trees and leaves
         Trail with daisies and barley
       Down the rivers of the windfall light.

     And as I was green and carefree, famous among the barns
     About the happy yard and singing as the farm was home,
       In the sun that is young once only,
         Time let me play and be
       Golden in the mercy of his means,
     And green and golden I was huntsman and herdsman, the calves
     Sang to my horn, the foxes on the hills barked clear and cold,
         And the sabbath rang slowly
       In the pebbles of the holy streams.

     All the sun long it was running, it was lovely, the hay
     Fields high as the house, the tunes from the chimneys, it was air
       And playing, lovely and watery
         And fire green as grass.
       And nightly under the simple stars
     As I rode to sleep the owls were bearing the farm away,
     All the moon long I heard, blessed among stables, the nightjars
       Flying with the ricks, and the horses
         Flashing into the dark.

     And then to awake, and the farm, like a wanderer white
     With the dew, come back, the cock on his shoulder: it was all
       Shining, it was Adam and maiden,
         The sky gathered again
       And the sun grew round that very day.
     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.

     And honoured among foxes and pheasants by the gay house
     Under the new made clouds and happy as the heart was long,
       In the sun born over and over,
         I ran my heedless ways,
       My wishes raced through the house high hay
     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.

     Nothing I cared, in the lamb white days, that time would take me
     Up to the swallow thronged loft by the shadow of my hand,
       In the moon that is always rising,
         Nor that riding to sleep
       I should hear him fly with the high fields
     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
       Though I sang in my chains like the sea.
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