Following the “It’s your birthday, you get to pick” tradition, I’m going to beg your indulgence and post a poem instead of a reflection this week.
I found Dylan Thomas’s “Fern Hill” in high school, and it has been one of my favorites evey since. It’s long, and you might want to listen to Thomas read it. He was a Welshman with a resonant, made-for-radio voice that’s nice to listen to even if you don’t understand the poem.
It’s not the easiest poem I’ve posted, but it so wonderfully conveys the timeless, innocent feeling of childhood. Who hasn’t had their “wishes race through the house high hay” or pretended to be “prince of the apple towns”? Of course, the poem takes away that timelessness even as it’s offered, so perhaps it’s a bit of a melancholic choice for a birthday poem. But what more can you want than images like “fire green as grass”?
Just feel your way through the few confusing phrases–I don’t know what “below a time” means but I like the way it feels removed from the every day–and skip the British words (a “dingle” is a valley) and spend some time playing with the young Thomas in the Welsh hills.
by Dylan Thomas
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.
With thanks to poets.org for the correctly formatted poem.