For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move. ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Sky Blue Trades And Heedless Ways


Fern Hill
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.

DYLAN THOMAS
This is the best evocation of a country childhood that I know.

4 comments:

am said...

"Though I sang in my chains like the sea."

It was probably in 1973 when I first read "Fern Hill."
During my childhood, our family almost always lived on the edge of town in various regions of California. I wandered out into the country from those childhood homes, but I can't say that I lived in the country as a child. I sought the country when I was a child.

Still, "Fern Hill" spoke to me then and speaks to me now. Identifying with the sea in its chains was immensely freeing for a 23-year-old woman who was also listening to Bob Dylan sing:

"Are birds free from the chains of the skyway?"

Loren said...

This reminds me that I need to re-read Dylan's Complete Poems, sw.

He was definitely one of my college favorites.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

I've never read this…though now, after several read-throughs, I'm once again absorbed by Dylan Thomas's unexpected language, his ear and words and rhythm.

I'm particularly taken by "…the sabbath rang slowly/In the pebbles of the holy streams." And at this point in my life I understand completely how once, in my own childhood, "Time held me green and dying."

Thank you for this post.

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks for all these comments.

Grizzled: Yes, that's it - the 'unexpected language' and his finely tuned ear for musicality and rhythm. Though nowadays I turn more and more to his wonderful short stories than to his poetry - his short story 'The Peaches' first turned me on to the possibilities of the form when I read it in school English lessons over 40 years ago.

You will love 'Poem in October' and its line about 'the legends of the green chapels'.

One small example of his perfect ear: just note how Thomas adds the simple second 'the' to 'the rivers of the windfall light' - which in its context is so much better than 'the rivers of windfall light'. Why? I can't exactly put it into words. It's just the ear again, isn't it? Just what sounds right.