Fern Hill

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.

At Fern Hill in South Wales

The farmhouseThe creek

The farmhouse and nearby creek at Fern Hill.

The Local Legend of Fern Hill

When I visited Fern Hill in January 1989, I was told the local legend behind this famous farm. It seems that around the turn of the century, years before Dylan Thomas spent summers here, Fern Hill was owned by a wealthy family. The assistant hangman of a nearby town married into the family and lived at Fern Hill with his new wife and daughter. When the daughter was three years old, however, the hangman's wife died, and she left everything to her daughter when the daughter came of age.

The assistant hangman and his daughter lived together at Fern Hill for years, until the day of her eighteenth birthday. It was then that the father barred the windows with iron, and it was then that he locked her in the house to prevent her from marrying and thus "stealing away" his fortune. He built a stone vault that leaned up beside the house -- a clausterphobic fortress you can still see in the middle of the above photograph. And in that vault he left her.

And one night her love came to the house and was able to bend a bar or two, and the couple disappeared and were never heard from again. And the next morning, true to his vocation, the assistant hangman hanged himself in the basement....