Time in Thomas? Fern Hill and Cummings? Anyone Lived in a Pretty How Town

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  • Topic: Dylan Thomas, Stanza, Poetry
  • Pages : 10 (3606 words )
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  • Published : March 12, 2008
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"Historically speaking,?time is lost; poetically speaking,?time is regained in the act of visionary creation" (Crewe 400). Poetry allows for the capture of a moment in time otherwise lost in the blink of an eye. British poet Dylan Thomas and American poet E.E. Cummings have both been noted for the recurring themes of passage of time in their poetry. In Thomas? "Fern Hill" and Cummings? "anyone lived in a pretty how town," both modern poets utilize a juxtaposition of paradoxes to express the irrevocable passage of time and the loss of innocence attributed to it. While Thomas projects his mature feelings into a nostalgic site of his childhood, Cummings takes a more detached approach by telling a seemingly trivial, paradoxical story of "noone" and "anyone," which through negation tells a universal life story.

"Fern Hill" is a personal account, Thomas? nostalgic revisit to a place where as a child he had spent time with his aunt. Through this sentimental revisit, he comes to realize the inevitable passage of time and a resulting loss of innocence. The poem was actually triggered by his visits to Fern Hill as an adult during a time of war. After Thomas?s hometown Swansea in Wales was bombed by the Nazi air campaign against Great Britain, Thomas? parents moved out to their cottage near the farm of Fernhill. "[Thomas?] visits to his parents during the war triggered the memories of the happy Edenic times when he was young and thoughts of war were still distant" (Miller 99). In this poem, he revisits both his own childhood, and ,symbolically, the childhood and prewar innocence of his country.

"Anyone lived in a pretty how town," is less personal. A love story made trivial

through the use of "noone" and "anyone," this poem plays on words to negate the existence of these lovers while concurrently emphasizing their existence not only in this town, but in any other town. As individuals the lovers are ignored by "mostpeople" whose routine lives reflect the passage of time. The only to notice the lovers and stray their attention from life?s normal routine are the children, who maintain their innocence, but who soon grow up and forget. Cummings has been noted for this regular indulgence in the themes of "love, birth, growth, dying, and their antithesis," (Wegner 48) as found not only in this specific poem playing the parts of the cycle of time but also in many other of his works.

The poem is expressing the concrete and paradoxically its opposite through a play on pronouns. "Anyone lives in a pretty how town" is "the story of mostpeople and individuals, simultaneously a joyous and sorrowful song" (Turco 93). The title?s ambiguity plays on the use of a "hypallage: rearrangement of syntax - word order - in a sentence"(Turco 92). The title could be interpreted as either "anyone lived in a pretty how town" or "anyone lived in how pretty a town" or "how anyone lived in a pretty town." The "anyone" could be nobody in particular or that particular person capable of love. As Robert Wegner writes, "[a]s and adjective modifying town, [how] is a superbly descriptive word suggesting in one touch the typical town where all values must conform to accepted regular decorum and procedure, a town whose people operate on rigid and mechanical formalities: a ?how town??With these two highly abstract words Cummings establishes in the opening line two opposed responses to life; the remainder of the poem dramatically juxtaposes these responses" (51). Although Cummings? poem is not a direct story from his life, it can be adapted to be the story of many people?s lives.

In "Fern Hill," rather than employing personal pronouns or other abstractions, Thomas utilizes sound structure and linguistic texture to portray time?s continuity and to "evoke a boy?s blissful participation in the textures, sounds, forms, colors, and intensities of the natural world" (Miller 99). The "elaborate stanza forms based on...
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