The mood of the poem is nostalgic. The first few stanzas describe an idyllic, perhaps idealised, childhood; the repeated use of the ‘gold’ and ‘green’ conjure beautiful sun-drenched hazy rural scenes and a carefree little boy playing at being ‘prince’ and ‘famous’, ‘huntsman and herdsman’ in orchards and streams, barns and stables.
‘Green’ also has the meaning of being young or new throughout the piece. Youth is described less obviously in other phrases:
– ‘once below a time’
– ‘fields high as the house’, as they seem from a child’s perspective, and ‘house high hay’
– (antonym – ageing) ‘take me up to the swallow thronged loft by the shadow of my hand’
Thomas uses many poetic devices (see marked up copy below). Each stanza has rhyming lines that divide them into two; the first and last lines of the first half are rhymed with the first and last of the second. This imparts a playful, comforting feeling to the poem in the early part. This is not carried into the final stanza, contributing to its darkness.
There is rhythm in the individual lines and also in the theme of turning days and night, time’s ‘tuneful turning’. Alliteration and consonance abound, making this recognisably the work of Dylan Thomas.
The poem is a personification of time; ‘Time let me…’, ‘time allows…’, ‘time would take me…’ , ‘time held me…’.
The penultimate stanza begins to frame the reminiscence in a different way, a realisation that childhood is not infinite, as it seems to a child, and likens it to a state of ‘grace’. Time allows us only so many of those days.
When one reaches the final stanza, one realises that the poem is actually full of regret that the speaker’s childhood was all too fleeting and is, inevitably, gone forever. ‘Time held me green and dying’; even as the man was a child (green), he was already ageing and moving towards death. The inference may be that he did not appreciate those times enough.
The final line is a mystery!