In 1994, when I saw a touring one-man Dylan Thomas show by Bob Kingdom, “Fern Hill” burst over me like fireworks. The only possible response was to get it by heart, which I did when I got home and over the next day or two. I recited it to my senior English class once I had learned it.
Monday, twenty years since, was Thomas’s 100th anniversary; a couple of days later I had an email from a student in that class recalling the recitation. “It [the poem] was wonderful then,” he said, “and it still is now,” as he knew from having gone back to take another look.
This correspondence put me in mind of the closing lines of Alan Bennett’s play The History Boys, written ten years after my recitation and ten years before the present:
Pass the parcel.
That’s sometimes all you can do.
Take it, feel it, and pass it on.
Not for me, not for you, but for someone, somewhere, one day.
Pass it on, boys.
That’s the game I wanted you to learn.
Pass it on.