My Lost Youth

Original Text: 
The Poetical Works of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, with Bibliographical and Critical Notes, Riverside Edition (Boston and New York: Houghton, Mifflin, 1890), III, 41-44. PS 2250 E90 Robarts Library.
3Often in thought go up and down
4The pleasant streets of that dear old town,
5    And my youth comes back to me.
6        And a verse of a Lapland song
7        Is haunting my memory still:
8    "A boy's will is the wind's will,
9And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts."
10I can see the shadowy lines of its trees,
11    And catch, in sudden gleams,
12The sheen of the far-surrounding seas,
14    Of all my boyish dreams.
15        And the burden of that old song,
16        It murmurs and whispers still:
17    "A boy's will is the wind's will,
18And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts."
19I remember the black wharves and the slips,
20    And the sea-tides tossing free;
21And Spanish sailors with bearded lips,
22And the beauty and mystery of the ships,
23    And the magic of the sea.
24        And the voice of that wayward song
25        Is singing and saying still:
26    "A boy's will is the wind's will,
27And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts."
28I remember the bulwarks by the shore,
29    And the fort upon the hill;
30The sunrise gun, with its hollow roar,
31The drum-beat repeated o'er and o'er,
32    And the bugle wild and shrill.
33        And the music of that old song
34        Throbs in my memory still:
35    "A boy's will is the wind's will,
36And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts."
38    How it thundered o'er the tide!
39And the dead captains, as they lay
40In their graves, o'erlooking the tranquil bay,
41    Where they in battle died.
42        And the sound of that mournful song
43        Goes through me with a thrill:
44    "A boy's will is the wind's will,
45And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts."
46I can see the breezy dome of groves,
48And the friendships old and the early loves
49Come back with a Sabbath sound, as of doves
50    In quiet neighborhoods.
51        And the verse of that sweet old song,
52        It flutters and murmurs still:
53    "A boy's will is the wind's will,
54And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts."
55I remember the gleams and glooms that dart
56    Across the school-boy's brain;
57The song and the silence in the heart,
58That in part are prophecies, and in part
59    Are longings wild and vain.
60        And the voice of that fitful song
61        Sings on, and is never still:
62    "A boy's will is the wind's will,
63And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts."
64There are things of which I may not speak;
65    There are dreams that cannot die;
66There are thoughts that make the strong heart weak,
67And bring a pallor into the cheek,
68    And a mist before the eye.
69        And the words of that fatal song
70        Come over me like a chill:
71    "A boy's will is the wind's will,
72And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts."
73Strange to me now are the forms I meet
74    When I visit the dear old town;
75But the native air is pure and sweet,
76And the trees that o'ershadow each well-known street,
77    As they balance up and down,
78        Are singing the beautiful song,
79        Are sighing and whispering still:
80    "A boy's will is the wind's will,
81And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts."
82And Deering's Woods are fresh and fair,
83    And with joy that is almost pain
84My heart goes back to wander there,
85And among the dreams of the days that were,
86    I find my lost youth again.
87        And the strange and beautiful song,
88        The groves are repeating it still:
89    "A boy's will is the wind's will,
90And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts."

Notes

1] Portland, Maine. Today the Wadsworth-Longfellow House, at 485 Congress St., is a museum about the life and times of the poet and his family. "During one of his visits to Portland in 1846, Mr. Longfellow relates how he took a long walk round Munjoy's hill and down to the old Fort Lawrence. `I lay down,' he says, `in one of the embrasures and listened to the lashing, lulling sound of the sea just at my feet. It was a beautiful afternoon, and the harbor was full of white sails, coming and departing. Meditated a poem on the Old Fort.' It does not appear that any poem was then written, but the theme remained, and in 1855, when in Cambridge, he notes in his diary, March 29: `A day of pain; cowering over the fire. At night, as I lie in bed, a poem comes into my mind, -- a memory of Portand, -- my native town, the city by the sea.
Siede la terra dove nato fui
Sulla marina. [Dante, Inferno, V, 97-8.]

March 30. Wrote the poem; and am rather pleased with it, and with the bringing in of the two lines of the old Lapland song,
A boy's will is the wind's will,
And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts."
Evidently from John Scheffer's History of Lapland (1674): "A Youth's desire is the desire of the wind, / All his essaies / Are long delaies, / No issue can they find." In 1913 Robert Frost called his first volume of poems A Boy's Will in an allusion to Longfellow's lines. Back to Line
2] Lines that Longfellow in his diary likens to ones in Dante's Inferno V.97-98. Back to Line
13] Hesperides: mythical garden at the very western limits of the world in which golden apples grew. The earth, Ge, offered them to Hera when she married Zeus. Back to Line
37] sea-fight: in 1813, between the US ship Enterprise and the British ship Boxer, near Portland harbour, an engagement that led to the deaths of both captains, who were buried side-by-side in Munjoy Hill cemetery. Back to Line
47] Deering's Woods: wooded parkland in modern Portland, Maine, known today as Deering Oaks (note courtesy of Judith Corbin Smith). Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
1858
Publication Notes: 
In Birds of Passage
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
RPO 1998.
Rhyme: