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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. (Special to the American Press)<br>

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. (Special to the American Press)

Informer: Long-remembered poem written by Longfellow

Last Modified: Wednesday, September 04, 2013 9:49 AM

By Andrew Perzo / American Press

When I was a boy in seventh grade in the 1940s, our teacher made us read poetry. She made us memorize some of them.

One of them ended something like this: “A boy’s will is the wind’s will and the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts.” Who wrote that?

The lines come from “My Lost Youth,” a poem written in 1855 by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

In a journal entry dated March 29 of that year — about a week after he’d finished “The Song of Hiawatha” — Longfellow, suffering from neuralgia, writes: “A day of pain; cowering over the fire. At night, as I lie in bed, a poem comes into my mind, — a memory of Portland, my native town, the city by the sea.”

He then quotes lines from Dante’s “Inferno” (rendered here in English): “The land where I was born stands on the shore.”

On the following day he writes: “Wrote the poem; and am rather pleased with it, and with the bringing in of the two lines of the old Lapland song” — which are the words the reader remembers.

Some stanzas from the poem, which runs 90 lines:

Often I think of the beautiful town

That is seated by the sea;

Often in thought go up and down

The pleasant streets of that dear old town,

And my youth comes back to me.

And a verse of a Lapland song

Is haunting my memory still:

“A boy’s will is the wind’s will,

And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts.”

I can see the shadowy lines of its trees,

And catch, in sudden gleams,

The sheen of the far-surrounding seas,

And islands that were the Hesperides

Of all my boyish dreams.

And the burden of that old song,

It murmurs and whispers still:

“A boy’s will is the wind’s will,

And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts.” ...

I remember the gleams and glooms that dart

Across the school-boy’s brain;

The song and the silence in the heart,

That in part are prophecies, and in part

Are longings wild and vain.

And the voice of that fitful song

Sings on, and is never still:

“A boy’s will is the wind’s will,

And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts.”

There are things of which I may not speak;

There are dreams that cannot die;

There are thoughts that make the strong heart weak,

And bring a pallor into the cheek,

And a mist before the eye.

And the words of that fatal song

Come over me like a chill:

“A boy’s will is the wind’s will,

And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts.”

Online: www.bartleby.com.

• • •

The Informer answers questions from readers each Sunday, Monday and Wednesday. It is researched and written by Andrew Perzo, an American Press staff writer. To ask a question, call 494-4098, press 5 and leave voice mail, or email informer@americanpress.com

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