My Lost Youth

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow - 1807-1882
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 black wharves and the slips,  
  And the sea-tides tossing free;            
And the Spanish sailors with bearded lips,  
And the beauty and mystery of the ships,  
  And the magic of the sea.  
    And the voice of that wayward song  
    Is singing and saying still:            
    'A boy's will is the wind's will,  
And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts.'  
  
I remember the bulwarks by the shore,  
  And the fort upon the hill;  
The sunrise gun, with its hollow roar,            
The drum-beat repeated o'er and o'er,  
  And the bugle wild and shrill.  
    And the music of that old song  
    Throbs in my memory still:  
    'A boy's will is the wind's will,            
And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts.'  
  
I remember the sea-fight far away,  
  How it thundered o'er the tide!  
And the dead captains, as they lay  
In their graves, o'erlooking the tranquil bay            
  Where they in battle died.  
    And the sound of that mournful song  
    Goes through me with a thrill:  
    'A boy's will is the wind's will,  
And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts.'            
  
I can see the breezy dome of groves,  
  The shadows of Deering's Woods;  
And the friendship old and the early loves  
Come back with a Sabbath sound, as of doves  
  In quiet neighborhoods.            
    And the verse of that sweet old song,  
    It flutters and murmurs 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.'  
  
Strange to me now are the forms I meet  
  When I visit the dear old town;  
But the native air is pure and sweet,            
And the trees that o'ershadow each well-known street,  
  As they balance up and down,  
    Are singing the beautiful song,  
    Are sighing and whispering still:  
    'A boy's will is the wind's will,            
And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts.'  
  
And Deering's Woods are fresh and fair,  
  And with joy that is almost pain  
My heart goes back to wander there,  
And among the dreams of the days that were,            
  I find my lost youth again.  
    And the strange and beautiful song,  
    The groves are repeating it still:  
    'A boy's will is the wind's will,  
And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts.'

More by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The Children's Hour

Between the dark and the daylight,
   When the night is beginning to lower,
Comes a pause in the day's occupations,
   That is known as the Children's Hour.

I hear in the chamber above me
   The patter of little feet,
The sound of a door that is opened,
   And voices soft and sweet.

From my study I see in the lamplight,
   Descending the broad hall stair,
Grave Alice, and laughing Allegra,
   And Edith with golden hair.

A whisper, and then a silence:
   Yet I know by their merry eyes
They are plotting and planning together
   To take me by surprise.

A sudden rush from the stairway,
   A sudden raid from the hall!
By three doors left unguarded
   They enter my castle wall!

They climb up into my turret
   O'er the arms and back of my chair;
If I try to escape, they surround me;
   They seem to be everywhere.

They almost devour me with kisses,
   Their arms about me entwine,
Till I think of the Bishop of Bingen
   In his Mouse-Tower on the Rhine!

Do you think, O blue-eyed banditti,
   Because you have scaled the wall,
Such an old mustache as I am
   Is not a match for you all!

I have you fast in my fortress,
   And will not let you depart,
But put you down into the dungeon
   In the round-tower of my heart.

And there will I keep you forever,
   Yes, forever and a day,
Till the walls shall crumble to ruin,
   And moulder in dust away!

Snow-Flakes

Out of the bosom of the Air,
    Out of the cloud-folds of her garments shaken,
Over the woodlands brown and bare,
    Over the harvest-fields forsaken,
      Silent, and soft, and slow
      Descends the snow.

Even as our cloudy fancies take
    Suddenly shape in some divine expression,
Even as the troubled heart doth make
In the white countenance confession,
      The troubled sky reveals
      The grief it feels.

This is the poem of the air,
    Slowly in silent syllables recorded;
This is the secret of despair,
    Long in its cloudy bosom hoarded,
      Now whispered and revealed
      To wood and field.

The Tide Rises, the Tide Falls

The tide rises, the tide falls,
The twilight darkens, the curlew calls;
Along the sea-sands damp and brown
The traveller hastens toward the town,
    And the tide rises, the tide falls.

Darkness settles on roofs and walls,
But the sea, the sea in darkness calls;
The little waves, with their soft, white hands,
Efface the footprints in the sands,
    And the tide rises, the tide falls.

The morning breaks; the steeds in their stalls
Stamp and neigh, as the hostler calls;
The day returns, but nevermore
Returns the traveller to the shore,
    And the tide rises, the tide falls.