I need an interpretation of "When youth had led me half the race" by Henry Howard.

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accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It is interesting to note that the title that Henry Howard gave this poem was "The Description of the Restless State of a Lover." This of course directly pertains to the meaning of this poem, as the poem itself captures the insights of a young man who has realised that he has wasted his youth in pursuing love instead of devoting his time and energies to more useful and productive objects. Note the way that the second stanza picks up on this theme, as when he looks back to see from where he had come from, he reflects on how he has wasted his life:

And then I saw how my desire
By guiding ill had led the way :
Mine eyen, to greedy of their hire,
Had made me lose a better prey.

Pursuing the object of his affections, the speaker is able to realise, has "renewed" the "hidden wound within my breast" and "opprest" the fruits that should otherwise have come to fruition. However, the final two stanzas of the poem indicate that the speaker has learnt to love moderately and in a healthy fashion instead of giving his all to his passions and wounding himself in the process. Note the final stanza and how it comments on the way that love has taught him to "paint all kinds of colours new":

And now the covert breast I claim,
That worshipp'd Cupid secretely ;
And nourished his sacred flame,
From whence no blazing sparks do fly.

The fact that worshiping Cupid, the god of love, no longer involves "blazing sparks" flying out indicates the moderation of the speaker and the way that from now on he will love wisely and discriminately, in a way that will not wound himself.

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