Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

The primary matter of “Legend” is the exposition of a mature man looking back to make a statement about a relationship of his youth in order to determine the lasting if not lingering effects. The poet expresses an intense desire for his return to this past relationship. At the same time, he explores its impact as a defining characteristic of his present identity.

The mature poet writing of a relationship from his youth knows that the way the relationship seemed then was not what he now considers it to be. Hence, there is the title and the use of the word “legend” in the last line of the poem. The love from his youth has, to a certain, insurmountable extent, made his love life, if not the essence of his being, what it is at the time the poem is being written—that is, in the “noon” of the poet’s life. The relationship has left the poet fixed forever as one who can explain himself and the meaning of his existence only in terms of what had happened in his youth. He had not merely permitted but actually willed that this love would become a lover for all seasons and years and lives, one whose memory now could provide an unquenchable “constant harmony” not evident during the actual relationship of his youth.

As indicated in the fourth stanza, to believe in a mirror is to believe in oneself and the reality of oneself. The lover as object has become the lover as subject; one who is different, at least in memory, has become one who...

(The entire section is 420 words.)