Student Question

Why does the author use quotations in the second stanza of "My Lost Youth"?

Quick answer:

The author uses quotation marks in the second stanza of My Lost Youth” because he's quoting the words of a song. These words are repeated at the end of each stanza as they reinforce the importance of the speaker's childhood importance.

Expert Answers

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At the end of each stanza of “My Lost Youth,” we see the two-line refrain

A boy's will is the wind's will,
And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts.

These words are in quotation marks because they come from a song, a Lapland song, as the speaker tells us in the opening stanza. They haunt his memories as he thinks back to those long lost days of youth. When he was a boy, his will was like that of the wind in that it was prone to sudden changes. As with all boys of that age, he was immature, and his ambitions and desires were not yet fully formed.

The second line from the song refers to the dream-like quality of youthful thoughts. Thoughts we have in childhood tend to be long, just like dreams, as they are so often steeped in fantasy generated by an over-active imagination. As the speaker thinks back to his childhood, he cannot help but meditate on the meaning of these words and what they convey to him.

Growing up in Portland, Maine, the speaker was something of a dreamer, enchanted as he was by the “fort upon the hill” and “the magic of the sea.” These were the “long, long thoughts” that marked his childhood years and which come flooding back today as he walks the “pleasant streets of that dear old town.”

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