Last Updated on July 1, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 253
Context: The poet reminisces about his birthplace (Portland, Maine) and meditates on his long-gone youth. He remembers the "islands that were the Hesperides/ Of all my boyish dreams," the wharves, "the sea-tides tossing free," the Spanish sailors, the mysterious ships, the magical sea. He thinks of the fort on the hill with its guns, drums, and bugles, and he recalls the sea battle he saw in 1813. Thoughts of the town remind him of "The friendships old and the early loves . . . the gleams and glooms that dart/ Across the schoolboy's brain;/ The song and the silence in the heart,/ That in part are prophecies, and in part/ Are longings wild and vain." These ineffable childhood dreams are immortal. The poet visits "the dear old town," and with a painful joy "My heart goes back to wander there,/ And among the dreams of the days that were,/ I find my lost youth again." Running through the poem is a refrain from a Lapland song which ends each stanza, a song which the poet calls "old," "wav-ward," "mournful," "sweet," "fitful," "fatal," and, finally, "strange and beautiful." At the beginning, the old song awakens the poet's bitter-sweet memories:
Often I think of the beautiful town
That is seated by the sea;
Often in thoughts go up and down
The pleasant streets of that dear old town,
And my youth comes back to me.
And a verse of 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."
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