As a senior in high school, like many seniors in high school today, I was asked for a quote to place under my senior yearbook photo. I had forgotten what I had written until tonight when I read the poem, My Lost Youth, by Henry Wordsworth Longfellow.
At the age of 17, I couldn’t fully comprehend the meaning of Longfellow’s poem, My Lost Youth. But as I read the poem, there was one repetitive line that stood out more than the others. I felt a strong connection to it but at first I didn’t understand why. That night as I began to fall asleep, the reason came to me. My mother was losing a long battle against a slow growing, inoperable brain tumor. The loving memories of my childhood years would be all that I would have to hold on to as I traveled through my own life without her.
The line I chose to place under my senior photo from the poem, My Lost Youth, was…
And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts.
My quote is a line that was part of a verse Longfellow took from a Lapland song. I remember my friends asking me why I chose that line. I simply replied, “Because memories of my youth will always be with me.” Now that I am in my grandmother years, I might add the poem’s lines…
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.
Poem readings can be very personal. If you ask several people to read the same poem, they will most likely describe to you a different interpretation. Longfellow wrote My Lost Youth as a tribute to the home of his youthful years in Maine and to his own youthful years. Even though I was never a young boy nor lived in Portland, Maine, I could relate to the poem’s theme. If you can support your reasons for your personal interpretation of a poem and have it make sense, then it’s never wrong.