REVIEW POTPOURRI: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

One of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s finest poems is My Lost Youth, originally published in his 1858 volume, The Courtship of Miles Standish. Having been raised in Portland, the poet wrote some verses that evoked what must have been for him the then unspoiled beauty of the Pine Tree State’s city by the sea.

“Often I think of the beautiful town/That is seated by the sea;/Often in thought go up and down/The pleasant streets of that dear old town, /And my youth comes back to me./And a verse of a 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’….

Longfellow powerfully poeticizes certain geographic details of the city – the harbor; “the black wharves and the slips…sea tides tossing free….Spanish sailors with bearded lips…the beauty and mystery of the ships…magic of the sea.”

The poet then evokes his boyhood memories of the city’s wonderful Deering Oaks:

“I can see the breezy dome of groves,/The shadows of Deering’s Woods;/And the friendships old and the early loves/Come back with a Sabbath sound, as of doves/In quiet neighborhoods.”

Being also a realist even when being a outpouring romanticist, his ability to balance these sides of himself is one of his greatest strengths as a thinker in poetic form and he writes here:

“There are things of which I may not speak;/There are dreams that cannot die;/There are thoughts that make the strong heart weak,/And bring a pallor into the cheek,/And a mist before the eye.”
But Longfellow grandly concludes in a bittersweet wistful manner:

“And Deering’s Woods are fresh and fair,/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.”

The poem is included in the 1989 Maine Speaks anthology.

Two recent viewing experiences:

Christopher Walken

The 1997 Suicide Kings featured a cast in which the only actor familiar to me was Christopher Walken. He also gave the only decent performance as a Mafia kingpin who is kidnapped by a group of college age idiots and held for ransom.

The film was highly recommended by movie reviewers. I disagree, having found it, except for Walken, a bore.

Another viewing experience is the TV series Madmen, which ran for seven seasons on AMC from 2007 to 2014.

It is a skillfully produced period piece drama depicting the 1960s world of Madison Avenue advertising agencies and their constant high pressure work environments, complete with constantly fascinating period details and surroundings – the dialog, clothing, cars, city streets, constant cigarette smoking indoors and outdoors, suburban gossip, adulteries, very small screen TVs, department store interiors, etc.

The acting of the entire cast is superb; and yes, two performances stand out – those of one agency CEO and founder portrayed by the great Robert Morse (1931-2022) and January Jones who gives an eloquent nuanced characterization of the wife of one of the ad men. She conveys the harrowing emotions of a woman leading a life of quiet desperation.


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