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My Lost Youth: Longfellow's Portland, Then and Now

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Slopes of Munjoy Hill, Portland, 1840s

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Slopes of Munjoy Hill, Portland, 1840s / Maine Historical Society

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow kept extensive diaries. During a visit to Portland in 1846, he relates how he took a long walk round Munjoy's hill and went down to the old Fort Lawrence. He writes: "I lay down in one of the embrasures and listened to the lashing, lulling sound of the sea just at my feet. It was a beautiful afternoon, and the harbor was full of white sails, coming and departing. Meditated a poem on the Old Fort." However, it would not be until March 29, 1855 that he records:

"A day of pain; cowering over the fire. At night, as I lie in bed, a poem comes into my mind, -a memory of Portland, - my native town, the city by the sea.
"March 30. Wrote the poem; and am rather pleased with it, and with the bringing in of the two lines of the old Lapland song,
A boy's will is the wind's will,
And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts."


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