Into My Own – A Boy’s Will. 1915.

One of my wishes is that those dark trees,
So old and firm they scarcely show the breeze,
Were not, as ’twere, the merest mask of gloom,
But stretched away unto the
edge of doom.
I should not be withheld but that some day
into their vastness I should steal away,
Fearless of ever finding open land,
or highway where the slow wheel pours the sand.
I do not see why I should e’er turn back,
Or those should not set forth upon my track
To overtake me, who should miss me here
And long to know if still I held them dear.
They would not find me changed from him they knew–
Only more sure of all I thought was true.

The title of the collection A Boy’s Will is taken from Longfellow’s My Lost Youth, where he wrote:

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

Dark mood

These certainly seem like long, long thoughts. A wistful poem. The first image – that of dark, firm trees that appear as a ‘mask of gloom’ and the image of the slow wheel pouring out sand set the mood – gloomy, dark and monotonous. Personal difficulties may have led to this pensive mood.

It is this world that he wishes to ‘steal’ away from (die) and never ‘turn back’ – have no regrets. Because it is a dull and monotonous life. And he has no fear of the life at the edge of doom. It almost sounds like a death wish. It can be an escape into ‘oneself’ as the title suggests. But he is not detached – he is thinking of loved ones although the mood remains gloomy till the end.

There is a positive turn by the end – his confidence in his own beliefs, his love. Even in the world yonder he would neither lose his love for those he holds dear nor change his beliefs.

While writing this, both ‘love’ and ‘beliefs’ may have meant the same for RF. He seems to be challenging those who love him to test his love for them. They might follow him or overtake – that is, die after or before him – but in the next world too they can be sure of his love.

Compared with Birches

Consider the contrast with the later poem Birches ( Mountain Interval, 1916).

I’d like to get away from earth awhile
And then come back to it and begin over.



….
… Earth’s the right place for love:
I don’t know where it’s likely to go better.

The death wish is quite evident in RF’s thoughts in Into my Own. He sees no reason to reconsider, to return:

I do not see why I should e’er turn back,

Whereas in Birches he’s almost afraid that his wish to go away from earth may be granted:

May no fate willfully misunderstand me
And half grant what I wish and snatch me away
Not to return.

You may also like to read more about Birches.

Escape

The predominant emotion in both poems is Escape. Escape into the world beyond. RF does not describe what promises the next world holds for him. All he wants is to get away from this world that ‘overtires’ him. While in the first poem the tree is the poet’s means to escape (remember, the tree is also a strong symbol of creativity), in the second, the tree assumes the catalyst for his thoughts of escape.

It’s impossible not to think of Keats’ Nightingale while reading these poems. Into my Own resonates of Keats’ Nightingale:

Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget
What thou among the leaves hast never known,
The weariness, the fever, and the fret
Here, where men sit and hear each other groan;
Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last gray hairs,
Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies;
Where but to think is to be full of sorrow
And leaden-eyed despairs,
Where Beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes,
Or new Love pine at them beyond to-morrow.



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