In 1842, during the poem’s writing, Longfellow had taken time off to take a trip to Europe in favor of his health. He was in his mid-thirties and did indeed spend time in Germany during this trip. The title of this sonnet is also from the opening line of The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri, which Longfellow had translated. The translated line means, “In the middle of the journey of our life, I found myself in a dark wood with the right road lost.” This sonnet is about a worried, “midlife crisis” feeling the speaker is having. He feels as though he has not accomplished what he had hoped by this point in his life, and he is feeling somewhat regretful. However, he sees that he cannot change the past, and though he is as close to death as he has ever been before, the subject itself is still far away, and there is still more for him to accomplish in life.
Bibliography and Further Reading Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, The Poetry Foundation