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Many an airy castle, which we builded in our youth, was a mere vagary of the imagination “a mere fiction of the fancy” created out of nothing, and to nothing soon returned.

What does “Many an airy castle” mean here? Thanks in advance.

  • Also note that builded is incorrect here; it should say built. – WendiKidd Oct 19 '13 at 18:27
  • @WendiKidd Into the 17th century Great Mother Language had not yet decided whether built or builded should be the correct form (David Crystal has a blogpost on this), and some Victorian writers (the source of this passage was published in 1897) were fond of employing builded to lend their work a poetic or scriptural air. – StoneyB Oct 19 '13 at 20:08
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In this context, airy castle is a quirkily-phrased reference to...

castles in the air - plans that have very little chance of happening.

The usage many an X has been covered before on ELL (it's just a poetic/dated variant of many Xs), so in total the excerpt is simply a roundabout way of saying...

Many fanciful ideas we had in our youth had no basis in reality, and were soon discarded.

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