Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series I/Volume I/Confessions/Book IV/Chapter 8
Chapter VIII.—That His Grief Ceased by Time, and the Consolation of Friends.
13. Times lose no time, nor do they idly roll through our senses. They work strange operations on the mind. Behold, they came and went from day to day, and by coming and going they disseminated in my mind other ideas and other remembrances, and by little and little patched me up again with the former kind of delights, unto which that sorrow of mine yielded. But yet there succeeded, not certainly other sorrows, yet the causes of other sorrows. For whence had that former sorrow so easily penetrated to the quick, but that I had poured out my soul upon the dust, in loving one who must die as if he were never to die? But what revived and refreshed me especially was the consolations of other friends, with whom I did love what instead of Thee I loved. And this was a monstrous fable and protracted lie, by whose adulterous contact our soul, which lay itching in our ears, was being polluted. But that fable would not die to me so oft as any of my friends died. There were other things in them which did more lay hold of my mind,—to discourse and jest with them; to indulge in an interchange of kindnesses; to read together pleasant books; together to trifle, and together to be earnest; to differ at times without ill-humour, as a man would do with his own self; and even by the infrequency of these differences to give zest to our more frequent consentings; sometimes teaching, sometimes being taught; longing for the absent with impatience, and welcoming the coming with joy. These and similar expressions, emanating from the hearts of those who loved and were beloved in return, by the countenance, the tongue, the eyes, and a thousand pleasing movements, were so much fuel to melt our souls together, and out of many to make but one.
- As Seneca has it: “Quod ratio non quit, sæpe sanabit mora” (Agam. 130).
- See iv. cc. 1, 10, 12, and vi. c. 16.
- “Friendship,” says Lord Bacon, in his essay thereon,—the sentiment being perhaps suggested by Cicero’s “Secundas res splendidiores facit amicitia et adversas partiens communicansque leviores” (De Amicit. 6),—“redoubleth joys, and cutteth griefs in halves.” Augustin appears to have been eminently open to influences of this kind. In his De Duab. Anim. con. Manich. (c. ix.) he tells us that friendship was one of the bonds that kept him in the ranks of the Manichæans; and here we find that, aided by time and weeping, it restored him in his great grief. See also v. sec. 19, and vi. sec 26, below.