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The Atlantic Monthly/Volume 18/Number 110/A Friend

 

A FRIEND.

A friend!—It seems a simple boon to crave,—
An easy thing to have.
Yet our world differs somewhat from the days
Of the romancer's lays.
A friend? Why, all are friends in Christian lands.
We smile and clasp the hands
With merry fellows o'er cigars and wine.
We breakfast, walk, and dine
With social men and women. Yes, we are friends;—
And there the music ends!
No close heart-heats,—a cool sweet ice-cream feast,—
Mild thaws, to say the least;—
The faint, slant smile of winter afternoons;—
The inconstant moods of moons,
Sometimes too late, sometimes too early rising,—
But for a night sufficing,
Showing a half-face, clouded, shy, and null,—
Once in a month at full,—
Lending to-night what from the sun they borrow,
Quenched in his light to-morrow.
If thou'rt my friend, show me the life that sleeps
Down in thy spirit's deeps.
Give all thy heart, the thought within thy thought.
Nay, I've already caught
Its meaning in thine eyes, thy tones. What need
Of words? Flowers keep their seed.
I love thee ere thou tellest me "I love."
We both are raised above
The ball-room puppets with their varnished faces,
Whispering dead commonplaces,
Doing their best to dress their lifeless thought
In tinselled phrase worth naught;
Or at the best, throwing a passing spark
Like fire-flies in the dark;—
Not the continuous lamp-light of the soul,
Which, though the seasons roll
Without on tides of ever-varying winds,
The watcher never finds
Flickering in draughts, or dim for lack of oil.
There is a clime, a soil,
Where loves spring up twin-stemmed from mere chance seed
Dropped by a word, a deed.
As travellers toiling through the Alpine snow
See Italy below;—
Down glacier slopes and craggy cliffs and pines
Descend upon the vines,
And meet the welcoming South who half-way up
Lifts her o'erbrimming cup,—
So, blest is he, from peaks of human ice
Lit on this Paradise;—
Who 'mid the jar of tongues hears music sweet;—
Who in some foreign street
Thronged with cold eyes catches a hand, a glance,
That deifies his chance,
That turns the dreary city to a home,
The blank hotel to a dome
Of splendor, while the unsympathizing crowd
Seems with his light endowed.
Many there be who call themselves our friends.
But ah! if Heaven sends
One, only one, the fellow to our soul,
To make our half a whole,
Rich beyond price are we. The millionnaire
Without such boon is bare,
Bare to the skin,—a gilded tavern-sign
Creaking with fitful whine
Beneath chill winds, with none to look at him
Save as a label grim
To the good cheer and company within
His comfortable inn.

 

This work was published before January 1, 1924, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.