Of a Certain Friendship

- 1898-1986

Odd how you entered my house quietly,
Quietly left again.
While you stayed you ate at my table,
Slept in my bed.
There was much sweetness,
Yet little was done, little said.
After you left there was pain,
Now there is no more pain.

But the door of a certain room in my house
Will be always shut.
Your fork, your plate, the glass you drank from,
The music you played,
Are in that room
With the pillow where last your head was laid.
And there is one place in my garden
Where it’s best that I set no foot.

I, Lover

I shall never have any fear of love, 
Not of its depth nor its uttermost height,
Its exquisite pain and its terrible delight.
I shall never have any fear of love.

I shall never hesitate to go down
Into the fastness of its abyss
Nor shrink from the cruelty of its awful kiss.
I shall never have any fear of love.

Never shall I dread love’s strength
Nor any pain it might give.
Through all the years I may live
I shall never have any fear of love.

I shall never draw back from love
Through fear of its vast pain
But build joy of it and count it again.
I shall never have any fear of love.

I shall never tremble nor flinch
From love’s moulding touch:
I have loved too terribly and too much
Ever to have any fear of love.

Youth Insatiate

If I have wished for skies unscarred by storm,
Shrunk from the grievous bitterness of things,
The days’ perplexities, the nights’ unrest,
The cruel, fruitless beating with clipped wings

Against the windows of the Infinite,
And, weary with the conflict’s puerile stress,
Cried out against it all, cried out for peace,
Even what peace the rotting dead possess,

May Life forgive me: I am stronger now,
The play bewilders, but I know my part;
And I have learned that Beauty is salt blood
Pain-wrung from the unconquerable heart.

Let there be laughter then, love’s wine and bread,
The many mouths of passion, their joys, their grief;
These are but soil and seed—for what grave growths?
I plant and wait, (and pray the time be brief!)

Lean wisdom this, to pause and taste and pause
Like a scared virgin who must stop for breath.
Take the cup simply, drain it to the lees;
Then, smiling, fling the empty cup to Death.

Disillusionment

The agonies of disillusionment are the growing-pains of Truth

Now I am done with ineffectual dreams,
Kindly play-toys of the unsure years,
And unencumbered, proud and free and light,
With even pulses and a lifting heart,
I mount the future’s twisting stairs.

A week ago I thought that I must die,
Or hang forever, bitter as frost-killed fruit,
Scarred and broken from the Tree of Life —
Because I suddenly came into my sight
And men walked as trees; and dreams went mute.

’T is no small thing, to lose a dear, sure world,
To stumble, desolate, through hideous space,
Down unfamiliar and unfriendly roads
That bruise your feet. And then to suddenly feel
A great light newly shining in your face.

Related Poems

Friendship After Love

After the fierce midsummer all ablaze
    Has burned itself to ashes, and expires
    In the intensity of its own fires,
There come the mellow, mild, St. Martin days
Crowned with the calm of peace, but sad with haze.
    So after Love has led us, till he tires
    Of his own throes, and torments, and desires,
Comes large-eyed friendship: with a restful gaze,
He beckons us to follow, and across
    Cool verdant vales we wander free from care.
    Is it a touch of frost lies in the air?
Why are we haunted with a sense of loss?
We do not wish the pain back, or the heat;
And yet, and yet, these days are incomplete.

On Friendship

And a youth said, Speak to us of Friendship.
    And he answered, saying:
    Your friend is your needs answered.
    He is your field which you sow with love and reap with thanksgiving.
    And he is your board and your fireside.
    For you come to him with your hunger, and you seek him for peace.

    When your friend speaks his mind you fear not the “nay” in your own mind, nor do you withhold the “ay.”
    And when he is silent your heart ceases not to listen to his heart;
    For without words, in friendship, all thoughts, all desires, all expectations are born and shared, with joy that is unacclaimed.
    When you part from your friend, you grieve not;
    For that which you love most in him may be clearer in his absence, as the mountain to the climber is clearer from the plain.
    And let there be no purpose in friendship save the deepening of the spirit.
    For love that seeks aught but the disclosure of its own mystery us not love but a net cast forth: and only the unprofitable is caught.

    And let your best be for your friend.
    If he must know the ebb of your tide, let him know its flood also.
    For what is your friend that you should seek him with hours to kill?
    Seek him always with hours to live.
    For it is his to fill your need but not your emptiness.
    And in the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures.
    For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.

Let It Be Forgotten

Let it be forgotten, as a flower is forgotten,
   Forgotten as a fire that once was singing gold,
Let it be forgotten for ever and ever,
   Time is a kind friend, he will make us old.
  
If anyone asks, say it was forgotten
   Long and long ago,
As a flower, as a fire, as a hushed footfall
   In a long forgotten snow.