A Friend.

From: The Bird and the Bell with Other Poems (1875)
Author: Christopher Pearse Cranch
Published: Osgood and Company 1875 Boston


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 bands
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 one-typed faces,
Chatting stale commonplaces,
Or aiming to express a lifeless thought
In tinselled phrase, worth naught;
Or, at the best, throwing a passing spark
Like fireflies in the dark,—
Not the continuous lamplight 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;
Yet ah! if Heaven but sends
One, only one, so mated to our soul,
Ta 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.

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