From The Wit and Humor of America, edited by Marshall P. Wilder, Volume IV, New York and London: Funk and Wagnalls and Company, 1911; pp. 604-623.
A COMPLAINT OF FRIENDS
BY GAIL HAMILTON
If things would not run into each other so, it would be a thousand times easier and a million times pleasanter to get on in the world. Let the sheepiness be set on one side and the goatiness on the other, and immediately you know where you are. It is not necessary to ask that there be any increase of the one or any diminution of the other, but only that each shall preëmpt its own territory and stay there. Milk is good, and water is good, but don’t set the milk-pail under the pump. Pleasure softens pain, but pain embitters pleasure; and who would not rather have his happiness concentrated into one memorable day, that shall gleam and glow through a lifetime, than have it spread out over a dozen comfortable, commonplace, humdrum forenoons and afternoons, each one as like the others as two peas in a pod? Since the law of compensation obtains, I suppose it is the best law for us; but if it had been left with me, I should have made the clever people rich and handsome, and left poverty and ugliness to the stupid people; because — don’t you see? — the stupid people won’t know they are ugly, and won’t care if they are poor, but the clever people will be hampered and tortured. I would have given the good wives to the good husbands, and made drunken men marry drunken women. Then there would have been one family exquisitely happy instead of two struggling against misery. I would have made the rose stem downy, and put all the thorns 605 on the thistles. I would have gouged out the jewel from the toad’s head, and given the peacock the nightingale’s voice, and not set everything so at half and half.
But that is the way it is. We find the world made to our hand. The wise men marry the foolish virgins, and the splendid virgins marry dolts, and matters in general are so mixed up, that the choice lies between nice things about spoiled, and vile things that are not so bad after all, and it is hard to tell sometimes which you like the best, or which you loathe least.
I expect to lose every friend I have in the world by the publication of this paper — except the dunces who are impaled in it. They will never read it, and if they do, will never suspect I mean them; while the sensible and true friends, who do me good and not evil all the days of their lives, will think I am driving at their noble hearts, and will at once fall off and leave me inconsolable. Still I am going to write it. You must open the safety-valve once in a while, even if the steam does whiz and shriek, or there will be an explosion, which is fatal, while the whizzing and shrieking are only disagreeable.
Doubtless friendship has its advantages and its pleasures; doubtless hostility has its isolations and its revenges; still, if called upon to choose once for all between friends and foes, I think, on the whole, I should cast my vote for the foes. Twenty enemies will not do you the mischief of one friend. Enemies you always know where to find. They are in fair and square perpetual hostility, and you keep your armor on and your sentinels posted; but with friends you are inveigled into a false security, and, before you know it, your honour, your modesty, your delicacy are scudding before the gales. Moreover, with your friend you can never make reprisals. If your enemy attacks you, you can always strike back and hit hard. 605 You are expected to defend yourself against him to the top of your bent. He is your legal opponent in honorable warfare. You can pour hot-shot into him with murderous vigor; and the more he writhes, the better you feel. In fact, it is rather refreshing to measure swords once in a while with such a one. You like to exert your power and keep yourself in practice. You do not rejoice so much in overcoming your enemy as in overcoming. If a marble statue could show fight you would just as soon fight it; but as it can not, you take something that can, and something, besides, that has had the temerity to attack you, and so has made a lawful target of itself. But against your friend your hands are tied. He has injured you. He has disgusted you. He has infuriated you. But it was most Christianly done. You can not hurl a thunderbolt, or pull a trigger, or lisp a syllable against those amiable monsters who, with tenderest fingers, are sticking pins all over you. So you shut fast the doors of your lips, and inwardly sigh for a good, stout, brawny, malignant foe, who, under any and every circumstance, will design you harm, and on whom you can lavish your lusty blows with a hearty will and a clear conscience.
Your enemy keeps clear of you. He neither grants nor claims favors. He awards you your rights — no more, no less, — and demands the same from you. Consequently there is no friction. Your friend, on the contrary, is continually getting himself tangled up with you “because he is your friend.” I have heard that Shelley was never better pleased than when his associates made free with his coats, boots, and hats for their own use, and that he appropriated their property in the same way. Shelley was a poet, and perhaps idealized his friends. He saw them, probably, in a state of pure intellect. I am not a poet; I look at people in the concrete. The most obvious 607 thing about my friends is their avoirdupois; and I prefer that they should wear their own cloaks and suffer me to wear mine. There is no neck in the world that I want my collar to span except my own. It is very exasperating to me to go to my bookcase and miss a book of which I am in immediate and pressing need, because an intimate friend has carried it off without asking leave, on the score of his intimacy. I have not, and do not wish to have, any alliance that shall abrogate the eighth commandment. A great mistake is lying round loose hereabouts, — a mistake fatal to many friendships that did run well. The common fallacy is that intimacy dispenses with the necessity of politeness. The truth is just the opposite of this. The more points of contact there are, the more danger of friction there is, and the more carefully should people guard against it. If you see a man only once a month, it is not of so vital importance that you do not trench on his rights, tastes, or whims. He can bear to be crossed or annoyed occasionally. If he does not have a very high regard for you, it is comparatively unimportant, because your paths are generally so diverse. But you and the man with whom you dine every day have it in your power to make each other exceedingly uncomfortable. A very little dropping will wear away rock, if it only keep at it. The thing that you would not think of, if it occurred only twice a year, becomes an intolerable burden when it happens twice a day. This is where husbands and wives run aground. They take too much for granted. If they would but see that they have something to gain, something to save, as well as something to enjoy, it would be better for them; but they proceed on the assumption that their love is an inexhaustible tank, and not a fountain depending for its supply on the stream that trickles into it. So, for every little annoying 608 habit, or weakness, or fault, they draw on the tank, without being careful to keep the supply open, till they awake one morning to find the pump dry, and, instead of love, at best, nothing but a cold habit of complacence. On the contrary, the more intimate friends become, whether married or unmarried, the more scrupulously should they strive to repress in themselves everything annoying, and to cherish both in themselves and each other everything pleasing. While each should draw on his love to neutralize the faults of his friend, it is suicidal to draw on his friend’s love to neutralize his own faults. Love should be cumulative, since it can not be stationary. If it does not increase, it decreases. Love, like confidence, is a plant of slow growth, and of most exotic fragility. It must be constantly and tenderly cherished. Every noxious and foreign element must be carefully removed from it. All sunshine, and sweet airs, and morning dews, and evening showers must breathe upon it perpetual fragrance, or it dies into a hideous and repulsive deformity, fit only to be cast out and trodden under foot of men, while, properly cultivated, it is a Tree of Life.
Your enemy keeps clear of you, not only in business, but in society. If circumstances thrust him into contact with you, he is curt and centrifugal. But your friend breaks in upon your “saintly solitude” with perfect equanimity. He never for a moment harbors a suspicion that he can intrude, “because he is your friend.” So he drops in on his way to the office to chat half an hour over the latest news. The half-hour isn’t much in itself. If it were after dinner, you wouldn’t mind it; but after breakfast every moment “runs into golden sands,” and the break in your time crashes a worse break in your temper. “Are you busy?” asks the considerate wretch, adding insult to injury. What can you do? Say yes, and wound 609 his self-love forever? But he has a wife and family. You respect their feelings, smile and smile, and are villain enough to be civil with your lips, and hide the poison of asps under your tongue, till you have a chance to relieve your o’ercharged heart by shaking your fist in impotent wrath at his retreating form. You will receive the reward of your hypocrisy, as you richly deserve, for ten to one he will drop in again when he comes back from his office, and arrest you wandering in Dreamland in the beautiful twilight. Delighted to find that you are neither reading nor writing, — the absurd dolt! as if a man weren’t at work unless he be wielding a sledge-hammer! — he will preach out, and prose out, and twaddle out another hour of your golden eventide, “because he is your friend.” You don’t care whether he is judge or jury, — whether he talks sense or nonsense; you don’t want him to talk at all. You don’t want him there anyway. You want to be alone. If you don’t, why are you sitting there in the deepening twilight? If you wanted him, couldn’t you send for him? Why don’t you go out into the drawing-room, where are music and lights, and gay people? What right have I to suppose, that, because you are not using your eyes, you are not using your brain? What right have I to set myself up as a judge of the value of your time, and so rob you of perhaps the most delicious hour in all your day, on pretense that it is of no use to you? — take a pound of flesh clean out of your heart, and trip on my smiling way as if I had not earned the gallows?
And what in Heaven’s name is the good of all this ceaseless talk? To what purpose are you wearied, exhausted, dragged out and out to the very extreme of tenuity? A sprightly badinage — a running fire of nonsense for half an hour, — a tramp over unfamiliar ground with 610 a familiar guide, — a discussion of something with somebody who knows all about it, or who, not knowing, wants to learn from you, — a pleasant interchange of commonplaces with a circle of friends around the fire, at such hours as you give to society: all this is not only tolerable, but agreeable, — often positively delightful; but to have an indifferent person, on no score but that of friendship, break into your sacred presence, and suck your blood through indefinite cycles of time, is an abomination. If he clatters on an indifferent subject, you can do well enough for fifteen minutes, buoyed up by the hope that he will presently have a fit, or be sent for, or come to some kind of an end. But when you gradually open to the conviction that vis inertiæ rules the hour, and the thing which has been is that which shall be, you wax listless; your chariot-wheels drive heavily; your end of the pole drags in the mud, and you speedily wallow in unmitigated disgust. If he broaches a subject on which you have a real and deep living interest, you shrink from unbosoming yourself to him. You feel that it would be sacrilege. He feels nothing of the sort. He treads over your heart-strings in his cowhide brogans, and does not see that they are not whip-cords. He pokes his gold-headed cane in among your treasures, blind to the fact that you are clutching both arms around them, that no gleam of flashing gold may reveal their whereabouts to him. You draw yourself up in your shell, projecting a monosyllabic claw occasionally as a sign of continued vitality; but the pachyderm does not withdraw, and you gradually lower into an indignation, — smothered, fierce, intense.
Why, why, WHY, will people inundate their unfortunate victims with such “weak, washy, everlasting floods?” Why will they haul everything out into the open day? 611 Why will they make the Holy of Holies common and unclean? Why will they be so ineffably stupid as not to see that there is that which speech profanes? Why will they lower their drag-nets into the unfathomable waters, in the vain attempt to bring up your pearls and gems, whose luster would pale to ashes in the garish light, whose only sparkle is in the deep sea-soundings?” Procul, O procul este, profani!
O, the matchless power of silence! There are words that concentrate in themselves the glory of a lifetime; but there is a silence that is more precious than they. Speech ripples over the surface of life, but silence sinks into its depths. Airy pleasantnesses bubble up in airy, pleasant words. Weak sorrows quaver out their shallow being, and are not. When the heart is cleft to its core, there is no speech nor language.
Do not now, Messrs. Bores, think to retrieve your character by coming into my home and sitting mute for two hours. Heaven forbid that your blood should be found on my skirts! but I believe I shall kill you, if you do. The only reason why I have not laid violent hands on you heretofore is that your vapid talk has operated as a wire to conduct my electricity to the receptive and kindly earth; but if you intrude upon my magnetisms without any such life-preserver, your future in this world is not worth a crossed sixpence. Your silence would break the reed that your talk but bruised. The only people with whom it is a joy to sit silent are the people with whom it is a joy to talk. Clear out!
Friendship plays the mischief in the false ideas of constancy which are generated and cherished in its name, if not by its agency. Your enemies are intense, but temporary. Time wears off the edge of hostility. It is the alembic in which offenses are dissolved into thin air, and 612 a calm indifference reigns in their stead. But your friends are expected to be a permanent arrangement. They are not only a sore evil, but of long continuance. Adhesiveness seems to be the head and front, the bones and the blood, of their creed. It is not the direction of the quality, but the quality itself, which they swear by. Only stick, it is no matter what you stick to. Fall out with a man, and you can kiss and be friends as soon as you like; the recording angel will set it down on the credit side of his books. Fall in, and you are expected to stay in, ad infinitum, ad nauseam. No matter what combination of laws got you there, there you are, and there you must stay, for better, for worse, till merciful death you do part, — or you are — “fickle.” You find a man entertaining for an hour, a week, a concert, a journey, and presto! you are saddled with him forever. What preposterous absurdity! Do but look at it calmly. You are thrown into contact with a person, and, as in duty bound, you proceed to fathom him: for every man is a possible revelation. In the deeps of his soul there may lie unknown worlds for you. Consequently you proceed at once to experiment on him. It takes a little while to get your tackle in order. Then the line begins to run off rapidly, and your eager soul cries out, “Ah! what depth! What perpetual calmness must be down below! What rest is here for all my tumult! What a grand, vast nature is this!” Surely, surely, you are on the high seas. Surely, you will not float serenely down the eternities! But by and by there is a kink. You find that, though the line runs off so fast, it does not go down, — it only floats out. A current has caught it and bears it on horizontally. It does not sink plumb. You have been deceived. Your grand Pacific Ocean is nothing but a shallow little brook, that you can ford all the year round if it does not utterly 613 dry up in the summer heats, when you want it most; or, at best, it is a fussy little tormenting river, that won’t and can’t sail a sloop. What are you going to do about it? You are going to wind up your lead and line, shoulder your birch canoe, as the old sea-kings used, and thrid the deep forests, and sail the purple hills, till you come to water again, when you will unroll your lead and line for another essay. Is that fickleness? What else can you do? Must you launch your bark on the unquiet stream, against whose pebbly bottom the keel continually grates and rasps your nerves — simply that your reputation suffer no detriment? Fickleness? There is no fickleness about it. You were trying an experiment which you had every right to try. As soon as you were satisfied, you stopped. If you had stopped sooner, you would have been unsatisfied. If you had stopped later, you would have been dissatisfied. It is a criminal contempt of the magnificent possibilities of life not to lay hold of “God’s occasions floating by.” It is an equally criminal perversion of them to cling tenaciously to what was the only simulacrum of an occasion. A man will toil many days and nights among the mountains to find an ingot of gold, which, found, he bears home with infinite pains and just rejoicing; but he would be a fool who should lade his mules with iron-pyrites to justify his labors, however severe.
Fickleness! what is it, that we make such an ado about it? And what is constancy, that it commands such usurious interest? The one is a foible only in its relations. The other is only thus a virtue. “Fickle as the winds” is our death-seal upon a man; but should we like our winds unfickle? Would a perpetual northeaster lay us open to perpetual gratitude? or is a soft south gale to be orisoned and vespered forevermore?614
I am tired of this eternal prating of devotion and constancy. It is senseless in itself and harmful in its tendencies. The dictate of reason is to treat men and women as we do oranges. Suck all the juice out and then let them go. Where is the good of keeping the peel and pulp-cells till they get old, dry, and mouldy? Let them go, and they will help feed the earth-worms and bugs and beetles who can hardly find existence a continued banquet, and fertilize the earth, which will have you give before you receive. Thus they will ultimately spring up in new and beautiful shapes. Clung to with constancy, they stain your knife and napkin, impart a bad odor to your dining-room, and degenerate into something that is neither pleasant to the eye nor good for food. I believe in a rotation of crops, morally and socially, as well as agriculturally. When you have taken the measure of a man, when you have sounded him and know that you can not wade in him more than ankle-deep, when you have got out of him all that he has to yield for your soul’s sustenance and strength, what is the next thing to be done? Obviously, pass him on; and turn you “to fresh woods and pastures new.” Do you work him an injury? By no means. Friends that are simply glued on, and don’t grow out of, are little worth. He has nothing more for you, nor you for him; but he may be rich in juices wherewithal to nourish the heart of another man, and their two lives, set together, may have an endosmose and exosmose whose result shall be richness of soil, grandeur of growth, beauty of foliage, and perfectness of fruit, while you and he would only have languished into aridity and a stunted crab-tree.
For my part, I desire to sweep off my old friends with the old year, and begin the new with a clean record. It is a measure absolutely necessary. The snake does not 615 put on his new skin over the old one. He sloughs off the first, before he dons the second. He would be a very clumsy serpent, if he did not. One can not have successive layers of friendships any more than the snake has successive layers of skins. One must adopt some system to guard against a congestion of the heart from plethora of loves. I go in for the much-abused, fair-weather, skin-deep, April-shower friends, — the friends who will drop off, if let alone, — who must be kept awake to be kept at all, — who will talk and laugh without you as long as it suits your respective humors and you are prosperous and happy, — the blessed butterfly-race, who flutter about your June mornings, and when the clouds lower, and the drops patter, and the rains descend, and the winds blow, will spread their gay wings and float gracefully away to sunny, southern lands, where the skies are yet blue and the breezes violet-scented. They are not only agreeable, but deeply wise. So long as a man keeps his streamer flying, his sails set, and his hull above water, it is pleasant to paddle alongside; but when the sails spit, the yards crack, and the keel goes staggering down, by all means paddle off. Why should you be submerged in his whirlpool? Will he drown any more easily because you are drowning with him? Lung is lung. He dies from want of air, not from want of sympathy. When a poor fellow sits down among the ashes, the best thing his friends can do is to stand afar off. Job bore the loss of property, children, health, with equanimity. Satan himself found his match there; and for all his buffeting, Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly. But Job’s three friends must needs make an appointment together to come and mourn with him and to comfort him, and after this Job opened his mouth, and cursed his day, — and no wonder.
Your friends have an intimate knowledge of you that 616 is astonishing to contemplate. It is not that they know your affairs, which he who runs may read, but they know you. From a bit of bone, Cuvier could predicate a whole animal, even to the hide and hair. Such moral naturalists are your dear five hundred friends. It seems to yourself that you are immeasurably reticent. You know, of a certainty, that you project only the smallest possible fragment of yourself. You yield your universality to the bond of common brotherhood; but your individualism — what it is that makes you you — withdraws itself naturally, involuntarily, inevitably into the background, — the dim distance which their eyes can not penetrate. But, from the fraction which you do project, they construct another you, call it by your name, and pass it around for the real, the actual you. You bristle with jest and laughter and wild whims, to keep them at a distance; and they fancy this to be your every-day equipment. They think your life holds constant carnival. It is astonishing what ideas spring up in the heads of sensible people. There are those who assume that a person can never have had any grief, unless somebody has died, or he has been disappointed in love, — not knowing that every avenue of joy lies open to the tramp of pain. They see the flashing coronet on the queen’s brow, and they infer a diamond woman, not recking of the human heart that throbs wildly out of sight. They see the foam-crest on the wave, and picture an Atlantic Ocean of froth, and not the solemn sea that stands below in eternal equipoise. You turn to them the luminous crescent of your life, and they call it the whole round globe; and so they love you with a love that is agate, not pearl, because what they love in you is something infinitely below the highest. They love you level: they have never scaled your heights nor fathomed your depths. And when they talk of you 617 as familiarly as if they had taken out your auricles and ventricles, and turned them inside out, and wrung them, and shaken them, — when they prate of your transparency and openness, the abandonment with which you draw aside the curtain and reveal the inmost thoughts of your heart, — you, who are to yourself a miracle and a mystery, you smile inwardly, and are content. They are on the wrong scent, and you may pursue your plans in peace. They are indiscriminate and satisfied. They do not know the relation of what appears to what is. If they chance to skirt along the coasts of your Purple Island, it will be only chance, and they will not know it. You may close your port-holes, lower your drawbridge, and make merry, for they will never come within gunshot of the “round tower of your heart.”
There is no such things as knowing a man intimately. Every soul is, for the greater part of its mortal life, isolated from every other. Whether it dwell in the Garden of Eden or the Desert of Sahara, it dwells alone. Not only do we jostle against the street crowd unknowing and unknown, but we go out and come in, we lie down and rise up, with strangers. Jupiter and Neptune sweep the heavens not more unfamiliar to us than the worlds that circle our own hearthstone. Day after day, and year after year a person moves by your side; he sits at the same table; he reads the same books; he kneels in the same church. You know every hair of his head, every trick of his lips, every tone of his voice; you can tell him far off by his gait. Without seeing him, you recognize his step, his knock, his laugh. “Know him? Yes, I have known him these twenty years.” No, you don’t know him. You know his gait, and hair, and voice. You know what preacher he hears, what ticket he voted, and what were his last year’s expenses; but you don’t know him. 618 He sits quietly in his chair, but he is in the temple. You speak to him; his soul comes out into the vestibule to answer you, and returns, — and the gates are shut; therein you can not enter. You were discussing the state of the country; but when you ceased, he opened a postern-gate, went down a bank, and launched on a sea over whose waters you have no boat to sail, no star to guide. You have loved and reverenced him. He has been your concrete of truth and nobleness. Unwittingly you touch a secret spring, and a Blue-Beard chamber stands revealed. You give no sign; you meet and part as usual; but a Dead Sea rolls between you two forevermore.
It must be so. Not even to the nearest and dearest can one unveil the secret place where his soul abideth, so that there shall be no more any winding ways or hidden chambers; but to your indifferent neighbor, what blind alleys, and deep caverns, and inaccessible mountains! To him who “touches the electric chain wherewith you’re darkly bound,” your soul sends back an answering thrill. One little window is opened, and there is short parley. Your ships speak each other now and then in welcome, though imperfect communication; but immediately you strike out again into the great, shoreless sea, over which you must sail forever alone. You may shrink from the far-reaching solitudes of your heart, but no other foot than yours can tread them, save those
“That, eighteen hundred years ago, were nailed,
For our advantage, to the bitter cross.”
Be thankful that it is so, — that only His eye sees whose hand formed. If we could look in, we should be appalled at the vision. The worlds that glide around us are mysteries too high for us. We can not attain to them. The naked soul is a sight too awful for man to look at 619 and live. There are individuals whose topography we would like to know a little better, and there is danger that we crash against each other while roaming around in the dark; but for all that, would we not have the constitution broken up. Somebody says, “In Heaven there will be no secrets,” which, it seems to me, would be intolerable. (If that were a revelation from the King of Heaven, of course I would not speak flippantly of it; but though towards Heaven we look with reverence and humble hope, I do not know that Tom, Dick and Harry’s notions of it have any special claim to our respect.) Such publicity would destroy all individuality, and undermine the foundations of society. Clairvoyance — if there be any such thing — always seemed to me a stupid impertinence. When people pay visits to me, I wish them to come to the front door, and ring the bell, and send up their names. I don’t wish them to climb in at the window, or creep through the pantry, or, worst of all, float through the key-hole, and catch me in undress. So I believe that in all worlds thoughts will be the subjects of volition, — more accurately expressed when expression is desired, but just as entirely suppressed when we will suppression.
After all, perhaps the chief trouble arises from a prevalent confusion of ideas as to what constitutes a man your friend. Friendship may stand for that peaceful complacence which you feel towards all well-behaved people who wear clean collars and use tolerable grammar. This is a very good meaning, if everybody will subscribe to it. But sundry of these well-behaved people will mistake your civility and complacence for a recognition of special affinity, and proceed at once to frame an alliance offensive and defensive while the sun and the moon shall endure. O, the barnacles that cling to your keel in such waters! The 620 inevitable result is, that they win your intense rancor. You would feel a genial kindliness toward them, if they would be satisfied with that; but they lay out to be your specialty. They infer your innocent little inch to be the standard-bearer of twenty ells, and goad you to frenzy. I mean you, you desperate little horror, who nearly dethroned my reason six years ago! I always meant to have my revenge, and here I impale you before the public. For three months, you fastened yourself upon me, and I could not shake you off. What availed it me, that you were an honest and excellent man? Did I not, twenty times a day, wish you had been a villain, who had insulted me, and I a Kentucky giant, that I might have the unspeakable satisfaction of knocking you down? But you added to your crimes virtue. Villainy had no part or lot in you. You were a member of a church, in good and regular standing; you had graduated with all the honors worth mentioning; you had not a sin, a vice, or a fault that I knew of; and you were so thoroughly good and repulsive that you were a great grief to me. Do you think, you dear, disinterested wretch, that I have forgotten how you were continually putting yourself to horrible inconveniences on my account? Do you think I am not now filled with remorse for the aversion that rooted itself ineradicably in my soul, and which now gloats over you, as you stand in the pillory where my own hands have fastened you? But can nature be crushed forever? Did I not ruin my nerves, and seriously injure my temper, by the overpowering pressure I laid upon them to keep them quiet when you were by? Could I not, by the sense of coming ill through all my quivering frame, presage your advent as exactly as the barometer heralds the approaching storm? Those three months of agony are little atoned for by this late vengeance; but go in peace!621
Mysterious are the ways of friendship. It is not a matter of reason or of choice, but of magnetisms. You can not always give the premises nor the argument, but the conclusion is a palpable and stubborn fact. Abana and Pharpar may be broad, and deep, and blue, and grand; but only in Jordan shall your soul wash and be clean. A thousand brooks are born of the sunshine and the mountains: very, very few are they whose flow can mingle with yours, and not disturb, but only deepen and broaden the current.
Your friend! Who shall describe him, or worthily paint what he is to you? No merchant, nor lawyer, nor farmer, nor statesman claim your suffrage, but a kingly soul. He comes to you from God, — a prophet, a seer, a revealer. He has a clear vision. His love is reverence. He goes into the penetralia of your life, — not presumptuously, but with uncovered head, unsandaled feet, and pours libations at the innermost shrine. His incense is grateful. For him the sunlight brightens, the skies grow rosy, and all the days are Junes. Wrapped in his love, you float in a delicious rest, rocked in the bosom of purple, scented waves. Nameless melodies sing themselves through your heart. A golden glow suffices your atmosphere. A vague, fine ecstasy thrills to the sources of life, and earth lays hold on Heaven. Such friendship is worship. It elevates the most trifling services into rites. The humblest offices are sanctified. All things are baptized into a new name. Duty is lost in joy. Care veils itself in caresses. Drudgery becomes delight. There is no longer anything menial, small, or servile. All is transformed
“Into something rich and strange.”
The homely household-ways lead through beds of spices 622 and orchards of pomegranates. The daily toil among your parsnips and carrots is plucking May violets with the dew upon them to meet the eyes you love upon their first awaking. In the burden and heat of the day you hear the rustling of summer showers and the whispering of summer winds. Everything is lifted up from the plane of labor to the plane of love, and a glory spans your life. With your friend, speech and silence are one; for a communion mysterious and intangible reaches across from heart to heart. The many dig and delve in your nature with fruitless toil to find the spring of living water: he only raises his wand, and, obedient to the hidden power, it bends at once to your secret. Your friendship, though independent of language, gives to it life and light. The question is an endearment. You are quiet because your heart is over-full. You talk because it is pleasant, not because you have anything to say. You weary of terms that are already love-laden, and you go out into the highways and hedges, and gather up the rough, wild, wilful words, heavy with the hatreds of men, and fill them to the brim with honey-dew. All things great and small, grand or humble, you press into your service, force them to do soldier’s duty, and your banner over them is love.
With such a friendship, presence alone is happiness, nor is absence wholly void, — for memories, and hopes, and pleasing fancies, sparkle through the hours, and you know the sunshine will come back.
For such friendship one is grateful. No matter that it comes unsought, and comes not for the seeking. You do not discuss the reasonableness of your gratitude. You only know that your whole being bows with humility and utter thankfulness to him who thus crowns you monarch of all realms.623
And the kingdom is everlasting. A weak love dies weakly with the occasion that gave it birth; but such friendship is born of the gods, and immortal. Clouds and darkness may sweep around it, but within the cloud the glory lives undimmed. Death has no power over it. Time can not diminish, nor even dishonor annul it. Its direction may have been earthly, but itself is divine. You go back into your solitudes: all is silent as aforetime, but you can not forget that a Voice once resounded there. A Presence filled the valleys and gilded the mountain-tops, — breathed upon the plains, and they sprang up in lilies and roses, — flashed upon the waters, and they flowed to spheral melody, — swept through the forests, and they, too, trembled into song. And though now the warmth has faded out, though the ruddy tints and amber clearness have paled to ashen hues, though the murmuring melodies are dead, and forest, vale, and hill look hard and angular in the sharp air, you know that it is not death. The fire is unquenched beneath. You go your way not disconsolate. There needs but the Victorious Voice. At the touch of the prince’s lips, life shall rise again and be perfected forevermore.