What virtue, or what mental graceBut men unqualified and baseWill boast it their possession?Profusion apes the noble partOf liberality of heart,And dullness of discretion.If every polish'd gem we find,Illuminating heart or mind,Provoke to imitation;No wonder friendship does the same,That jewel of the purest flame,Or rather constellation.No knave but boldly will pretendThe requisites that form a friend,A real and a sound one;Nor any fool, he would deceive,But prove as ready to believe,And dream that he had found one.Candid, and generous, and just,Boys care but little whom they trust,An error soon corrected?For who but learns in riper yearsThat man, when smoothest he appears,Is most to be suspected?But here again a danger lies,Lest, having misapplied our eyes,And taken trash for treasure,We should unwarily concludeFriendship a false ideal good,A mere Utopian pleasure.An acquisition rather rareIs yet no subject of despair;Nor is it wise complaining,If, either on forbidden ground,Or where it was not to be found,We sought without attaining.No friendship will abide the test,That stands on sordid interest,Or mean self-love erected;Nor such as may awhile subsistBetween the sot and sensualist,For vicious ends connected.Who seek a friend should come dispos'dTo exhibit, in full bloom disclos'd,The graces and the beautiesThat form the character he seeks,For 'tis a union that bespeaksReciprocated duties.Mutual attention is implied,And equal truth on either side,And constantly supported;'Tis senseless arrogance to accuseAnother of sinister views,Our own as much distorted.But will sincerity suffice?It is indeed above all price,And must be made the basis;But every virtue of the soulMust constitute the charming whole,All shining in their places.A fretful temper will divideThe closest knot that may be tied,By ceaseless sharp corrosion;A temper passionate and fierceMay suddenly your joys disperseAt one immense explosion.In vain the talkative uniteIn hopes of permanent delight?The secret just committed,Forgetting its important weight,They drop through mere desire to prate,And by themselves outwitted.How bright soe'er the prospect seems,All thoughts of friendship are but dreams,If envy chance to creep in;An envious man, if you succeed,May prove a dangerous foe indeed,But not a friend worth keeping.As envy pines at good possess'd,So jealously looks forth distress'dOn good that seems approaching;And, if success his steps attend,Discerns a rival in a friend,And hates him for encroaching.Hence authors of illustrious name,Unless belied by common fame,Are sadly prone to quarrel,To deem the wit a friend displaysA tax upon their own just praise,And pluck each other's laurel.A man renown'd for reparteeWill seldom scruple to make freeWith friendship's finest feeling,Will thrust a dagger at your breast,And say he wounded you in jest,By way of balm for healing.Whoever keeps an open earFor tattlers will be sure to hearThe trumpet of contention;Aspersion is the babbler's trade,To listen is to lend him aid,And rush into dissension.A friendship that in frequent fitsOf controversial rage emitsThe sparks of disputation,Like hand-in-hand insurance-plates,Most unavoidably createsThe thought of conflagration.Some fickle creatures boast a soulTrue as a needle to the pole,Their humour yet so variousThey manifest their whole life throughThe needle's deviations too,Their love is so precarious.The great and small but rarely meetOn terms of amity complete;Plebeians must surrender,And yield so much to noble folk,It is combining fire with smoke,Obscurity with splendour.Some are so placid and serene(As Irish bogs are always green),They sleep secure from waking;And are indeed a bog, that bearsYour unparticipated caresUnmoved and without quaking.Courtier and patriot cannot mixTheir heterogeneous politicsWithout an effervescence,Like that of salts with lemon juice,Which does not yet like that produceA friendly coalescence.Religion should extinguish strife,And make a calm of human life;But friends that chance to differOn points which God has left at large,How freely will they meet and charge!No combatants are stiffer.To prove at last my main intentNeeds no expense of argument,No cutting and contrivingSeeking a real friend, we seemTo adopt the chemist's golden dream,With still less hope of thriving.Sometimes the fault is all our own,Some blemish in due time made knownBy trespass or omission;Sometimes occasion brings to lightOur friend's defect, long hid from sight,And even from suspicion.Then judge yourself, and prove your manAs circumspectly as you can,And, having made election,Beware no negligence of yours,Such as a friend but ill endures,Enfeeble his affection.That secrets are a sacred trust,That friends should be sincere and just,That constancy befits them,Are observations on the case,That savour much of commonplace,And all the world admits them.But 'tis not timber, lead, and stone,An architect requires aloneTo finish a fine buildingThe palace were but half complete,If he could possibly forgetThe carving and the gilding.The man that hails you Tom or Jack,And proves by thumps upon your backHow he esteems your merit,Is such a friend, that one had needBe very much his friend indeedTo pardon or to bear it.As similarity of mind,Or something not to be defined,First fixes our attention;So manners decent and polite,The same we practised at first sight,Must save it from declension.Some act upon this prudent plan,Say little, and hear all you can.Safe policy, but hatefulSo barren sands imbibe the shower,But render neither fruit nor flower,Unpleasant and ungrateful.The man I trust, if shy to me,Shall find me as reserved as he,No subterfuge or pleadingShall win my confidence again;I will by no means entertainA spy on my proceeding.These samples for, alas! at lastThese are but samples, and a tasteOf evils yet unmention'dMay prove the task a task indeed,In which 'tis much if we succeed,However well intention'd.Pursue the search, and you will findGood sense and knowledge of mankindTo be at least expedient,And, after summing all the rest,Religion ruling in the breastA principal ingredient.The noblest Friendship ever shownThe Saviour's history makes known,Though some have turn'd and turn'd it;And, whether being crazed or blind,Or seeking with a biass'd mind,Have not, it seems, discern'd it.O Friendship! if my soul foregoThy dear delights while here below,To mortify and grieve me,May I myself at last appearUnworthy, base, and insincere,Or may my friend deceive me!-William Cowper
I love the last three stanzas of this poem. Friendships I particularly think of at this time of year, are those that have run long and deep through time, and difficulties and joys of life. They are a blessing, a root of sorts, for our lives. Our kiddos are growing up, two sets of our sweetest and dearest family friends, had big new this season as one kiddo got engaged and one headed to the mission field. Oh my, my - how is it that life goes so fast, and truly what a dear delight it is to have sweet friends.
The noblest Friendship ever shown
The Saviour's history makes known,
Though some have turn'd and turn'd it;
And, whether being crazed or blind,
Or seeking with a biass'd mind,
Have not, it seems, discern'd it.
What a blessing it is to have friends to walk the through joys and sorrows. And of course, when friends are few, and aches of life weigh on our shoulders and in the lines of our faces
- our Saviour's love is all the more discernable to us.