The world we met in, filled with fire,
Is filled with stranger ashes now.
The London of the war has gone
With storms of glass and plaster snow.
We met, supposing we might live
Less long than usual for the young.
Men died for duty then. How odd,
Unfashionable that sounds today.
Two soldiers met while drinking tea,
As might have done two mandarins
Called up to save the Southern Sung
At Nanking, with the Mongols near.
We must have talked of literature -
What else at that lost age? - and told
Each other stories of the old
And recent writers we had read.
You had to leave, and that was that:
In war such meetings came and went.
How many were not seen again.
Some lost in battle, some in life.
But we met more than only once.
Have met again these second times.
And still meet always, day by day,
While further wars have come and gone.
A world of books, of flowers, of art,
Aeternitas of laughter, joy;
Never to tire of one another
Provides a proto-heaven here.
I have a work on friendship which
Aristotle wrote - but we
Have never read it. Should we read
It now? I do not think we should.
For we have learnt about as much
On this as we can hope to learn.
What Aristotle has to say
No doubt would seem no more than true.
You stay the friend I met at tea
One wartime afternoon in spring.
And you, I know, see me the same.
What more could Aristotle do?