On Friendship        

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?