|Iolaus - Anthology of Friendship|
|The Edward Carpenter Archive|
by Simon Dawson
Forward to Iolaus - Additions 
WITH the Renaissance, and the impetus it gave at that time to the study of Greek and Roman models, the exclusive domination of Christianity and the Church was broken. A literature of friendship along classic lines began to spring up. Montaigne (b. 1533) was saturated with classic learning. His essays were doubtless largely formed upon the model of Plutarch. His friendship with Stephen de la Boetie was evidently of a romantic and absorbing character. It is referred to in the following passage by William Hazlitt; and the description of it occupies a large part of Montaigne's Essay on Friendship.
"The most important event of his counsellor's life at Bordeaux was the friendship which he there formed with Stephen de la Boetie, an affection which makes a streak of light in modern biography almost as beautiful as that left us by Lord Brook and Sir Philip Sydney. Our essayist and his friend esteemed, before they saw, each other. La Boetie had written a little work [$] in which Montaigne recognized sentiments congenial with his own, and which indeed bespeak a soul formed in the mould of classic times. Of Montaigne, le Boetie had also heard accounts, which made him eager to behold him, and at length they met at a large entertainment given by one of the magistrates of Bordeaux. They saw and loved, and were thenceforward all in all to each other. The picture that Montaigne in his essays draws of this friendship is in the highest degree beautiful and touching; nor does la Boetie's idea of what is due to this sacred bond betwixt soul and soul fall far short of the grand perception which filled the exalted mind of his friend. . . . . . Montaigne married at the age of 33, but as he informs us, not of his own wish or choice. 'Might I have had my wish,' says he, 'I would not have married Wisdom herself if she would have had me."
The following is from Montaigne's Essay, bk. I, ch. XXVII:-.
"As to marriage, besides that it is a covenant, the making of which is only free, but the continuance in it forced and compelled, having another dependence than that of our own free will, and a bargain moreover commonly contracted to other ends, there happen a thousand intricacies in it to unravel, enough to break the thread, and to divert the current, of a lively affection: whereas friendship has no manner of business or traffic with anything but itself. . . . . . For the rest, what we commonly call friends and friendships are nothing but an acquaintance and connection, contracted either by accident or upon some design, by means of which there happens some little intercourse betwixt our souls: but, in the friendship I speak of, they mingle and melt into one piece, with so universal a mixture that there is left no more sign of the seam by which they were first conjoined. If any one should importune me to give a reason why I loved him [Stephen de la Boetie] I feel it could no otherwise be expressed than by making answer, 'Because it was he; because it was I.' There is, beyond what I am able to say, I know not what inexplicable and inevitable power that brought on this union. We sought one another long before we met, and from the characters we heard of one another, which wrought more upon our affections than in reason mere reports should do, and, as I think, by some secret appointment of heaven; we embraced each other in our names, and at our first meeting, which was accidentally at a great city entertainment, we found ourselves so mutually pleased with one another - we became at once mutually so endeared - that thenceforward nothing was so near to us as one another. "Common friendships will admit of division, one may love the beauty of this, the good humorof that person, the liberality of a third, the paternal affection of a fourth, the fraternal love of a fifth, and so on. But this friendship that possesses the whole soul, and there rules and sways with an absolute sovereignty, can admit of no rival. . . . . .
PHILIP SIDNEY, born 1554, was remarkable for his strong personal attachments. Chief among his allies were his school-mate and distant relative, Fulke Greville (born in the same year as himself), and his college friend Edward Dyer (also about his own age). He wrote youthful verses to both of them. The following, according to the fashion of the age, are in the form of an invocation to the pastoral god Pan:-
"Only for my two loves' sake,
An interesting friendship existed also between Sidney and the well-known French Protestant, Hubert Languet - many years his senior - whose conversation and correspondence helped much in the formation of Sidney's character. These two had shared together the perils of the massacre of S. Bartholomew, and had both escaped from France across the Rhine to Germany, where they lived in close intimacy at Frankfort for a length of time; and after this a warm friendship and steady correspondence - varied by occasional meetings - continued between the two until Languet's death. Languet had been Professor of Civil Law at Padua, and from 1550 forwards was recognized as one of the leading political agents of the Protestant Powers.
"The elder man immediately discerned in Sidney a youth of no common quality, and the attachment he conceived for him savored of romance. We possess a long series of Latin letters from Languet to his friend, which breathe the tenderest spirit of affection, mingled with wise counsel and ever watchful thought for the young man's higher interests. . . . There must have been something inexplicably attractive in his [Sidney's] person and his genius at this time; for the tone of Languet's correspondence can only be matched by that of Shakespeare in the sonnets written for his unknown friend."
Of this relation Fox Bourne says:-
"No love-oppressed youth can write with more earnest passion and more fond solicitude, or can be troubled with more frequent fears and more causeless jealousies, than Languet, at this time 55 years old, shows in his letters to Sidney, now 19."
IT may be appropriate here to introduce two or three sonnets from Michel Angelo (b. 1475). Michel Angelo, one of the greatest, perhaps the greatest, artist of the Italian Renaissance, was deeply imbued with the Greek spirit. His conception of Love was close along the line of Plato's. For him the body was the symbol, the expression, the dwelling place of some divine beauty. The body may be loved, but it should only be loved as a symbol, not for itself. Diotima in the Symposium has said that in our mortal loves we first come to recognize (dimly) the divine form of beauty which is Eternal. Maximus Tyrius (Dissert. xxvi. 8) commenting on this, confirms it, saying that nowhere else but in the human form, "the loveliest and most intelligent of body creatures," does the light of divine beauty shine so clear. Michel Angelo carried on the conception, gave it noble expression, and held to it firmly in the midst of a society which was certainly willing enough to love the body (or try to love it) merely for its own sake. And Giordano Bruno (b. 1550) as a later date wrote as follows:-
"All the loves - if they be heroic and not purely animal, or what is called natural, and slaves to generation as instruments in some way of nature - have for object the divinity, and tend towards divine beauty, which first is communicated to, and shines in, souls, and from them or rather through them is communicated to bodies; whence it is that well-ordered affection loves the body or corporeal beauty, insomuch as it is an indication of beauty of spirit."
THE labours of Von Scheffler and others have now pretty conclusively established that the love-poems of Michel Angelo were for the most part written to male friends - though this fact was disguised by the pious frauds of his nephew, who edited them in the first instance. Following are three of his sonnets, translated by J. A. Symonds. It will be seen that the last line of the first contains a play on the name of his friend:
RICHARD BARNFIELD, one of the Elizabethan singers (b. 1574) wrote a long poem, dedicated to "The Ladie Penelope Rich" and entitled "The Affectionate Shepheard," which he describes as "an imitation of Virgil in the 2nd Eclogue, of Alexis." I quote the first two Stanzas:-
These stanzas, and the following three sonnets (also by Barnfield) from a series addressed to a youth, give a fair sample of a considerable class of Elizabethan verses, in which classic conceits were mingled with a certain amount of real feeling:-
FRANCIS BACON'S essay Of Friendship is known to everybody. Notwithstanding the somewhat cold and pragmatic style and genius of the author, the subject seems to inspire him with a certain enthusiasm; and some good things are said.
"But we may go farther and affirm most truly that it is a mere and miserable solitude to want true friends, without which the world is but a wilderness; and even in this scene also of solitude, whosoever in the frame of his nature and affections is unfit for friendship, he taketh it of the beast, and not from humanity. A principal fruit of friendship is the ease and discharge of the fulness of the heart, which passions of all kinds do cause and induce. We know diseases of stoppings and suffocations are the most dangerous in the body; and it is not much otherwise in the mind: you may take sarza to open the liver, steel to open the spleen, flower of sulphur for the lungs, castoreum for the brain; but no receipt openeth the heart but a true friend, to whom you may impart griefs, joys, fears, hopes, suspicions, counsels, and whatsoever lieth upon the heart to oppress it, in a kind of civil shrift or confession. . . . .
SHAKESPEARE'S sonnets have been much discussed, and surprise and even doubt have been expressed as to their having been addressed (the first 126 of them) to a man friend; but no one who reads them with open mind can well doubt this conclusion; nor be surprised at it, who knows anything of Elizabethan life and literature.
"Were it not for the fact,"
says F. T. Furnivall,
"that many critics really deserving the name of Shakespeare students, and not Shakespeare fools, have held the Sonnets to be merely dramatic, I could not have conceived that poems so intensely and evidently autobiographic and self-revealing, poems so one with the spirit and inner meaning of Shakespeare's growth and life, could ever have been conceived to be other than what they are - the records of his own loves and fears."
THAT Shakespeare, when the drama needed it, could fully and warmly enter into the devotion which one man may feel for another, as well as into tragedy which such devotion may entail, is shown in his Merchant of Venice by the figure of Antonio, over whom from the first line of the play ("In sooth I know not why I am so sad") there hangs a shadow of destiny. The following lines are from Act IV. Sc. 1:-
"Antonio: Commend me to your honourable wife:
We may also, in this connection, quote his Henry the Fifth (act iv. scene 6) for the deaths of the Duke of York and the Earl of Suffolk at the battle of Agincourt. Exeter, addressing Henry, says:-
"Suffolk first died; and York, all haggled over,
Shakespeare, with his generous many-sided nature was, as the Sonnets seem to show, and as we should expect, capable of friendship, passionate friendship, towards both men and women. Perhaps this marks the highest reach of temperament. That there are cases in which devotion to a manfriend altogether replaces the love of the opposite sex is curiously shown by the following extract from Sir Thomas Browne:-
"I never yet cast a true affection on a woman; but I have loved my friend as I do virtue, my soul, my God. . . . . I love my friend before myself, and yet methinks I do not love him enough: some few months hence my multiplied affection will make me believe I have not loved him at all. When I am from him, I am dead till I be with him; when I am with him, I am not satisfied, but would be still nearer him. . . . . This noble affection falls not on vulgar and common constitutions, but on such as are marked for virtue: he that can love his friend with this noble ardor, will in a competent degree affect all."
WILLIAM PENN (b. 1644) the founder of Pennsylvania, and of Philadelphia, "The city of brotherly love " was a great believer in friendship. He says in his Fruits of Solitude:-
"A true friend unbosoms freely, advises justly, assists readily, adventures boldly, takes all patiently, defends courageously, and continues a friend unchangeably. . . . . . In short, choose a friend as thou dost a wife, till death separate you. . . . . . Death cannot kill what never dies. Nor can spirits ever be divided that love and live in the same Divine Principle; the Root and Record of their friendship. . . . . . This is the comfort of friends, that though they may be said to die, yet their friendship and society are, in the best sense, ever present, because immortal."
IT may be worth while here to insert two passages from Macaulay's History of England. The first deals with the remarkable intimacy between the Young Prince William of Orange and "a gentleman of his household" named Bentinck. William's escape from a malignant attack of small-pox
"was attributed partly to his own singular equanimity, and partly to the intrepid and indefatigable friendship of Bentinck. From the hands of Bentinck alone William took food and medicine - by Bentinck alone William was lifted from his bed and laid down in it. 'Whether Bentinck slept or not while I was ill,' said William to Temple with great tenderness, 'I know not. But this I know, that through sixteen days and nights, I never once called for anything but that Bentinck was instantly at my side.' Before the faithful servant had entirely performed this task, he had himself caught the contagion." (But he recovered.)
The second passage describes the devotion of the Princess Anne (daughter of James II and afterwards Queen Anne) to Lady Churchill - a devotion which had considerable influence on the political situation.
"It is a common observation that differences of taste, understanding, and disposition are no impediments to friendship, and that the closest intimacies often exist between minds, each of which supplies what is wanting in the other. Lady Churchill was loved and even worshipped by Anne. The princess could not live apart from the object of her romantic fondness. She married, and was a faithful and even an affectionate wife; but Prince George, a dull man, whose chief pleasures were derived from his dinner and his bottle, acquired over her no influence comparable to that exercised by her female friend, and soon gave himself up with stupid patience to the dominion of that vehement and commanding spirit by which his wife was governed."
THAT the tradition of Greek thought was not quite obliterated in England by the Puritan movement is shown by the writings of Archbishop Potter, who speaks with approval of friendship as followed among the Greeks,
"not only in private, but by the public allowance and encouragement of their laws; for they thought there could be no means more effectual to excite their youth to noble undertakings, nor any greater security to their commonwealths, than this generous passion."
He then quotes Athenaeus, saying that
"free commonwealths and all those states that consulted the advancement of their own honor, seem to have been unanimous in establishing laws to encourage and reward it."
The eighteenth century however in England, with its leaning towards formalism, was perhaps not favorable to the understanding of the Greek spirit. At any rate there is not much to show in that direction. In Germany the classical tradition in art was revived by Raphael Mengs, while Winckelmann, the art critic, showed himself one of the best interpreters of the Hellenic world that has ever lived. His letters, too, to his personal friends, breathe a spirit of the tenderest and most passionate devotion: "Friendship," he says, "without love is mere acquaintanceship." Winckelmann met, in 1762, in Rome, a young nobleman, Reinhold von Berg, to whom he became deeply attached:-
"Almost as first there sprang up, on Winckelmann's side, an attachment as romantic, emotional and passionate as love. In a letter to his friend he said, 'From the first moment an indescribable attraction towards you, excited by something more than form and feature, caused me to catch an echo of that harmony which passes human understanding and which is the music of the everlasting concord of things. . . . . I was aware of the deep consent of our spirits, the instant I saw you.' And in a later letter: 'No name by which I might call you would be sweet enough or sufficient for my love; all that I could say would be far too feeble to give utterance to my heart and soul. Truly friendship came from heaven and was not created by mere human impulses. . . . . My one friend, I love you more than any living thing, and time nor chance nor age can ever lessen this love."
GOETHE, that universal genius, has some excellent thoughts on this subject; speaking of Winckelmann he says:-
"The affinities of human beings in Antiquity give evidence of an important distinction between ancient and modern times. The relation to women, which among us has become so tender and full of meaning, hardly aspired in those days beyond the limits of vulgar necessity. The relation of parents to their children seems in some respects to have been tenderer. More to them than all other feelings was the friendship between persons of the male sex (though female friends, too, like Chloris and Thyia, were inseparable, even in Hades). In these cases of union between two youths, the passionate fulfilment of loving duties, the joys of inseparableness, the devotion of one for the other, the unavoided companionship in death, fill us with astonishment; indeed one feels oneself ashamed when poets, historians, philosophers and orators overwhelm us with Legends, anecdotes, sentiments and ideas, containing such meaning and feeling. Winckelmann felt himself born for a friendship of this kind - not only as capable of it, but in the highest degree in need of it; he became conscious of his true self only under the form of friendship."
Some of Goethe's poems further illustrate this subject. In the Saki Nameh of his West-Oestlichen Divan he has followed the style of a certain class of Persian love-songs. The following poem is from a Cupbearer to his Master:-
"In the market-place appearing
COUNT AUGUST VON PLATEN (born at Ansbach in Bavaria, 1796) was in respect of style one of the most finished and perfect of German poets. His nature (which was refined and self-controlled) led him from the first to form the most romantic attachments with men. He freely and openly expressed his feelings in his verses; of which a great number are practically love-poems addressed to his friends. They include a series of twenty-six sonnets to one of his friends, Karl Theodor German. Of these Raffalovich says (Uranisme, Lyons, 1896, p. 35):-
"These sonnets to Karl Theodor German are among the most beautiful in German literature. Platen in the sonnet surpasses all the German poets, including even Goethe. In them perfection of form, and poignancy or wealth of emotion are illustrated to perfection. The sentiment is similar to that of the sonnets of Shakespeare (with their personal note), and the form that of the Italian or French sonnet."
Platen, however, was unfortunate in his affairs of the heart, and there is a refrain of suffering in his poems which comes out characteristically in the following sonnet:
"Since pain is life and life is only pain,
One of Platen's sonnets deals with an incident, referred to in an earlier page, namely, the death of the poet Pindar in the theatre, in the arms of his young friend Theoxenos:
"Oh! when I die, would I might fade away
THE correspondence of Richard Wagner discloses the existence of a very warm friendship between him and Ludwig II, the young king of Bavaria. Ludwig as a young man appears to have been a very charming personality, good looking, engaging and sympathetic; every one was fond of him. Yet his tastes led him away from "society," into retirement, and the companionship of Nature and a few chosen friends - often of humble birth. Already at the age of fifteen he had heard Lohengrin, and silently vowed to know the composer. One of his first acts when he came to the throne was to send for Wagner; and from the moment of their meeting a personal intimacy sprang up between them, which in due course led to the establishment of the theatre at Bayreuth, and to the liberation of Wagner's genius to the world. Though the young king at a later time lost his reason - probably owing to his over-sensitive emotional nature - this does not detract from the service that he rendered to Music by his generous attachment. How Wagner viewed the matter may be gathered from Wagner's letters.
"He, the king, loves me, and with the deep feeling and glow of a first love; he perceives and knows everything about me, and understands me as my own soul. He wants me to stay with him always. . . . . I am to be free and my own master, not his music-conductor - only my very self and his friend."
[For letters from Ludwig to Wagner see Additions, infra]
IN these letters we see chiefly, of course, the passionate sentiments of which Ludwig was capable; but that Wagner fully understood the feeling and appreciated it may be gathered from various passages in his published writings - such as the following, in which he seeks to show how the devotion of comradeship became the chief formative influence of the Spartan State:-
"This beauteous naked man is the kernel of all Spartanhood; from genuine delight in the beauty of the most perfect human body - that of the male - arose that spirit of comradeship which pervades and shapes the whole economy of the Spartan State. This love of man to man, in its primitive purity, proclaims itself as the noblest and least selfish utterance of man's sense of beauty, for it teaches man to sink and merge his entire self in the object of his affection";
"The higher element of that love of man to man consisted even in this: that it excluded the motive of egoistic physicalism. Nevertheless it not only included a purely spiritual bond of friendship, but this spiritual friendship was the blossom and the crown of the physical friendship. The latter sprang directly from delight in the beauty, aye in the material bodily beauty of the beloved comrade; yet this delight was no egoistic yearning, but a thorough stepping out of self into unreserved sympathy with the comrade's joy in himself; involuntarily betrayed by his life-glad beauty-prompted bearing. This love, which had its basis in the noblest pleasures of both eye and soul - not like our modern postal correspondence of sober friendship, half business-like, half sentimental - was the Spartan's only tutoress of youth, the never-ageing instructress alike of boy and man, the ordainer of common feasts and valiant enterprises; nay the inspiring helpmeet on the battlefield. For this it was that knit the fellowship of love into battalions of war, and fore-wrote the tactics of death-daring, in rescue of the imperilled or vengeance for the slaughtered comrade, by the infrangible law of the soul's most natural necessity."
WE may close this record of celebrated Germans mans with the name of K. H. Ulrichs, a Hanoverian by birth, who occupied for a long time an official position in the revenue department at Vienna, and who became well known about 1866 though his writings on the subject of friendship. He gives, in his pamphlet Memnon, an account of the "story of his heart" in early years. In an apparently quite natural way, and independently of outer influences, his thoughts had from the very first been of friends of his own sex. At the age of 14, the picture of a Greek hero or god, a statue, seen in a book, woke in him the tenderest longings.
K. H. Ulrichs
"This picture (he says), put away from me, as it was, a hundred times, came again a hundred times before the eyes of my soul. But of course for the origin of my special temperament it is in no way responsible. It only woke up what was already slumbering there - a thing which might have been done equally well by something else."
From that time forward the boy worshipped with a kind of romantic devotion elder friends, young men in the prime of early manhood; and later still his writings threw a flood of light on the "urning" temperament - as he called it - of which he was himself so marked an example.
Some of Ulrich's verses are scattered among his prose writings:-
To his friend Eberhard
"And so farewell! perchance on Earth
"It was the day of our first meeting -
TO return to England. With the beginning of the 19th century we find two great poets, Byron and Shelley, both interested in and even writing in a romantic strain on the subject in question.
Byron's attachment, when at Cambridge, to Eddleston the chorister, a youth two years younger than himself, is well known. In a youthful letter to Miss Pigot he, Byron, speaks of it in enthusiastic terms:
"Trin. Coll., Camb., July 5th, 1807.
Eddleston gave Byron a cornelian (brooch-pin) which Byron prized very much, and is said to have kept all his life. He probably refers to it, and to the inequality of condition between him and Eddleston, in the following stanza from his poem, The Adieu, written about this time:-
"And thou, my friend, whose gentle love
THE Lady Eleanor Butler and Miss Sarah Ponsonby mentioned in the above letter were at that time living at Llangollen, in Wales, and were known as the "Ladies of Llangollen," their romantic attachment to each other having already become proverbial. When Miss Ponsonby was seventeen, and Lady E. Butler some twenty years older, they had run away from their respective and respectable homes in Ireland, and taking a cottage at Llangollen lived there, inseparable companions, for the rest of their lives. Letters and diaries of contemporary celebrities mention their romantic devotion. (The Duke of Wellington was among their visitors.) Lady Eleanor died in 1829, at the age of ninety; and Miss Ponsonby only survived her "beloved one" (as she always called her) by two years.
AS to the allusion to Nisus and Euryalus, Byron's paraphrase of the episode (from the 9th book of Virgil's AEneid) serves to show his interest in it:-
"Nisus, the guardian of the portal, stood,
[The two then carry out a daring raid on the enemy, in which Euryalus is slain. Nisus, coming to his rescue is - after performing prodigies of valor - slain too.]
"Thus Nisus all his fond affection proved -
[Website Editor's Note - See also Byron's "Death of Calmar and Orla: an Imitation of Ossian" in the Additions  Chapter.]
Byron's friendships, in fact, with young men were so marked that Moore in his Life and Letters of Lord Byron seems to have felt it necessary to mention and. to some extent, to explain them:-
"During his stay in Greece (in 1810) we find him forming one of those extraordinary friendships - if attachment to persons so inferior to himself can be called by that name - of which I have already mentioned two or three instances in his younger days, and in which the pride of being a protector and the pleasure of exciting gratitude seem to have contributed to his mind the chief, pervading charm. The person whom he now adopted in this manner, and from similar feelings to those which had inspired his early attachments to the cottage boy near Newstead and the young chorister at Cambridge, was a Greek youth, named Nicolo Giraud. the son. I believe, of a widow lady in whose house the artist Lusieri lodged. In this young man he seems to have taken the most lively and even brotherly interest."
SHELLEY, in his fragmentary Essay on Friendship - stated by his friend Hogg to have been written "not long before his death" says:-
"I remember forming an attachment of this kind at school. I cannot recall to my memory the precise epoch at which this took place; but I imagine it must have been at the age of eleven or twelve. The object of these sentiments was a boy about my own age, of a character eminently generous, brave and gentle, and the elements of human feeling seemed to have been, from his birth, genially compounded within him. There was a delicacy and a simplicity in his manners, inexpressibly attractive. It has never been my fortune to meet with him since my schoolboy days; but either I confound my present recollections with the delusions of past feelings, or he is now a source of honor and utility to every one around him. The tones of his voice were so soft and winning, that every word pierced into my heart; and their pathos was so deep that in listening to him the tears have involuntarily gushed from my eyes. Such was the being for whom I first experienced the sacred sentiments of friendship."
It may be noted that Hogg takes the reference as to himself!
WITH this passage we may compare the following from Leigh Hunt:-
"If I had reaped no other benefit from Christ Hospital, the school would be ever dear to me from the recollection of the friendships I formed in it, and of the first heavenly taste it gave me of that most spiritual of the affections. . . . . If ever I tasted a disembodied transport on earth, it was in those friendships which I entertained at school, before I dreamt of any maturer feeling. I shall never forget the impression it made on me. I loved my friend for his gentleness, his candor, his truth, his good repute, his freedom even from my own livelier manner, his calm and reasonable kindness. It was not any particular talent that attracted me to him, or anything striking whatsoever. I should say, in one word, it was his goodness. I doubt whether he ever had a conception of a tithe of the regard and respect I entertained for him; and I smile to think of the perplexity (though he never showed it) which he probably felt sometimes at my enthusiastic expressions; for I thought him a kind of angel. It is no exaggeration to say, that, take away the unspiritual part of it - the genius and the knowledge - and there is no height of conceit indulged in by the most romantic character in Shakespeare, which surpassed what I felt towards the merits I ascribed to him, and the delight which I took in his society. With the other boys I played antics, and rioted in fantastic jests; but in his society, or whenever I thought of him, I fell into a kind of Sabbath state of bliss; and I am sure I could have died for him.
ON this subject of boy-friendships and their intensity Lord Beaconsfield [Website Editor's Note - Benjamin Disraeli] has, in Coningsby, a quite romantic passage, which notwithstanding its sentimental setting may be worth quoting; because, after all, it signalizes an often forgotten or unconsidered aspect of school-life:-
"At school, friendship is a passion. It entrances the being; it tears the soul. All loves of after-life can never bring its rapture, or its wretchedness; no bliss so absorbing, no pangs of jealousy or despair so crushing and so keen! What tenderness and what devotion; what illimitable confidence, infinite revelations of inmost thoughts; what ecstatic present and romantic future; what bitter estrangements and what melting reconciliations; what scenes of wild recrimination, agitating explanations, passionate correspondence; what insane sensitiveness, and what frantic sensibility; what earthquakes of the heart and whirlwinds of the soul are confined in that simple phrase, a schoolboy's friendship!"
ALFRED TENNYSON, in his great poem, In Memoriam, published about the middle of the 19th century, gives superb expression to his love for his lost friend, Arthur Hallam. Reserved, dignified, in sustained meditation and tender sentiment, yet half revealing here and there a more passionate feeling; expressing in simplest words the most difficult and elusive thoughts (e.g., Cantos 128 and 129), as well as the most intimate and sacred moods of the soul; it is indeed a great work of art. Naturally, being such, it was roundly abused by the critics on its first appearance. The Times solemnly rebuked its language as unfitted for any but amatory tenderness, and because young Hallam was a barrister spent much wit upon the poet's "Amaryllis of the Chancery bar." Tennyson himself, speaking of In Memoriam, mentioned (see Memoir by his son, p. 800) "the number of shameful letters of abuse he had received about it!"
FOLLOWING is a little poem by Robert Browning, entitled May and Death, which may well be placed near the stanzas of In Memoriam:-
"I wish that when you died last May,
BETWEEN Browning and Whitman we may insert a few lines from R. W. Emerson:-
"The only way to have a friend is to be one. . . . In the last analysis love is only the reflection of a man's own worthiness from other men. Men have sometimes exchanged names with their friends, as if they would signify that in their friend each loved his own soul.
These also from Henry D. Thoreau:-
"No word is oftener on the lips of men than Friendship, and indeed no thought is more familiar to their aspirations. All men are dreaming of it, and its drama, which is always a tragedy, is enacted daily. It is the secret of the universe. You may thread the town, you may wander the country, and none shall ever speak of it, yet thought is everywhere busy about it, and the idea of what is possible in this respect affects our behavior towards all new men and women, and a great many old ones. Nevertheless I can remember only two or three essays on this subject in all literature. . . . . To say that a man is your friend, means commonly no more than this, that he is not your enemy. Most contemplate only what would be the accidental and trifling advantages of friendship, as that the friend can assist in time of need, by his substance, or his influence, or his counsel; but he who foresees such advantages in this relation proves himself blind to its real advantage, or indeed wholly inexperienced in the relation itself. . . . . What is commonly called Friendship is only a little more honor among rogues. But sometimes we are said to love another, that is, to stand in a true relation to him, so that we give the best to, and receive the best from, him. Between whom there is hearty truth there is love; and in proportion to our truthfulness and confidence in one another our lives are divine and miraculous, and answer to our ideal. There are passages of affection in our intercourse with mortal men and women, such as no prophecy had taught us to expect, which transcend our earthly life, and anticipate heaven for us."
I CONCLUDE this collection with a few quotations from Whitman, for whom "the love of comrades" perhaps stands as the most intimate part of his message to the world - "Here the frailest leaves of me and yet my strongest lasting." Whitman, by his great power, originality and initiative, as well as by his deep insight and wide vision, is in many ways the inaugurator of a new era to mankind; and it is especially interesting to find that this idea of comradeship, and of its establishment as a social institution, plays so important a part with him. We have seen that in the Greek age, and more or less generally in the ancient and pagan world, comradeship was an institution; we have seen that in Christian and modern times, though existent, it was socially denied and ignored, and indeed to a great extent fell under a kind of ban; and now Whitman's attitude towards it suggests to us that it really is destined to pass into its third stage, to arise again, and become a recognized factor of modern life, and even in a more extended and perfect form than at first. [Footnote 1]
"It is to the development, identification, and general prevalence of that fervid comradeship (the adhesive love, at least rivalling the amative love hitherto possessing imaginative literature, if not going beyond it), that I look for the counterbalance and offset of our materialistic and vulgar American Democracy, and for the spiritualization thereof. Many will say it is a dream, and will not follow my inferences; but I confidently expect a time when there will be seen, running like a half-hid warp through all the myriad audible and visible worldly interests of America, threads of manly friendship, fond and loving, pure and sweet, strong and lifelong, carried to degrees hitherto unknown - not only giving tone to individual character, and making it unprecedently emotional, muscular, heroic, and refined, but having deepest relations to general politics. I say Democracy infers such loving comradeship, as its most inevitable twin or counterpart, without which it will be incomplete, in vain, and incapable of perpetuating itself."
The three following poems are taken from Leaves of Grass:
"Recorders ages hence,
As Whitman in this connection (like Tennyson in connection with In Memoriam) is sure to be accused of morbidity, it may he worth while to insert the following note from In re Walt Whitman, p. 115, "Dr. Drinkard in 1870, when Whitman broke down from rupture of a small blood-vessel in the brain, wrote to a Philadelphia doctor detailing Whitman's case, and stating that he was a man 'with the most natural habits, bases, and organisation he had ever seen.]'" [Return to Text]
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