The Lover Pleads With His Friend For Old Friends
THOUGH you are in your shining days,
Voices among the crowd
And new friends busy with your praise,
Be not unkind or proud,
But think about old friends the most:
Time’s bitter flood will rise,
Your beauty perish and be lost
For all eyes but these eyes.
William Butler Yeats
This is a favorite poem of mine, mostly because I saw it every day as I was growing up. It was always hanging in our house – a woodblock print from the Yeats’ Cuala Press that my father had ordered from a bookseller in England in the early 1950’s. Its mate, with the same simple hand-painted illumination, and framed in the same sort of dark oak frame, is a Yeats quotation:
“We can make our minds so like still water that beings gather about us that they may see, it may be, their own images, and so live for a moment with a clearer, perhaps even a fiercer life because of our quiet.”
These Arts and Crafts style prints usually hung on the stairs, or in a hallway, but always where we passed many times each day. How many hundreds of times did I chant the lines of the poem, or ponder the quotation, as I went up and down the stairs or through the house?
I think my four siblings shared my fondness for these words, or at least the same deep familiarity with them. They wove in and around all our childhoods, and traveled with us from house to house (there were quite a few moves). I’m sure that to this day my brothers and sisters could, with a little prompting, breathe the words again, as I can. It’s one of the ways we love and honor our dad, and remember our childhoods.
Celebrate the day!