September 26, 2008

Poetry Friday: Friends in the Room

A friend I met my junior year in college gave me a few lines of verse by an author I hadn't heard of -- it was something to do with grain and chaff and it was a little sentimental for me. I chuckled about it, not at all being a sentimental person [*rolls eyes*], and studying too much 19th century literature to take it too seriously at the time. I tucked the quote away in a journal, and read it periodically, liking the words, but still not quite understanding.

Years later, I dig out the verse with the comprehension that was missing. This poem is actually not a poem at all, though it was included in the 1936 version of Best Loved Poems of the American People under the title "Friendship." It is really an exclamation from a character in an 1859 novel called A Life for a Life by the English writer Dinah Maria Mulock Craik, who was born in 1826. From the Wikipedia entry:

A Life for a Life (1859)
Thus ended our little talk: yet it left a pleasant impression. True, the subject was strange enough; my sisters might have been shocked at it; and at my freedom in asking and giving opinions. But oh! the blessing it is to have a friend to whom one can speak fearlessly on any subject; with whom one's deepest as well as one's most foolish thoughts come out simply and safely. Oh, the comfort — the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person — having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all right out, just as they are, chaff and grain together; certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then with the breath of kindness blow the rest away.
Somebody must have done a good deal of the winnowing business this afternoon; for in the course of it I gave him as much nonsense as any reasonable man could stand ...


I posted this piece for one of my very early Poetry Fridays, and this slightly revised version seems a fitting retread for today.


Imagine a world where the breath was used for that kindness of blowing the unintended nonsense away...

Poetry Friday is hosted by the inestimable Miss Rumphius.

5 comments:

jama said...

Lovely words. We so need that breath of kindness.

Kelly Fineman said...

Wonderful post. It makes more sense as an excerpt than as a poem. Somehow, knowing that's what it is makes it more accessible. Weird, but true.

divatobe said...

I did not know the source for this bit of sentimentality ;)

a. fortis said...

Sentimentality, perhaps...but it's a nice bit of sentimentality! Quite lovely, in fact.

Julie Larios said...

The "sentimentality" bug must have infected (nicely, I'm thinking) a few of us this week - I, too, posted a poem on The Drift Record that was more sentimental than I normally like. Wonder what's up? Could it be that the more exhausted we get (by politics, by the irony-rich 21st-century, by cultural disconnects)the more we lower our defenses against unabashed sentiment? I hope I never slide over into what I've always thought of as Thomas Kincaid country - precious and twee - but a bit of unguardedness (true love, true friendship, true feeling) is a relief sometimes, isn't it?