TO A YOUTHFUL FRIEND
August 20, 1808 ( Published 1809 )
Few years have pass'd since thou and I
Were firmest friends, at least in name
And Childhood's gay sincerity
Preserv'd our feelings long the same.
But now, like me, too well thou know'st
What trifles oft the heart recall;
And those who once have lov'd the most
Too soon forget they lov'd at all.
And such the change the heart displays,
So frail is early friendship's reign,
A month's brief lapse, perhaps a day's,
Will view thy mind estranged again.
If so, it never shall be mine
To mourn the lost of such a heart;
The fault was Nature's fault, not thine,
Which made thee fickle as thou art.
As rolls the Ocean's changing tide,
So human feelings ebb and flow;
And who would in a breast confide
Where stormy passions ever glow ?
It boots not that, together bred,
Our childish days were days of joy:
My spring of life has quickly fled;
Thou, too, hast ceased to be a boy.
And when we bid adieu to youth,
Slaves to the specious World's control,
We sigh a long farewell to truth;
That World corrupts the noblest soul.
Ah ! Joyous season ! when the mind
Dares all things boldly but to lie;
When Thought ere spoke is unconfined,
And sparkles in the placid eye.
Not so in Man's maturer years,
When Man himself is but a tool;
When Interest sways our hopes and fears,
And all must love and hate by rule.
With fools in kindred vice the same,
We learn at length our faults to blend;
And those, and those alone, may claim
The prostituted name of friend.
Such is the common lot of man:
Can we then 'scape from folly free?
Can we reverse the general plan,
Nor be what all in turn must be?
No; for myself, so dark my fate
Through every turn of life hath been;
Man and the World so much I hate,
I care not when I quit the scene.
But thou, with spirit frail and light,
Wilt shine awhile, and pass away;
As glow-worms sparkle through the night,
But dare not stand the test of day.
Alas ! whenever Folly calls
Where parasites and princes meet,
( For cherish'd first in royal halls
The welcome vices kindly greet, )
Ev'n now thou'rt nightly seen to add
One insect to the fluttering crowd;
And still thy trifling heart is glad
To join the vain and court the proud.
There dost thou glide from fair to fair,
Still simpering on with eager haste,
As flies, along the gay parterre,
That taint the flowers they scarcely taste.
But say, what nymph will prize the flame
Which seems as marshy vapours move,
To flit along from dame to dame,
An ignis-fatuus gleam of love?
What friend for thee, howe'er inclined,
Will deign to own a kindred care?
Who will debase his manly mind
For friendship every fool may share?
In time forbear; amidst the throng
No more so base a thing be seen;
No more so idly pass along;
Be something, any thing, but --- mean.