My Friend and I [poem by Agnes Neale]

[Editor: This poem by Agnes Neale was published in Shadows and Sunbeams (1890).]

My Friend and I.

Two boats sailed out upon a summer sea
And met each other in the noontide light,
With all sails set to catch the lagging wind,
But idly flapping now, though fair and white.

Around them lay the rippling purple main,
Above them stretched a deep wide vault of blue,
That, as the golden hours slipped slowly by,
For ever deeper and yet deeper grew.

The sunlight lay along the shining waves,
And kissed the ripples into flecks of gold;
While all around, in ceaseless harmony,
The mighty anthem of the ocean rolled.

All day the bright waves kissed the dancing boats
And kept them side by side through all the light,
Holding sweet council of closest intercourse
’Till they had well nigh lost the thought of night.

They told each other of the emerald isles
Lying at rest on purple sunlit seas;
Of syrens’ songs that oft the ears beguile;
O tropic calms, without one cooling breeze.

They told each other of the raging storms
That lash the waves to seething hills of foam;
And how the sudden burst of angry squalls
Had wrecked full many a vessel bound for home.

But then a breeze sprang up and filled the sails,
And steadily the boats swept wide apart,
Each guided by the hand that held the helm,
And following its own especial chart.

Through day and night, through sunshine and through storm,
Each steered its course across the heaving main;
Each glad sometimes, and sometimes nearly wrecked,
But on the sea they never met again.

’Till one glad day they knew their storms were o’er,
The haven reached, the anchors fairly cast,
With all the false enchantments left behind,
And all the perils of the journey past.

And then they knew that each by different ways
Had still been guided to the same calm bay,
That the same thought had ruled each vessel’s course,
The same strong hand had steered them all the way.

* * * * * * * *

So met my friend and I, on life’s wide sea,
In the full fervid glow of noontide light,
And all around the rippling waves of life
Kissed by hope’s sun were glittering golden bright.

We were so full of gladness, and our hearts
Were overflowing with the wine of joy;
Although we knew that roses must have thorns —
Although we knew that gold must have alloy.

We held sweet council, told each other thoughts
That only God before had known we had;
Sometimes our talk was filled with golden light,
Sometimes the words we spoke were pained and sad.

We held sweet council, whether grave or gay,
In joy’s sweet sunshine, or in sorrow’s gloom;
We knew each other, faithful, tried, and true,
And I won strength for some fierce storms to come.

Just for a little, then, we drew apart,
The currents of our lives flowed different ways;
And in the night I sometimes turn my eyes
Back through long years to those sweet friendly days.

I turn my eyes with longing, for their light
Still sheds a radiance on each stormy day;
I feel their warmth steal through the long cold years,
And know their good will never pass away.

And I thank God who gave me such a friend,
Who let me hold this wealth of earth’s best love;
True friendship is the sweetest sweet of life,
Earth’s costliest gift, all other gifts above.

Seas roll between us now, and mountains rise;
I think we shall not ever meet again;
Not while our boats are tossed on life’s rough tide —
Not on time’s restless, ever-shifting main.

But I look forward to the blessed day
When, with furled sails and anchors safely cast,
We shall have reached the port where we would be,
And all our storms shall be forever past.

Then, with clasped hands, and eyes that see the truth,
Seeing each point in God’s eternal light,
My friend and I will bless the Almighty hand
That always steered our fragile barks aright.

Agnes Neale, Shadows and Sunbeams, Adelaide: Burden & Bonython, 1890, pages 68-71

Editor’s notes:
aright = in the correct way; correctly, properly, rightly

bark = (also spelt “barque”) a small sailing ship in general, or specifically a sailing ship with three (or more) masts, in which the aftmost mast is fore-and-aft rigged, whilst the other masts are square-rigged

gay = happy, joyous, carefree (may also mean well-decorated, bright, attractive) (in modern times it may especially refer to a homosexual, especially a male homosexual; may also refer to something which is no good, pathetic, useless)

main = the high sea, the open ocean

o’er = over (pronounced the same as “oar”, “or”, and “ore”)

oft = often

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