To My Friend
The years have sped since first we met,
Here, in the city's toil and roar;
Brief space in looking back, and yet,
Those years now number twenty-four.
What changes have they brought to all—
What thoughts that make for higher ends,
What shadows that perforce must fall,
To make us only closer friends.
Perchance this were a fitting time
To gently touch with kindly hand
Those brothers of a band of rhyme
Now silent in the other land.
One in whose soul the city rang
With throbbings as at fever-heat;
Whose song was as an anvil-clang,
Heard far above the rush of feet.
He, turning from the toil and strife
With half-ignoble thoughts of rest,
Sank when the sun of midmost life
Had scarcely turned to face the west.
Another, keen, and swift, and bold,
With ready jest and quip to tell—
A bright Mercutio grown old,
He, too, has bidden us farewell.
And others who have left the light,
The light that death can only stem,
Perchance are with us here to-night,
Because to-night we think of them.
They whisper in our inner ear,
Faint, as befits a spirit tongue,
And far down in our heart we hear,
Their ave atque vale sung.
So be it—they have passed, and we,
Who still are forward in the strife,
Must close our thinning ranks, and see
We keep pace in the march of life,
And only halt a space to greet
Some noble brother in the fight;
One to whom worthy praise is meet
As is our honoured guest to-night.
He, too, has seen with eager eye
Truth ready with her trumpet blast;
He too, though falling out to die,
Will grasp his colours to the last.
But I—I wander from my theme—
I turn again, O, friend to thee;
The guider of my early dream,
Whose hand was first held out to me.
For I was all alone—no voice
Had touch of sympathy with mine,
Till through the clang of railway noise
A voice came, and that voice was thine.
It spoke of cheer, it whispered hope
To one who, half afraid to climb,
Stood looking at the rugged slope
Where lay his little field of rhyme.
And so he strove, well pleased to hear,
From where the railway echoes rang,
His songs had fallen upon thy ear,
And then it was to thee he sang.
The toil was naught; it only made
Song sweeter when the shadows fell,
And all the valleys lay in shade,
And all the hills he knew so well.
Enough; the years have sped along;
For what they brought with them, O friend,
A rough camp-follower of song
Will thank thee to the very end.
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