Old Friends

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 (13.6.1865 – 28.1.1939)

I used to think it harder to make new friends as I got older. But what I really mean is that I don’t have the same energy that I once did. A commitment of time and an investment is needed to create a firm foundation for a friendship to be based on. You may ‘click’ initially, and become aware that you have common interests, share a sense of humour and are both secretly addicted to Eastenders. But ¬†then you need to make time for that person. To maintain contact, take an interest in their life and to be there for them not just the times when they are blissfully joyous and dancing naked along the beach at Porthcawl, but also during those dark times of deep despair, when no matter how many packets of Panini football stickers they buy, they still can’t find the one of Kevin Keegan in the bath. Actually, I’ve never had a friend who has danced naked on the beach at Porthcawl. Some might say that isn’t symptomatic of a person’s blissful happiness, but a sign that they are, in fact, mad.

But, going back to the poem, beauty does not perish with time’s bitter flood, does it? At least, the beauty of youth might, but that is an ephemeral, transient beauty that we are all graced with, and although some of us decide to embark on a long, prolonged and often futile battle against it, most of us grow old gracefully, allowing the passage of time to cut its lines upon our face and blemish us. Our skin, once soft, supple and shimmering, becomes gray, wrinkled and worn. But there is no need for our minds to do the same. It’s fine to read Take A Break and Celebrity Hairstyles, but not from cover to cover. Just read the title. That’ll do. Then move on to Take A Longer Break and Celebrity Woodworking and before you know it, you’ll be reading Ulysses and Nietzsche’s The Critique Of Pure Reason. Although personally I find Ulysses a pile of pretentious codswallop and would prefer to read Watership Down. But the point is, there is no need for that thirst of knowledge we once had to diminish. We can remain young inside.

But of course, it is the last line of the poem that reveals the truth. For all eyes but these eyes. To be known when you are young and for those same eyes to look upon you when you are old is beautiful, because those eyes lack judgement. They knew you when you were young. It doesn’t matter that you are now an old, toothless, dribbling incontinent wreck. They knew you when you were young and still love you for that. And that’s how I see all my old friends. I think about them the most.

So in an extremely roundabout way and by critiquing a poem in a way any sixth-former would be proud of, what I am saying is that I am more comfortable when surrounding myself with the people I knew from my past. If anyone new comes along that wants to be my friend, then meet me in the park at seven for a game of marbles and we’ll see how it develops from there.