The eighteenth century poet Edward Young seems to have been a poor sleeper! Did he lie awake in the dark, composing and memorising his verses to write them out in the morning, or keep a lit candle at his bedside, or fumble with flint and tinder box to strike a light? It’s clear that he did not trust solitary philosophising, but counted on discussion with friends to arrive at truth.
And if you raise an eyebrow at calling this post ‘my vocation today’, go back and read about the humble generosity of books. Writers’ vocation can live on after death, awaiting a new companion when a book is opened. Let’s read what Edward Young has to say to us about flesh and blood friendship and its challenges to see through another’s eyes. Lorenzo is an imaginary friend.
How often we talk’d down the summer’s sun, And cool’d our passions by the breezy stream! How often thaw’d and shorten’d winter’s eve, By conflict kind, that struck out latent truth, Best found, so sought; to the recluse more coy! Thoughts disentangle passing o’er the lip; Clean runs the thread; if not, ’tis thrown away, Or kept to tie up nonsense for a song.
Know’st thou, Lorenzo! what a friend contains? As bees mix’d nectar draw from fragrant flowers, So men from friendship, wisdom and delight; Twins tied by Nature, if they part, they die. Hast thou no friend to set thy mind abroach? Good sense will stagnate. Thoughts shut up, want air, And spoil, like bales unopen’d to the sun. Had thought been all, sweet speech had been denied; Speech, thought’s canal! speech, thought’s criterion too! Thought in the mine, may come forth gold, or dross; When coin’d in words, we know its real worth." From " Night Thoughts" by Edward Young.
The other day I called on a friend who had a few worries on her plate, ‘thoughts shut up’ began to ‘disentangle passing o’er the lip’. We draw wisdom and delight from friendship because of the trust between us, the safe space we can offer each other, the chance to reflect on a bigger picture of whatever is worrying us.