It was cream of earl grey today, and we didn’t even bother with a tea infuser. It was still murder to get out of the bag and into the teapot though. We made it up in a large pot, you know, and drank it with a friend. Earl Grey isn’t our go-to black tea, but this particular blend is a staple of the Advent Calendar, and we’ve learned over the years that it holds up black. Also when the cups involved haven’t been lately rinsed with dish detergent. But there’s also something about the sharing of tea that improves it. We like to joke about tea being the eighth sacrament, but like any joke, it has logic in it.
With that in mind, here’s Katherine Phillips on friendship. There are some poets we circle back to yearly, and there’s no one quite like her. She writes about friendship the way anyone else would write a romance – and all before C.S. Lewis was on the scene to write a book to that effect. So pour out a cup of tea, summon a friend, and see what you make of this Carolingian era treatise.
LET the dull brutish World that know not Love,
Continue heretics, and disapprove
That noble flame; but the refinèd know
‘Tis all the Heaven we have here below.
Nature subsists by Love, and they do tie
Things to their causes but by sympathy.
Love chains the different Elements in one
Great harmony, link’d to the Heav’nly Throne.
And as on earth, so the blest quire above
Of Saints and Angels are maintain’d by Love;
That is their business and felicity,
And will be so to all Eternity.
That is the ocean, our affections here
Are but streams borrow’d from the fountain there.
And ’tis the noblest argument to prove
A beauteous mind, that it knows how to Love.
Those kind impressions which Fate can’t control,
Are Heaven’s mintage on a worthy soul.
For Love is all the Arts’ epitome,
And is the sum of all Divinity.
He’s worse than beast that cannot love, and yet
It is not bought for money, pains or wit;
For no chance or design can spirits move,
But the eternal destiny of Love:
And when two souls are chang’d and mixèd so,
It is what they and none but they can do.
This, this is Friendship, that abstracted flame
Which grovelling mortals know not how to name.
All Love is sacred, and the marriage-tie
Hath much of honour and divinity.
But Lust, Design, or some unworthy ends
May mingle there, which are despis’d by Friends.
Passion hath violent extremes, and thus
All oppositions are contiguous.
So when the end is serv’d their Love will bate,
If Friendship make it not more fortunate:
Friendship, that Love’s elixir, that pure fire
Which burns the clearer ’cause it burns the higher.
For Love, like earthly fires (which will decay
If the material fuel be away)
Is with offensive smoke accompanied,
And by resistance only is supplied:
But Friendship, like the fiery element,
With its own heat and nourishment content,
Where neither hurt, nor smoke, nor noise is made,
Scorns the assistance of a forein aid.
Friendship (like Heraldry) is hereby known,
Richest when plainest, bravest when alone;
Calm as a virgin, and more innocent
Than sleeping doves are, and as much content
As Saints in visions; quiet as the night,
But clear and open as the summer’s light;
United more than spirits’ faculties,
Higher in thoughts than are the eagle’s eyes;
What shall I say? when we true friends are grown,
W’ are like—Alas, w’ are like ourselves alone.