Poems of the Week, May 6: Canning on Candid Friends

George Canning

From Canning's satiric poem "The New Morality," in a passage attacking the morality of those who supported--or at least refused to condemn--the French Revolution.

"Much may be said on both sides."--Hark! I hear
A well known voice that murmurs in my ear,--
The voice of Candour.--Hail! most solemn sage,
Thou drivelling virtue of this moral age,
Candour, which softens party's headlong rage.
Candour,--which spares its foes;--nor e'er descends
With bigot zeal to combat for its friends.
Candour,--which loves in see-saw strain to tell
Of acting foolishly, but meaning well;
Too nice to praise by wholesale, or to blame,
Convinced that all men's motives are the same;
And finds, with keen discriminating sight,
Black's not so black; nor white so very white.

"Fox, to be sure, was vehement and wrong;
But then Pitt's words you'll own were rather strong
Both must be blamed, both pardon'd;--'twas just so
With Fox and Pitt full forty years ago;
So Walpole, Pulteney;--factions in all times,
Have had their follies, ministers their crimes."

Give me the avow'd, the erect, the manly foe,
Bold I can meet--perhaps may turn his blow;
But of all plagues, good heaven, thy wrath can send,
Save, save, oh! save me from the Candid Friend!

Hartley Coleridge

WHEN we were idlers with the loitering rills,
The need of human love we little noted:
Our love was nature; and the peace that floated
On the white mist, and dwelt upon the hills,
To sweet accord subdued our wayward wills:
One soul was ours, one mind, one heart devoted,
That, wisely doting, ask'd not why it doted,
And ours the unknown joy, which knowing kills.
But now I find how dear thou wert to me;
That man is more than half of nature's treasure,
Of that fair beauty which no eye can see,
Of that sweet music which no ear can measure;
And now the streams may sing for others' pleasure,
The hills sleep on in their eternity.


W.B. Yeats


Others because you did not keep
That deep-sworn vow have been friends of mine;
Yet always when I look death in the face,
When I clamber to the heights of sleep,
Or when I grow excited with wine,
Suddenly I meet your face.


Thomas Hardy

Confession to a Friend in Trouble


Your troubles shrink not, though I feel them less
Here, far away, than when I tarried near;
I even smile old smiles—with listlessness—
Yet smiles they are, not ghastly mockeries mere.

A thought too strange to house within my brain
Haunting its outer precincts I discern:
—That I will not show zeal again to learn
Your griefs, and, sharing them, renew my pain. . . .

It goes, like murky bird or buccaneer
That shapes its lawless figure on the main,
And each new impulse tends to make outflee
The unseemly instinct that had lodgment here;
Yet, comrade old, can bitterer knowledge be
Than that, though banned, such instinct was in me!


Lord Byron

To Thomas Moore


My boat is on the shore,
And my bark is on the sea;
But, before I go, Tom Moore,
Here's a double health to thee!

Here's a sigh to those who love me,
And a smile to those who hate;
And, whatever sky's above me,
Here's a heart for every fate.

Though the ocean roar around me,
Yet it still shall bear me on;
Though a desert should surround me,
It hath springs that may be won.

Were't the last drop in the well,
As I gasp'd upon the brink,
Ere my fainting spirit fell,
'Tis to thee that I would drink.

With that water, as this wine,
The libation I would pour
Should be -peace with thine and mine,
And a health to thee, Tom Moore!

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Thomas Fleming

Thomas Fleming is president of the Fleming Foundation. He is the author of six books, including The Morality of Everyday Life and The Politics of Human Nature, as well as many articles and columns for newspapers, magazines,and learned journals. He holds a Ph.D. in Classics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and a B.A. in Greek from the College of Charleston. He served as editor of Chronicles: a Magazine of American Culture from 1984 to 2015 and president of The Rockford Institute from 1997-2014. In a previous life he taught classics at several colleges and served as a school headmaster in South Carolina

1 Response

  1. Vince Cornell says:

    Hartley Coleridge’s poems (both from this and last week) have made me think he must have been a pretty decent fellow. I’ve never heard of him before, but I will now seek him out.

    Male friendship is difficult in this modern world, especially for us younger types (so long as below 40 counts as youngish). True friends, in the sense that is spoken of in this week’s poems, are difficult to come by. With the corrupting influence of social media, the tendency of younger men to not understand what manhood is (and instead devote much of their time to video games and comic book movies and lego sets or watching sports and drinking), the lack of public space for men to inhabit freely (i.e. sans women), the loss of the very idea of true friendship, the public fixation on all things sexual, and the rootlessness of modern lifestyles where folks have now grown up for generations moving from house to house every 4 to 5 years – if one is fortunate enough to have found in one’s life that rare gem of a true friend it is worth more than a thousand fortunes.