Friends are predetermined; friendship takes place between men and women who possess an intellectual and emotional affinity for each other. But comradeship — that ecstatic bliss that comes with belonging to the crowd in wartime — is within our reach. We can all have comrades. The danger of the external threat that comes when we have an enemy does not create friendship; it creates comradeship. And those in wartime are deceived about what they are undergoing. And this is why once the threat is over, once war ends, comrades again become strangers to us. This is why after war we fall into despair.
In friendship there is a deepening of our sense of self. We become, through the friend, more aware of who we are and what we are about; we find ourselves in the eyes of the friend. Friends probe and question and challenge each other to make each of us more complete; with comradeship, the kind that comes to us in patriotic fervor, there is a suppression of self-awareness, self-knowledge, and self-possession. Comrades lose their identities in wartime for the collective rush of a common cause — a common purpose.
In comradeship there are no demands on the self. This is part of its appeal and one of the reasons we miss it and seek to recreate it. Comradeship allows us to escape the demands on the self that is part of friendship. In wartime when we feel threatened, we no longer face death alone but as a group, and this makes death easier to bear. We ennoble self-sacrifice for the other, for the comrade; in short we begin to worship death. And this is what the god of war demands of us.
Think finally of what it means to die for a friend. It is deliberate and painful; there is no ecstasy. For friends, dying is hard and bitter. The dialogue they have and cherish will perhaps never be recreated. Friends do not, the way comrades do, love death and sacrifice. To friends, the prospect of death is frightening. And this is why friendship or, let me say love, is the most potent enemy of war.
[..] The horseman serves the horse, The neatherd serves the neat, The merchant serves the purse, The eater serves his meat; 'T is the day of the chattel, Web to weave, and corn to grind; Things are in the saddle, And ride mankind. There are two laws discrete, Not reconciled,-- Law for man, and law for thing; The last builds town and fleet, But it runs wild, And doth the man unking. 'T is fit the forest fall, The steep be graded, The mountain tunnelled, The sand shaded, The orchard planted, The glebe tilled, The prairie granted, The steamer built. Let man serve law for man; Live for friendship, live for love, For truth's and harmony's behoof; The state may follow how it can, As Olympus follows Jove. [..]"Ode Inscribed to W. H. Channing"
All the guys at the bar, Jimmy, all the girls; they don't show up at your wake. Not because they don't like you. But because, they never knew your last name. Then a month later, someone tells them, "Oh, Jimmy died." "Jimmy who?" "Jimmy the Cop." "Ohhh," they say, "him". And all the people on the job, all those people you spent all the hours in the radio cars with, the guys with their feet up on the desk, tellin' stories, who shorted you on your food runs, who signed your overtime slips. In the end, they're not gonna be there either. Family, that's it. Family, and if you're lucky, one or two friends who are the same as family. That's all the best of us get. Everything else is just..."The Wire"
The moonlight rolls down like a river, The silence streams out like a sea; And far where the eastern winds quiver, My farewell goes floating to thee. Like night, when the sunset is fading And starbeams troop up in the skies, Through a cold, dark and lonely forever Gleams the light of the poet eyes. And sometimes when I am weary, When the path is thorny and Wild, I'll look back to the Eyes in the twilight, Back to the eyes that smiled. And pray that a wreath like a rainbow May slip from the beautiful past, And Crown me again with the sweet, strong love And keep me, and hold me fast. For the way is not strown with petal soft, It is covered with hearts that weep, And the wounds I tread touch a deeper source Than you think it mine to keep. Down the years I shall move without you, Yet ever must feel the blow That caused me a deeper pain to give Than you will ever know. For the tears that dropped on my hands that night 'Neath the mystical shining moon, Were a sacred dew, consecrated there, On the rose-altered heart of June. And the heart that beat against mine like a bird That is fluttering, wounded sore, With it's nest all broken, deserted, torn, Will beat there forevermore. But the world moves on, and the piteous Earth Still groans in the monster pain; And the star that leads me points onward yet, Though the red drops fall like rain! Ah, not to a blaze of light I go, Nor shouts of a triumph train; I go down to kiss the dregs of woe, And drink up the Cup of Pain. And whether a scaffold or crucifix waits 'Neath the light of my silver star, I know and I care not: I only know I shall pause not though it be far. Though a crucified life or an agonized death, Though long, or quick and sharp, I am firmly wrought in the endless thread Of Destiny's woof and warp. And I do not shrink, though a wave of pain Sobs over me now and then, As I think of those "saddest of all sad words," The pitiful "might have been." "It might have been"— it is not to be; And the tones of your "swan's farewell" Ring sadly, solemnly deep to me Like the voice of a sobbing bell. Ay, gather your petals and take them back To the dead heart under the dew; And crown it again with the red love bloom, For the dead are always true. But go not "back to the sediment" In the slime of the moaning sea, For a better world belongs to you, And a better friend to me.