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Sunday, July 31, 2011

To My Friends

(Birch Trees in Autumn, woodcut by Carl Thiemann,
1881-1966, German artist)

“Life is to be fortified by many friendships. To love and to be loved, is the greatest happiness of existence. I could and would not live if I were alone upon the earth, and cut off from the remembrance of my fellow-creatures. It is not that a man has occasion often to fall back upon the kindness of his friends; perhaps he may never experience the necessity of doing so; but they stand there as a solid and impregnable bulwark against all the evils of life.”

~ Sidney Smith (1771-1845), English essayist


Dear friends, and here I say friends
In the broad sense of the word:
Wife, sister, associates, relatives,
Schoolmates of both sexes,
People seen only once
Or frequented all my life;
Provided that between us, for at least a moment,
A line has been stretched,
A well-defined bond.

I speak for you, companions of a crowded
Road, not without its difficulties,
And for you too, who have lost
Soul, courage, the desire to live;
Or no one, or someone, or perhaps only one person, or you
Who are reading me: remember the time
Before the wax hardened,
When everyone was like a seal.
Each of us bears the imprint
Of a friend met along the way;
In each the trace of each.
For good or evil
In wisdom or in folly
Everyone stamped by everyone.

Now that the time crowds in
And the undertakings are finished,
To all of you the humble wish
That autumn will be long and mild.

~ Primo Levi (1919-1987), Italian chemist and writer and poet, whose many works, especially If This Is a Man, his memoir of his year at Auschwitz, examined man’s struggles to maintain his humanity in the face of great evil

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