A friend may well be reckoned the masterpiece of nature.
Old English frēond, Old Saxon fiund, Old High German friunt, Old Norse frændi
1) a person joined by affection and intimacy to another, independently of sexual or family love.
2) a person who is not hostile or an enemy to another; one who is on the same side.
3) a person who wishes another well; a sympathizer, helper, patron; a supporter of an institution.
4) a romantic or sexual partner where qualified as boyfriend, girlfriend, lady-friend, man-friend.
5) make a person a friend or friendly, join in friendship
6) Act as a friend to, befriend.
This quote is from Essays: First Series. Friendship written in 1841.
(You can read the full chapter on friendship at the link).
The chapter opens with a poem, part of which reads ::
O friend, my bosom said,
Through thee alone the sky is arched,
Through thee the rose is red,
All things through thee take nobler form
Ralph Waldo Emerson was born in Boston, Massachusetts and lived from 1803-1882. He was one of the most influential thinkers and writers of the 19th century. He wrote essays and poems. He lectured and preached and toured Europe. He was one of the first to introduce ideas from Asia and from India, having encountered them from his father who was an Unitarian minister and from the mix of international trade in the Boston ports. His study of and interest in non-Western ideas and myths spanned many decades. He wrote in his notebook “All tends to the mysterious east.”
In 1844, he published a famous essay called “The Poet,” in which he argued that American needed to develop our own culture and our own ways. That our our imagination needed to evolve to be distinct from England. This language should be reflective of our unique qualities and American character, he posited. Many Americans read this essay.
The Poetry Foundation offers his biography here.
The Amercian Academy of Poets describes his life and contributions here.
One of the most beautiful essays on friendship was written by David Whyte, included in his book Consolations – The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words.
Friendship is —
…the privilege of having been seen by someone and the equal privilege of being granted the sight of the essence of another, to have walked with them and to have believed in them, and sometimes just to have accompanied them for however brief a span, on a journey impossible to accomplish alone.
Maria Popova writes over at her wonderful blog Brain Pickings about David Whyte on the True Meaning of Friendship, Love, and Heartbreak, wherein she cites Emerson (as well as Anne LaMott, Aristotle, Thoreau and C.S. Lewis). Totally worth the click.
Emerson was one of the founding members of The Atlantic (formerly The Atlantic Monthly) which still publishes prominent writer and provocative essays today. The periodical has a great American literary legacy, as they published the first abolitionist essays. The Atlantic also published Martin Luther King’s essay on civil disobedience, Letter from Birmingham Jail.
More recently, The Atlantic published James Fallow‘s articles on the Iraq War, which formed the basis for his book Blind in Baghdad : America’s War in Iraq. And they also featured William Langewiesche‘s absolutely riveting three part series on the World Trade Center disaster in 2002 were collected and published as American Ground : Unbuilding the World Trade Center.