This is a favourite poem. Jennings often found words for those experiences and gifts in human life that make us feel most fully alive. Was she an easy person to befriend? Did she live what she wrote here? Was she celebrating the reality, or wishing it were so?
The psychology of friendship is subtle, complex, fluid, a combination of affections ranging from love and commitment to laughter and trust. Friendship means going with the other into the deep places of loss and joyfulness, is given stability by faithfulness and kept durable by the mutual exchange of presence, words and the gift of the other. Few gifts are more wrapped in mystery than two human beings who understand each other enough to appreciate the wonder of such a thing being possible. There is something of grace, of undeserved blessing in the kind of friendship Jennings describes.
Friendship, Elizabeth Jennings.
Such love I cannot analyse;
It does not rest in lips or eyes,
Neither in kisses nor caress.
Partly, I know, it’s gentleness
And understanding in one word
Or in brief letters. It’s preserved
By trust and by respect and awe.
These are the words I’m feeling for.
Two people, yes, two lasting friends.
The giving comes, the taking ends
There is no measure for such things.
For this all Nature slows and sings.