To An Unknown Colleague

(Inspired  by  the exchange of  Minutes in Government Departments)

He was my friend – if friendship's proof

   Be sympathy profound and sweet;

Eight months we toiled beneath one roof,

   Yet somehow never chanced to meet.

So near and yet so far! I own

   We may have passed upon the stair;

Yet, if we did, we passed unknown;

   No tremor told me he was there.

He knew not it was I. Alas!

   With such community of souls

That he and I should blindly pass

   And live as sundered as the poles!

For I, when darkness sealed my eyes,

   Would place my judgement in his hands,

Would ask him humbly to advise

   And yield myself to his commands;

Just hinting what my view might be

   (If asked) on this or  that affair,

But never in undue degree

   And with a deprecating air.

And he, thus modestly addressed,

   Would wield an amicable pen

And say he thought my view was best

   In full nine cases out of ten.

And so the deep harmonious flood

   Our friendship flowed, and proved, I think,

Though water be less dense than blood,

   Yet blood is far less dense than ink.

And now when things are somewhat slow,

   My leisure moments I beguile

By reading o'er with heart aglow

   A certain old and dusty file---

One out of hundreds, kept to prove

   A truth the world may oft  forget,

That there can live pure trust and love

   'Twixt  persons who have never met.

Oh! Sweet the trill of mating larks!

   But sweeter, sweeter, I aver,

That soft appeal – “For your remarks,”

   That gentle answer – “We concur.”

First published in Punch, January 1, 1919.