Wisdom From An Old Poet


Many years ago while I was a Brownie and then a Girl Scout, I learned valuable lessons (along with having fun) that I really did not fully appreciate at the time. Age and lived experience have shone a different light on some of those things.

If you were in scouting, the first few lines of one song likely quickly come to mind. Until recently, I had forgotten the others.

Make new friends, but keep the old;

Those are silver, these are gold.

New-made friendships, like new wine,

Age will mellow and refine.

Friendships that have stood the test-

Time and change-are surely best;

Brow may wrinkle, hair grow gray;

Friendship never knows decay.

For ‘mid old friends, tried and true,

Once more we our youth renew.

But old friends, alas! may die;

New friends must their place supply.

Cherish friendship in your breast-

New is good, but old is best;

Make new friends, but keep the old;

Those are silver, these are gold.

The song came from a poem written by Joseph Parry who was born in 1841 and died in 1903. I am not aware of when the Girl Scouts began to use the words in the song I came to know or how often they altered all but the first stanza.

After several weeks of visiting some of my older friends, the words easily floated back into my mind and as I looked up the poem to recall the stanzas following the very familiar first stanza. I was struck by the truth of the poet’s words.

As a young girl learning the song, I could not have known or recognized how many seasons of life there would be and how those very seasons would give those words more impact. Back then, we girls made promises of being best friends forever, but we soon learned “forever” might look differently than we expected.

It would not take long before insecurity, jealousy, trying to feel accepted and a long list of things would separate those “forever” friendships. How fickle and immature we could be and for some of us that habit perhaps remained far longer than fit our actual age.

As we got older, we discovered there were other things that could bring about separation of friendships. Someone moved. Someone got sick or even died.

Later still, someone married and their whole circle of relationships and their location changed or someone went off to war and never returned or came back in ways we did not recognize them.

Of course, changes like this simply depict the normal patterns and cycles of all of our lives. No matter what the season or the cause; a change in a friendship is never easy.

Perhaps that is why the poet so wisely wrote as he did. He recognized we would be constantly meeting new people. Some of them would remain acquaintances even though we often call them “friends”. Some would become friends but due to a move, change of job, children, and so many other things, we might lose touch with them in the way we had known.

Realizing that, the poet reminds us of the value of friendship. New friends are silver. Old friends are gold. Perhaps old friends are gold because they have been refined by the challenges we faced together and still remained friends. Perhaps old friends became more mature and set aside those silly things that can separate us when we are younger.

“Friendship is never established as an understood relation. It is a miracle, which requires constant proofs. It is an exercise of the purest imagination and of the rarest faith!”

Henry David Thoreau
“Savannah Morning” (Photo by Pam Ecrement)


11 thoughts on “Wisdom From An Old Poet

  1. Love that poem ‘Make new friends, but keep the old;

    Those are silver, these are gold.’and so great to find out about the history of it. I was a girl scout too!

  2. I enjoyed my time as a Girl Scout, too! I only knew the first two lines of this song, which we sang as a round. How interesting to read the rest. I’m not still in touch with any friends from childhood, but some of my dearest friendships began in early married days—four decades ago now.

  3. Pam, this post on friendship resonates with me. I was a Girl Scout for one year, but I don’t remember learning that song. The words, however, ring with truth. I have a few friends from my girlhood. A couple from college and my twenties, and I’ve been blessed with a circle of friends where we live now. Friendships do change with seasons. Some die. Some persevere. I thank God for each of them.

  4. Time does a lot of things I’m not thrilled with, but one thing it’s good at is providing distance and perspective. I wish I hadn’t burned so many bridges…

    1. I would agree about when we gain greater perspective. Praying for you in those losses💕

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