E Edgar Guest

A Friend’s Greeting by Edgar Guest

Edgar Guest’s ‘A Friend’s Greeting’ is a heart-touching poem about a speaker’s gratitude for his dearest friend. This poem is written in the form of a greeting in verse.

‘A Friend’s Greeting’ is a poem written by the British-born American poet Edgar Albert Guest. He is regarded as the “People’s Poet”. His optimistic view regarding the subject is what makes his poetry dear to readers. In this poem, Guest shares his lovely words with a friend. The friend is a word that is hard to decode. Only those who have received the warmth of a friendly touch on their shoulders can understand the magic of this word.


Summary

‘A Friend’s Greeting’ by Edgar Guest is a heart-to-heart poem about a speaker who expresses his gratitude to a friend who is always there to help him and makes his life joyous.

This piece begins with the speaker talking about what is the value of his friend in his life. According to him, he wants to be like his dearest friend who is always glad to help him. The speaker wants to be a meaningful part of his life by doing splendid things for him. All he has is his heart-warming poetic art that can paint his sky blue. When they traveled together, his friend’s shoulder gave him comfort after being weary of the journey. That’s why, on the eve of Christmas, his only wish is to be like his friend.

You can read the full poem here.

Structure

Guest’s poem consists of four quatrains or stanzas having four lines each. Each verse contains two rhyming couplets that are intricately tied together. The rhyme scheme of this piece is AABB. It continues throughout. For example, in the first four lines, there are two rhyming pairs: “me” and “be”, and “day” and “way”. This poem is written in the end-stopped rhyming form as each quatrain presents a complete idea. Regarding the meter, it is written in iambic heptameter.

Literary Devices

Guest’s ‘A Friend’s Greeting’ consists of the following literary devices:

  • Anaphora: It occurs in the first three lines of the poem. These lines start with the phrase “I’d like to…”. This device is used for the sake of emphasizing the poet’s ideas in these lines.
  • Repetition: The poet repeats the phrase mentioned above in several instances. This repetition is meant for highlighting the speaker’s gratitude and love for his friend.
  • Metaphor: There is a metaphor in the line “To brush the gray from out your skies…” Here, the color “gray” is compared to sad or depressing thoughts. Besides, this color also stands for old-age.
  • Simile: It occurs in the following lines: “As you have meant, old friend of mine, to me along the way” and “I’d like to make you feel as rich as I, who travel on”.
  • Hyperbole: The poet uses a few exaggerating expressions such as “each minute of the day” and “darkest hours”.


Detailed Analysis

Stanza One

I’d like to be the sort of friend that you have been to me;

(…)

As you have meant, old friend of mine, to me along the way.

The poem ‘A Friend’s Greeting’ begins with the use of anaphora. In these lines, Guest’s speaker talks about what are the things he wishes to do for his friend. Firstly, he desires to be like his friend or like the person he is. His friend always helped him whenever he needed his assistance. He was always glad to help the speaker. So, the speaker wants to similarly help him in his need. 

In the third line, the speaker uses a hyperbolic expression. He says that he would like to mean as much as a minute of the day. Here, “each minute” is implicitly compared to a precious thing. The speaker wants to be as valuable as time in his friend’s life. He says so as his friend was also that valuable to him throughout his life.

In this stanza, readers can find the repetition of similar sounds that create internal rhyming. For example, in the third line, there is an alliteration of the “m” sound.

Stanza Two

I’d like to do the big things and the splendid things for you,

(…)

And feel that I could rouse your soul the way that mine you’ve stirred.

The second stanza begins as if the speaker has become a child. His statement concerning doing big things for his friend sounds innocent. From this line, it can be inferred that the speaker is probably a child. He also talks about doing “splendid things” for him. In the following lines, he makes it clear what the amazing things are that he wants to do for him.

He talks about painting his friend’s sky blue by painting all the gray marks. In this line, the color “gray” symbolizes sad thoughts that often appear in one’s mind. The speaker wishes to wipe all such thoughts away from his friend’s mind and paint them with tranquil colors like the blue sky.

His words are always kind to the speaker. Those words resonate in his mind. For this reason, he would like to say kinder words to his beloved friend and rouse his soul like he has stirred the speaker.

Stanza Three

I’d like to give you back the joy that you have given me,

(…)

Undaunted in the darkest hours with you to lean upon.

In the third stanza, Guest’s speaker becomes a bit unrealistic regarding paying off the joy his friend gave him. It is quite impossible to return the love or something that cannot be measured. This inability to return the things that the speaker’s friend gave him, heightens his value. However, he knows that there is no need for joy in his life as he is himself a source of happiness and pleasure.

In the third line, the speaker talks about how rich he is. It is obvious that he is not talking about materialistic things. Rather he intends to portray the place of his friend in his heart. The very existence of his friend makes him feel rich. That’s why, in the following line, he says that in the darkest hours of his life his friend was there to lean upon.

In the last line, “darkest hours” symbolize the worst phases of the speaker’s life. For the presence of his friend, he is undaunted of such hard times as he knows he will always be there.

Stanza Four

I’m wishing at this Christmas time that I could but repay

(…)

I’d like to be the sort of friend that you have been to me.

The fourth stanza clarifies the reason for penning down this verse. It is meant as a Christmas gift for the friend mentioned in the poem. He wants to greet his buddy with this beautiful piece.

In this stanza, readers can find a metaphor in the second line. Here, Guest compares “gladness” to debt. His speaker wants to repay this debt of gladness by offering this poem to him. Besides, the friend has generously strewn happiness in the speaker’s path. It seems as if the speaker is comparing gladness to flowers strewn along the path.

The third line contains a repetition of the speaker’s wish that is meant to emphasize how badly he wants to repay him by making him happy. There is a refrain in the last line. The first line of the poem “I’d like to be the sort of friend that you have been to me” is repeated here.

Historical Context

The poet of ‘A Friend’s Greeting’ Edgar Guest is best known for his inspirational and optimistic view of everyday life. His all-time favorites ‘Myself’ and ‘Thanksgiving’ are still studied today. Guest is regarded as the “People’s Poet” for his simple style and works meant for the masses. Likewise, in this poem analyzed here, readers can find how Guest uses everyday expressions to frame a beautiful thanksgiving poem for his friend. Though this poem is told from the perspective of an innocent speaker, it taps on some deeper emotions and ideas as well.

Read more Edgar Guest poems.

FAQs

What is the poem ‘A Friend’s Greeting’ about?

Edgar Guest’s ‘A Friend’s Greeting’ is about a speaker who wants to be like his friend. He wants to thank him through this beautiful verse for always being with him and making his life happy. He means to him a lot and his help cannot be repaid even though the speaker wishes to pay it back.

What type of poem is ‘A Friend’s Greeting’?

This poem is written in the conventional quatrain style. It consists of four quatrains with regularly rhyming lines. Guest writes it from the perspective of a first-person speaker. So, it is a lyric poem in fourteener form.

What is the meaning of the poem?

The meaning of this poem centers on what is the role of a friend in one’s life. Through this beautiful verse, Guest talks about what it means to be friends and the meaning of true friendship.

What is the theme of this piece?

The poem ‘A Friend’s Greeting’ taps on the themes of friendship, thanksgiving, gratitude, and love. The main theme of this piece centers on the meaning and value of friendship. To depict this theme, the poet uses a voice that is filled with appreciation for his friend.

Why does the speaker wish to be like his friend?

He wants to be like his friend because he is extremely precious in his life. His friend is always there for him. He fills his life with happiness, pleasure, and gladness. For being kind to him, he wants to thank him through this verse.


Similar Poems

Here is a list of a few poems that similarly tap on the themes present in Edgar Guest’s poem ‘A Friend’s Greeting’.

You can also read about the best-loved poems on friendship and these beautiful thanksgiving poems.

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About
A complete expert on poetry, Sudip graduated with a first-class B.A. Honors Degree in English Literature. He has a passion for analyzing poetic works with a particular emphasis on literary devices and scansion.
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