George MacDonald.

The poetical works of George MacDonald in two volumes — Volume 2 online

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VOL. 2


The Man of Songs
The Hills
The Journey
The Tree's Prayer
Were I a Skilful Painter
Far and Near
My Room
Death and Birth
Love's Ordeal
The Lost Soul
The Three Horses
The Golden Key
Somnium Mystici
The Sangreal
The Failing Track
Tell Me
Brother Artist
After an Old Legend
A Meditation of St Eligius
The Early Bird
Sir Lark and King Sun
The Owl and the Bell
A Mammon-Marriage
A Song in the Night
Love's History
The Lark and the Wind
A Dead House
Bell upon Organ
Master and Boy
The Clock of the Universe
The Thorn in the Flesh

The Unseen Model
The Homeless Ghost
Abu Midjan
The Thankless Lady
Legend of the Corrievrechan
The Dead Hand

In the Night
The Giver
False Prophets
Travellers' Song
Love is Strength
A Song of the Waiting Dead
A Song in the Night
De Profundis
Blind Sorrow

The Father's Worshippers
A Birthday-Wish
To Any One
Lost but Safe
Much and More
Hope and Patience
A Better Thing
A Prisoner
To My Lord and Master
To One Unsatisfied
To My God
The Word of God
Eine Kleine Predigt
To the Life Eternal
Hope Deferred

Lessons for a Child
What makes Summer?
Mother Nature
The Mistletoe
Professor Noctutus
Up and Down
Up in the Tree
A Baby-Sermon
Little Bo-Peep
Little Boy Blue
Willie's Question
King Cole
Said and Did
Dr. Doddridge's Dog
The Girl that Lost Things
A Make-Believe
The Christmas Child
A Christmas Prayer
No End of No-Story

The Haunted House
In the Winter
Christmas Day, 1878
The New Year
Two Rondels
To a Certain Critic
A Cry
From Home
To My Mother Earth
Thy Heart
0 Lord, how Happy
No Sign
November, 1851
Of One who Died in Spring
An Autumn Song
I See Thee Not
A Broken Prayer
Come Down
A Mood
The Carpenter
The Old Garden
A Noonday Melody
Who Lights the Fire?
Who would have Thought?
On a December Day
Christmas Day, 1850
To a February Primrose
In February
The True
The Dwellers Therein
Autumn's Gold
Shew us the Father
The Pinafore
The Prism
In Bonds
New Year's Eve: A Waking Dream
From North Wales: To the Mother
Come to Me
A Fear
The Lost House
The Talk of the Echoes
The Goal
The Healer
Oh that a Wind
A Vision of St. Eligius
Of the Son of Man
A Song-Sermon
Words in the Night
Consider the Ravens
The Wind of the World
Sabbath Bells
After the Fashion of an Old Emblem
A Prayer in Sickness
Quiet Dead
Let your Light so Shine
The Souls' Rising
To an Autograph-Hunter
With a Copy of "In Memoriam"
They are Blind
When the Storm was Proudest
The Diver
To the Clouds
Second Sight
Not Understood
Hom II. v. 403
The Dawn
The Prophet
The Watcher
The Beloved Disciple
The Lily of the Valley
Evil Influence
Spoken of several Philosophers
Nature a Moral Power
To June
On a Midge
First Sight of the Sea
On the Source of the Arve
One with Nature
My Two Geniuses
Sudden Calm
Thou Also
The Aurora Borealis
The Human
Written on a Stormy Night
Reverence waking Hope
Born of Water
To a Thunder-Cloud
Sun and Moon
Doubt heralding Vision
Life or Death?
Lost and Found
The Moon
Truth, not Form
God in Growth
In a Churchyard
That Holy Thing
From Novalis
What Man is there of You?
O Wind of God
Shall the Dead praise Thee?
A Year-Song
For where your Treasure is, there will your Heart be also
The Asthmatic Man to the Satan that binds him
A Winter Prayer
Song of a Poor Pilgrim
An Evening Prayer
A Dream-Song
Christmas, 1880
The Sparrow
December 23, 1879
December 27, 1879
Sunday, December 28, 1879
The Donkey in the Cart to the Horse in the Carriage
Room to Roam
Cottage Songs -
1. By the Cradle
2. Sweeping the Floor
3. Washing the Clothes
4. Drawing Water
5. Cleaning the Windows
The Wind and the Moon
The Foolish Harebell
An Improvisation
The Consoler
To - - - .
To a Sister
The Shortest and Sweetest of Songs

Annie she's Dowie
O Lassie ayont the Hill!
The bonny, bonny Dell
Nannie Braw
Ower the Hedge
Gaein and Comin
A Sang o' Zion
Time and Tide
The Waesome Carl
The Mermaid
The Yerl o' Waterydeck
The Twa Gordons
The Last Wooin
The Laverock
Godly Ballants -
1. This Side an' That
2. The Twa Baubees
3. Wha's my Neibour?
4. Him wi' the Bag
5. The Coorse Cratur
The Deil's Forhooit his Ain
The Auld Fisher
The Herd and the Mavis
A Lown Nicht
The Home of Death
Win' that Blaws
A Song of Hope
The Burnie
The Sang o' the Auld Fowk
The Auld Man's Prayer
Granny Canty
What the Auld Fowk are Thinkin
Greitna, Father
I Ken Something



"Thou wanderest in the land of dreams,
O man of many songs!
To thee what is, but looks and seems;
No realm to thee belongs!"

"Seest thou those mountains, faint and far,
O spirit caged and tame?"
"Blue clouds like distant hills they are,
And like is not the same."

"Nay, nay; I know each mountain well,
Each cliff, and peak, and dome!
In that cloudland, in one high dell,
Nesteth my little home."


Behind my father's cottage lies
A gentle grassy height
Up which I often ran - to gaze
Back with a wondering sight,
For then the chimneys I thought high
Were down below me quite!

All round, where'er I turned mine eyes,
Huge hills closed up the view;
The town 'mid their converging roots
Was clasped by rivers two;
From, one range to another sprang
The sky's great vault of blue.

It was a joy to climb their sides,
And in the heather lie!
A joy to look at vantage down
On the castle grim and high!
Blue streams below, white clouds above,
In silent earth and sky!

And now, where'er my feet may roam,
At sight of stranger hill
A new sense of the old delight
Springs in my bosom still,
And longings for the high unknown
Their ancient channels fill.

For I am always climbing hills,
From the known to the unknown -
Surely, at last, on some high peak,
To find my Father's throne,
Though hitherto I have only found
His footsteps in the stone!

And in my wanderings I did meet
Another searching too:
The dawning hope, the shared quest
Our thoughts together drew;
Fearless she laid her band in mine
Because her heart was true.

She was not born among the hills,
Yet on each mountain face
A something known her inward eye
By inborn light can trace;
For up the hills must homeward be,
Though no one knows the place.

Clasp my hand close, my child, in thine -
A long way we have come!
Clasp my hand closer yet, my child,
Farther we yet must roam -
Climbing and climbing till we reach
Our heavenly father's home.



Hark, the rain is on my roof!
Every murmur, through the dark,
Stings me with a dull reproof
Like a half-extinguished spark.
Me! ah me! how came I here,
Wide awake and wide alone!
Caught within a net of fear,
All my dreams undreamed and gone!

I will rise; I will go forth.
Better dare the hideous night,
Better face the freezing north
Than be still, where is no light!
Black wind rushing round me now,
Sown with arrowy points of rain!
Gone are there and then and now -
I am here, and so is pain!

Dead in dreams the gloomy street!
I will out on open roads.
Eager grow my aimless feet -
Onward, onward something goads!
I will take the mountain path,
Beard the storm within its den;
Know the worst of this dim wrath
Harassing the souls of men.

Chasm 'neath chasm! rock piled on rock!
Roots, and crumbling earth, and stones!
Hark, the torrent's thundering shock!
Hark, the swaying pine tree's groans!
Ah! I faint, I fall, I die,
Sink to nothingness away! -
Lo, a streak upon the sky!
Lo, the opening eye of day!


Mountain summits lift their snows
O'er a valley green and low;
And a winding pathway goes
Guided by the river's flow;
And a music rises ever,
As of peace and low content,
From the pebble-paven river
Like an odour upward sent.

And the sound of ancient harms
Moans behind, the hills among,
Like the humming of the swarms
That unseen the forest throng.
Now I meet the shining rain
From a cloud with sunny weft;
Now against the wind I strain,
Sudden burst from mountain cleft.

Now a sky that hath a moon
Staining all the cloudy white
With a faded rainbow - soon
Lost in deeps of heavenly night!
Now a morning clear and soft,
Amber on the purple hills;
Warm blue day of summer, oft
Cooled by wandering windy rills!

Joy to travel thus along
With the universe around!
Every creature of the throng,
Every sight and scent and sound
Homeward speeding, beauty-laden,
Beelike, to its hive, my soul!
Mine the eye the stars are made in!
Mine the heart of Nature's whole!


Hills retreating on each hand
Slowly sink into the plain;
Solemn through the outspread land
Rolls the river to the main.
In the glooming of the night
Something through the dusky air
Doubtful glimmers, faintly white,
But I know not what or where.

Is it but a chalky ridge
Bared of sod, like tree of bark?
Or a river-spanning bridge
Miles away into the dark?
Or the foremost leaping waves
Of the everlasting sea,
Where the Undivided laves
Time with its eternity?

Is it but an eye-made sight,
In my brain a fancied gleam?
Or a faint aurora-light
From the sun's tired smoking team?
In the darkness it is gone,
Yet with every step draws nigh;
Known shall be the thing unknown
When the morning climbs the sky!

Onward, onward through the night
Matters it I cannot see?
I am moving in a might
Dwelling in the dark and me!
End or way I cannot lose -
Grudge to rest, or fear to roam;
All is well with wanderer whose
Heart is travelling hourly home.


Joy! O joy! the dawning sea
Answers to the dawning sky,
Foretaste of the coming glee
When the sun will lord it high!
See the swelling radiance growing
To a dazzling glory-might!
See the shadows gently going
'Twixt the wave-tops wild with light!

Hear the smiting billows clang!
See the falling billows lean
Half a watery vault, and hang
Gleaming with translucent green,
Then in thousand fleeces fall,
Thundering light upon the strand! -
This the whiteness which did call
Through the dusk, across the land!

See, a boat! Out, out we dance!
Fierce blasts swoop upon my sail!
What a terrible expanse -
Tumbling hill and heaving dale!
Stayless, helpless, lost I float,
Captive to the lawless free!
But a prison is my boat!
Oh, for petrel-wings to flee!

Look below: each watery whirl
Cast in beauty's living mould!
Look above: each feathery curl
Dropping crimson, dropping gold! -
Oh, I tremble in the flush
Of the everlasting youth!
Love and awe together rush:
I am free in God, the Truth!


Alas, 'tis cold and dark!
The wind all night hath sung a wintry tune!
Hail from black clouds that swallowed up the moon
Beat, beat against my bark.

Oh! why delays the spring?
Not yet the sap moves in my frozen veins;
Through all my stiffened roots creep numbing pains,
That I can hardly cling.

The sun shone yester-morn;
I felt the glow down every fibre float,
And thought I heard a thrush's piping note
Of dim dream-gladness born.

Then, on the salt gale driven,
The streaming cloud hissed through my outstretched arms,
Tossed me about in slanting snowy swarms,
And blotted out the heaven.

All night I brood and choose
Among past joys. Oh, for the breath of June!
The feathery light-flakes quavering from the moon
The slow baptizing dews!

Oh, the joy-frantic birds! -
They are the tongues of us, mute, longing trees!
Aha, the billowy odours! and the bees
That browse like scattered herds!

The comfort-whispering showers
That thrill with gratefulness my youngest shoot!
The children playing round my deep-sunk root,
Green-caved from burning hours!

See, see the heartless dawn,
With naked, chilly arms latticed across!
Another weary day of moaning loss
On the thin-shadowed lawn!

But icy winter's past;
Yea, climbing suns persuade the relenting wind:
I will endure with steadfast, patient mind;
My leaves _will_ come at last!


Were I a skilful painter,
My pencil, not my pen,
Should try to teach thee hope and fear,
And who would blame me then? -
Fear of the tide of darkness
That floweth fast behind,
And hope to make thee journey on
In the journey of the mind.

Were I a skilful painter,
What should I paint for thee? -
A tiny spring-bud peeping out
From a withered wintry tree;
The warm blue sky of summer
O'er jagged ice and snow,
And water hurrying gladsome out
From a cavern down below;

The dim light of a beacon
Upon a stormy sea,
Where a lonely ship to windward beats
For life and liberty;
A watery sun-ray gleaming
Athwart a sullen cloud
And falling on some grassy flower
The rain had earthward bowed;

Morn peeping o'er a mountain,
In ambush for the dark,
And a traveller in the vale below
Rejoicing like a lark;
A taper nearly vanished
Amid the dawning gray,
And a maiden lifting up her head,
And lo, the coming day!

I am no skilful painter;
Let who will blame me then
That I would teach thee hope and fear
With my plain-talking pen! -
Fear of the tide of darkness
That floweth fast behind,
And hope to make thee journey on
In the journey of the mind.

[The fact which suggested this poem is related by Clarke in his Travels.]


Blue sky above, blue sea below,
Far off, the old Nile's mouth,
'Twas a blue world, wherein did blow
A soft wind from the south.

In great and solemn heaves the mass
Of pulsing ocean beat,
Unwrinkled as the sea of glass
Beneath the holy feet.

With forward leaning of desire
The ship sped calmly on,
A pilgrim strong that would not tire
Or hasten to be gone.


List! - on the wave! - what can they be,
Those sounds that hither glide?
No lovers whisper tremulously
Under the ship's round side!

No sail across the dark blue sphere
Holds white obedient way;
No far-fled, sharp-winged boat is near,
No following fish at play!

'Tis not the rippling of the wave,
Nor sighing of the cords;
No winds or waters ever gave
A murmur so like words;

Nor wings of birds that northward strain,
Nor talk of hidden crew:
The traveller questioned, but in vain -
He found no answer true.


A hundred level miles away,
On Egypt's troubled shore,
Two nations fought, that sunny day,
With bellowing cannons' roar.

The fluttering whisper, low and near,
Was that far battle's blare;
A lipping, rippling motion here,
The blasting thunder there.


Can this dull sighing in my breast
So faint and undefined,
Be the worn edge of far unrest
Borne on the spirit's wind?

The uproar of high battle fought
Betwixt the bond and free,
The thunderous roll of armed thought
Dwarfed to an ache in me?


To G. E. M.

'Tis a little room, my friend -
Baby walks from end to end;
All the things look sadly real
This hot noontide unideal;
Vaporous heat from cope to basement
All you see outside the casement,
Save one house all mud-becrusted,
And a street all drought-bedusted!
There behold its happiest vision,
Trickling water-cart's derision!
Shut we out the staring space,
Draw the curtains in its face!

Close the eyelids of the room,
Fill it with a scarlet gloom:
Lo, the walls with warm flush dyed!
Lo, the ceiling glorified,
As when, lost in tenderest pinks,
White rose on the red rose thinks!
But beneath, a hue right rosy,
Red as a geranium-posy,
Stains the air with power estranging,
Known with unknown clouding, changing.
See in ruddy atmosphere
Commonplaceness disappear!
Look around on either hand -
Are we not in fairyland?

On that couch, inwrapt in mist
Of vaporized amethyst,
Lie, as in a rose's heart:
Secret things I would impart;
Any time you would believe them -
Easier, though, you will receive them
Bathed in glowing mystery
Of the red light shadowy;
For this ruby-hearted hue,
Sanguine core of all the true,
Which for love the heart would plunder
Is the very hue of wonder;
This dissolving dreamy red
Is the self-same radiance shed
From the heart of poet young,
Glowing poppy sunlight-stung:
If in light you make a schism
'Tis the deepest in the prism.

This poor-seeming room, in fact
Is of marvels all compact,
So disguised by common daylight
By its disenchanting gray light,
Only eyes that see by shining,
Inside pierce to its live lining.
Loftiest observatory
Ne'er unveiled such hidden glory;
Never sage's furnace-kitchen
Magic wonders was so rich in;
Never book of wizard old
Clasped such in its iron hold.

See that case against the wall,
Darkly-dull-purpureal! -
A piano to the prosy,
But to us in twilight rosy -
What? - A cave where Nereids lie,
Naiads, Dryads, Oreads sigh,
Dreaming of the time when they
Danced in forest and in bay.
In that chest before your eyes
Nature self-enchanted lies; -
Lofty days of summer splendour;
Low dim eves of opal tender;
Airy hunts of cloud and wind;
Brooding storm - below, behind;
Awful hills and midnight woods;
Sunny rains in solitudes;
Babbling streams in forests hoar;
Seven-hued icebergs; oceans frore. -
Yes; did I not say _enchanted_,
That is, hid away till wanted?
Do you hear a low-voiced singing?
'Tis the sorceress's, flinging
Spells around her baby's riot,
Binding her in moveless quiet: -
She at will can disenchant them,
And to prayer believing grant them.

You believe me: soon will night
Free her hands for fair delight;
Then invoke her - she will come.
Fold your arms, be blind and dumb.
She will bring a book of spells
Writ like crabbed oracles;
Like Sabrina's will her hands
Thaw the power of charmed bands.
First will ransomed music rush
Round thee in a glorious gush;
Next, upon its waves will sally,
Like a stream-god down a valley,
Nature's self, the formless former,
Nature's self, the peaceful stormer;
She will enter, captive take thee,
And both one and many make thee,
One by softest power to still thee,
Many by the thoughts that fill thee. -
Let me guess three guesses where
She her prisoner will bear!

On a mountain-top you stand
Gazing o'er a sunny land;
Shining streams, like silver veins,
Rise in dells and meet in plains;
Up yon brook a hollow lies
Dumb as love that fears surprise;
Moorland tracts of broken ground
O'er it rise and close it round:
He who climbs from bosky dale
Hears the foggy breezes wail.
Yes, thou know'st the nest of love,
Know'st the waste around, above!
In thy soul or in thy past,
Straight it melts into the vast,
Quickly vanishes away
In a gloom of darkening gray.

Sinks the sadness into rest,
Ripple like on water's breast:
Mother's bosom rests the daughter -
Grief the ripple, love the water;
And thy brain like wind-harp lies
Breathed upon from distant skies,
Till, soft-gathering, visions new
Grow like vapours in the blue:
White forms, flushing hyacinthine,
Move in motions labyrinthine;
With an airy wishful gait
On the counter-motion wait;
Sweet restraint and action free
Show the law of liberty;
Master of the revel still
The obedient, perfect will;
Hating smallest thing awry,
Breathing, breeding harmony;
While the god-like graceful feet,
For such mazy marvelling meet,
Press from air a shining sound,
Rippling after, lingering round:
Hair afloat and arms aloft
Fill the chord of movement soft.

Gone the measure polyhedral!
Towers aloft a fair cathedral!
Every arch - like praying arms
Upward flung in love's alarms,
Knit by clasped hands o'erhead -
Heaves to heaven a weight of dread;
In thee, like an angel-crowd,
Grows the music, praying loud,
Swells thy spirit with devotion
As a strong wind swells the ocean,
Sweeps the visioned pile away,
Leaves thy heart alone to pray.

As the prayer grows dim and dies
Like a sunset from the skies,
Glides another change of mood
O'er thy inner solitude:
Girt with Music's magic zone,
Lo, thyself magician grown!
Open-eyed thou walk'st through earth
Brooding on the aeonian birth
Of a thousand wonder-things
In divine dusk of their springs:
Half thou seest whence they flow,
Half thou seest whither go -
Nature's consciousness, whereby
On herself she turns her eye,
Hoping for all men and thee
Perfected, pure harmony.

But when, sinking slow, the sun
Leaves the glowing curtain dun,
I, of prophet-insight reft,
Shall be dull and dreamless left;
I must hasten proof on proof,
Weaving in the warp my woof!

What are those upon the wall,
Ranged in rows symmetrical?
Through the wall of things external
Posterns they to the supernal;
Through Earth's battlemented height
Loopholes to the Infinite;
Through locked gates of place and time,
Wickets to the eternal prime
Lying round the noisy day
Full of silences alway.

That, my friend? Now, it is curious
You should hit upon the spurious!
'Tis a door to nowhere, that;
Never soul went in thereat;
Lies behind, a limy wall
Hung with cobwebs, that is all.

Do not open that one yet,
Wait until the sun is set.
If you careless lift its latch
Glimpse of nothing will you catch;
Mere negation, blank of hue,
Out of it will stare at you;
Wait, I say, the coming night,
Fittest time for second sight,
Then the wide eyes of the mind
See far down the Spirit's wind.
You may have to strain and pull,
Force and lift with cunning tool,
Ere the rugged, ill-joined door
Yield the sight it stands before:
When at last, with grating sweep,
Wide it swings - behold, the deep!

Thou art standing on the verge
Where material things emerge;
Hoary silence, lightning fleet,
Shooteth hellward at thy feet!
Fear not thou whose life is truth,
Gazing will renew thy youth;
But where sin of soul or flesh
Held a man in spider-mesh,
It would drag him through that door,
Give him up to loreless lore,
Ages to be blown and hurled
Up and down a deedless world.

Ah, your eyes ask how I brook
Doors that are not, doors to look!
That is whither I was tending,
And it brings me to good ending.

Baby is the cause of this;
Odd it seems, but so it is; -
Baby, with her pretty prate
Molten, half articulate,
Full of hints, suggestions, catches,
Broken verse, and music snatches!
She, like seraph gone astray,
Must be shown the homeward way;
Plant of heaven, she, rooted lowly,
Must put forth a blossom holy,
Must, through culture high and steady,
Slow unfold a gracious lady;
She must therefore live in wonder,
See nought common up or under;
She the moon and stars and sea,
Worm and butterfly and bee,
Yea, the sparkle in a stone,
Must with marvel look upon;
She must love, in heaven's own blueness,
Both the colour and the newness;
Must each day from darkness break,
Often often come awake,
Never with her childhood part,
Change the brain, but keep the heart.

So, from lips and hands and looks,
She must learn to honour books,
Turn the leaves with careful fingers,
Never lean where long she lingers;
But when she is old enough
She must learn the lesson rough
That to seem is not to be,
As to know is not to see;
That to man or book, _appearing_
Gives no title to revering;
That a pump is not a well,
Nor a priest an oracle:
This to leave safe in her mind,
I will take her and go find
Certain no-books, dreary apes,
Tell her they are mere mock-shapes
No more to be honoured by her
But be laid upon the fire;
Book-appearance must not hinder
Their consuming to a cinder.

Would you see the small immortal
One short pace within Time's portal?
I will fetch her. - Is she white?
Solemn? true? a light in light?

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