George MacDonald.

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

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Rend and scatter the skeleton's bones
Over the deserts and mountains bare!
Blast and hurl and shiver aside
Nailed sticks and mortared stones!
Clear the phantom, with torrent and tide,
Out of the moon and out of my brain,
That the light may fall shadowless in again!

VIII. But, alas, then the ghost
O'er mountain and coast
Would go roaming, roaming! and never was swine
That, grubbing and talking with snork and whine
On Gadarene mountains, had taken him in
But would rush to the lake to unhouse the sin!
For any charnel
This ghost is too carnal;
There is no volcano, burnt out and cold,
Whose very ashes are gray and old,
But would cast him forth in reviving flame
To blister the sky with a smudge of shame!

IX. Is there no help? none anywhere
Under the earth or above the air? -
Come, sad woman, whose tender throat
Has a red-lipped mouth that can sing no note!
Child, whose midwife, the third grim Fate,
Shears in hand, thy coming did wait!
Father, with blood-bedabbled hair!
Mother, all withered with love's despair!
Come, broken heart, whatever thou be,
Hasten to help this misery!
Thou wast only murdered, or left forlorn:
He is a horror, a hate, a scorn!
Come, if out of the holiest blue
That the sapphire throne shines through;
For pity come, though thy fair feet stand
Next to the elder-band;
Fling thy harp on the hyaline,
Hurry thee down the spheres divine;
Come, and drive those ravens away;
Cover his eyes from the pitiless moon,
Shadow his brain from her stinging spray;
Droop around him, a tent of love,
An odour of grace, a fanning dove;
Walk through the house with the healing tune
Of gentle footsteps; banish the shape
Remorse calls up thyself to ape;
Comfort him, dear, with pardon sweet;
Cool his heart from its burning heat
With the water of life that laves the feet
Of the throne of God, and the holy street!

X. O God, he is but a living blot,
Yet he lives by thee - for if thou wast not,
They would vanish together, self-forgot,
He and his crime: - one breathing blown
From thy spirit on his would all atone,
Scatter the horror, and bring relief
In an amber dawn of holy grief!
God, give him sorrow; arise from within,
His primal being, deeper than sin!

XI. Why do I tremble, a creature at bay?
'Tis but a dream - I drive it away.
Back comes my breath, and my heart again
Pumps the red blood to my fainting brain
Released from the nightmare's nine-fold train:
God is in heaven - yes, everywhere,
And Love, the all-shining, will kill Despair! -
To the wall's blank eyeless space
I turn the picture's face.

XII. But why is the moon so bare, up there?
And why is she so white?
And why does the moon so stare, up there -
Strangely stare, out of the night?
Why stand up the poplars
That still way?
And why do those two of them
Start astray?
And out of the black why hangs the gray?
Why does it hang down so, I say,
Over that house, like a fringed pall
Where the dead goes by in a funeral? -
Soul of mine,
Thou the reason canst divine:
Into _thee_ the moon doth stare
With pallid, terror-smitten air!
Thou, and the Horror lonely-stark,
Outcast of eternal dark,
Are in nature same and one,
And _thy_ story is not done!
So let the picture face thee from the wall,
And let its white moon stare!


In the winter, flowers are springing;
In the winter, woods are green,
Where our banished birds are singing,
Where our summer sun is seen!
Our cold midnights are coeval
With an evening and a morn
Where the forest-gods hold revel,
And the spring is newly born!

While the earth is full of fighting,
While men rise and curse their day,
While the foolish strong are smiting,
And the foolish weak betray -
The true hearts beyond are growing,
The brave spirits work alone,
Where Love's summer-wind is blowing
In a truth-irradiate zone!

While we cannot shape our living
To the beauty of our skies,
While man wants and earth is giving -
Nature calls and man denies -
How the old worlds round Him gather
Where their Maker is their sun!
How the children know the Father
Where the will of God is done!

Daily woven with our story,
Sounding far above our strife,
Is a time-enclosing glory,
Is a space-absorbing life.
We can dream no dream Elysian,
There is no good thing might be,
But some angel has the vision,
But some human soul shall see!

Is thy strait horizon dreary?
Is thy foolish fancy chill?
Change the feet that have grown weary
For the wings that never will.
Burst the flesh, and live the spirit;
Haunt the beautiful and far;
Thou hast all things to inherit,
And a soul for every star.


I think I might be weary of this day
That comes inevitably every year,
The same when I was young and strong and gay,
The same when I am old and growing sere -
I should grow weary of it every year
But that thou comest to me every day.

I shall grow weary if thou every day
But come to me, Lord of eternal life;
I shall grow weary thus to watch and pray,
For ever out of labour into strife;
Take everlasting house with me, my life,
And I shall be new-born this Christmas-day.

Thou art the Eternal Son, and born no day,
But ever he the Father, thou the Son;
I am his child, but being born alway -
How long, O Lord, how long till it be done?
Be thou from endless years to years the Son -
And I thy brother, new-born every day.


Be welcome, year! with corn and sickle come;
Make poor the body, but make rich the heart:
What man that bears his sheaves, gold-nodding, home,
Will heed the paint rubbed from his groaning cart!

Nor leave behind thy fears and holy shames,
Thy sorrows on the horizon hanging low -
Gray gathered fuel for the sunset-flames
When joyous in death's harvest-home we go.



When, in the mid-sea of the night,
I waken at thy call, O Lord,
The first that troop my bark aboard
Are darksome imps that hate the light,
Whose tongues are arrows, eyes a blight -
Of wraths and cares a pirate horde -
Though on the mid-sea of the night
It was thy call that waked me, Lord.

Then I must to my arms and fight -
Catch up my shield and two-edged sword,
The words of him who is thy word -
Nor cease till they are put to flight;
Then in the mid-sea of the night
I turn and listen for thee, Lord.


There comes no voice from thee, O Lord,
Across the mid-sea of the night!
I lift my voice and cry with might:
If thou keep silent, soon a horde
Of imps again will swarm aboard,
And I shall be in sorry plight
If no voice come from thee, my Lord,
Across the mid-sea of the night.

There comes no voice; I hear no word!
But in my soul dawns something bright: -
There is no sea, no foe to fight!
Thy heart and mine beat one accord:
I need no voice from thee, O Lord,
Across the mid-sea of the night.


Heart, thou must learn to do without -
That is the riches of the poor,
Their liberty is to endure;
Wrap thou thine old cloak thee about,
And carol loud and carol stout;
Let thy rags fly, nor wish them fewer;
Thou too must learn to do without,
Must earn the riches of the poor!

Why should'st thou only wear no clout?
Thou only walk in love-robes pure?
Why should thy step alone be sure?
Thou only free of fortune's flout?
Nay, nay! but learn to go without,
And so be humbly, richly poor.


Lighter and sweeter
Let your song be;
And for sorrow - oh cheat her
With melody!


Lord, I have laid my heart upon thy altar
But cannot get the wood to burn;
It hardly flares ere it begins to falter
And to the dark return.

Old sap, or night-fallen dew, makes damp the fuel;
In vain my breath would flame provoke;
Yet see - at every poor attempt's renewal
To thee ascends the smoke!

'Tis all I have - smoke, failure, foiled endeavour,
Coldness and doubt and palsied lack:
Such as I have I send thee! - perfect Giver,
Send thou thy lightning back.


Such guests as you, sir, were not in my mind
When I my homely dish with care designed;
'Twas certain humble souls I would have fed
Who do not turn from wholesome milk and bread:
You came, slow-trotting on the narrow way,
O'erturned the food, and trod it in the clay;
Then low with discoid nostrils sniffing curt,
Cried, "Sorry cook! why, what a mess of dirt!"


She loves thee, loves thee not!
That, that is all, my heart.
Why should she take a part
In every selfish blot,
In every greedy spot
That now doth ache and smart
Because she loves thee not -
Not, not at all, poor heart!

Thou art no such dove-cot
Of virtues - no such chart
Of highways, though the dart
Of love be through thee shot!
Why should she not love not
Thee, poor, pinched, selfish heart?

_A CRY_.

Lord, hear my discontent: all blank I stand,
A mirror polished by thy hand;
Thy sun's beams flash and flame from me -
I cannot help it: here I stand, there he!
To one of them I cannot say,
Go, and on yonder water play;
Nor one poor ragged daisy can I fashion -
I do not make the words of this my limping passion!
If I should say, Now I will think a thought,
Lo, I must wait, unknowing
What thought in me is growing,
Until the thing to birth be brought!
Nor know I then what next will come
From out the gulf of silence dumb:
I am the door the thing will find
To pass into the general mind!
I cannot say _I think_ -
I only stand upon the thought-well's brink:
From darkness to the sun the water bubbles up -
lift it in my cup.
Thou only thinkest - I am thought;
Me and my thought thou thinkest. Nought
Am I but as a fountain spout
From which thy water welleth out.
Thou art the only one, the all in all. -
Yet when my soul on thee doth call
And thou dost answer out of everywhere,
I in thy allness have my perfect share.


Some men there are who cannot spare
A single tear until they feel
The last cold pressure, and the heel
Is stamped upon the outmost layer.

And, waking, some will sigh to think
The clouds have borrowed winter's wing,
Sad winter, when the grasses spring
No more about the fountain's brink.

And some would call me coward fool:
I lay a claim to better blood,
But yet a heap of idle mud
Hath power to make me sorrowful.


0 Earth, Earth, Earth,
I am dying for love of thee,
For thou hast given me birth,
And thy hands have tended me.

I would fall asleep on thy breast
When its swelling folds are bare,
When the thrush dreams of its nest
And the life of its joy in the air;

When thy life is a vanished ghost,
And the glory hath left thy waves,
When thine eye is blind with frost,
And the fog sits on the graves;

When the blasts are shivering about,
And the rain thy branches beats,
When the damps of death are out,
And the mourners are in the streets.

Oh my sleep should be deep
In the arms of thy swiftening motion,
And my dirge the mystic sweep
Of the winds that nurse the ocean.

And my eye would slowly ope
With the voice that awakens thee,
And runs like a glance of hope
Up through the quickening tree;

When the roots of the lonely fir
Are dipt in thy veining heat,
And thy countless atoms stir
With the gather of mossy feet;

When the sun's great censer swings
In the hands that always be,
And the mists from thy watery rings
Go up like dust from the sea;

When the midnight airs are assembling
With a gush in thy whispering halls,
And the leafy air is trembling
Like a stream before it falls.

Thy shadowy hand hath found me
On the drifts of the Godhead's will,
And thy dust hath risen around me
With a life that guards me still.

O Earth! I have caught from thine
The pulse of a mystic chase;
O Earth! I have drunk like wine
The life of thy swiftening race.

Wilt miss me, mother sweet,
A life in thy milky veins?
Wilt miss the sound of my feet
In the tramp that shakes thy plains

When the jaws of darkness rend,
And the vapours fold away,
And the sounds of life ascend
Like dust in the blinding day?

I would know thy silver strain
In the shouts of the starry crowd
When the souls of thy changing men
Rise up like an incense cloud.

I would know thy brightening lobes
And the lap of thy watery bars
Though space were choked with globes
And the night were blind with stars!

From the folds of my unknown place,
When my soul is glad and free,
I will slide by my God's sweet grace
And hang like a cloud on thee.

When the pale moon sits at night
By the brink of her shining well,
Laving the rings of her widening light
On the slopes of the weltering swell,

I will fall like a wind from the west
On the locks of thy prancing streams,
And sow the fields of thy rest
With handfuls of sweet young dreams.

When the sound of thy children's cry
Hath stricken thy gladness dumb,
I will kindle thine upward eye
With a laugh from the years that come.

Far above where the loud wind raves,
On a wing as still as snow
I will watch the grind of the curly waves
As they bite the coasts below;

When the shining ranks of the frost
Draw down on the glistening wold
In the mail of a fairy host,
And the earth is mossed with cold,

Till the plates that shine about
Close up with a filmy din,
Till the air is frozen out,
And the stars are frozen in.

I will often stoop to range
On the fields where my youth was spent,
And my feet shall smite the cliffs of change
With the rush of a steep descent;

And my glowing soul shall burn
With a love that knows no pall,
And my eye of worship turn
Upon him that fashioned all -

When the sounding waves of strife
Have died on the Godhead's sea,
And thy life is a purer life
That nurses a life in me.


Make not of thy heart a casket,
Opening seldom, quick to close;
But of bread a wide-mouthed basket,
Or a cup that overflows.


_From the German of Dessler._

O Lord, how happy is the time
When in thy love I rest!
When from my weariness I climb
Even to thy tender breast!
The night of sorrow endeth there -
Thou art brighter than the sun;
And in thy pardon and thy care
The heaven of heaven is won.

Let the world call herself my foe,
Or let the world allure -
I care not for the world; I go
To this dear friend and sure.
And when life's fiercest storms are sent
Upon life's wildest sea,
My little bark is confident
Because it holds by thee.

When the law threatens endless death
Upon the dreadful hill,
Straightway from her consuming breath
My soul goeth higher still -
Goeth to Jesus, wounded, slain,
And maketh him her home,
Whence she will not go out again,
And where death cannot come.

I do not fear the wilderness
Where thou hast been before;
Nay rather will I daily press
After thee, near thee, more!
Thou art my food; on thee I lean,
Thou makest my heart sing;
And to thy heavenly pastures green
All thy dear flock dost bring.

And if the gate that opens there
Be dark to other men,
It is not dark to those who share
The heart of Jesus then:
That is not losing much of life
Which is not losing thee,
Who art as present in the strife
As in the victory.

Therefore how happy is the time
When in thy love I rest!
When from my weariness I climb
Even to thy tender breast!
The night of sorrow endeth there -
Thou art brighter than the sun!
And in thy pardon and thy care
The heaven of heaven is won!


O Lord, if on the wind, at cool of day,
I heard one whispered word of mighty grace;
If through the darkness, as in bed I lay,
But once had come a hand upon my face;

If but one sign that might not be mistook
Had ever been, since first thy face I sought,
I should not now be doubting o'er a book,
But serving thee with burning heart and thought.

So dreams that heart. But to my heart I say,
Turning my face to front the dark and wind:
Such signs had only barred anew his way
Into thee, longing heart, thee, wildered mind.

They asked the very Way, where lies the way?
The very Son, where is the Father's face?
How he could show himself, if not in clay,
Who was the lord of spirit, form, and space!

My being, Lord, will nevermore be whole
Until thou come behind mine ears and eyes,
Enter and fill the temple of my soul
With perfect contact - such a sweet surprise,

Such presence as, before it met the view,
The prophet-fancy could not once foresee,
Though every corner of the temple knew
By very emptiness its need of thee.

When I keep _all_ thy words, no favoured some,
Heedless of worldly winds or judgment's tide,
Then, Jesus, thou wilt with thy father come -
Oh, ended prayers! - and in my soul abide.

Ah, long delay! ah, cunning, creeping sin!
I shall but fail, and cease at length to try:
O Jesus, though thou wilt not yet come in,
Knock at my window as thou passest by!

_NOVEMBER, 1851_.

What dost thou here, O soul,
Beyond thy own control,
Under the strange wild sky?
0 stars, reach down your hands,
And clasp me in your silver bands,
I tremble with this mystery! -
Flung hither by a chance
Of restless circumstance,
Thou art but here, and wast not sent;
Yet once more mayest thou draw
By thy own mystic law
To the centre of thy wonderment.

Why wilt thou stop and start?
Draw nearer, oh my heart,
And I will question thee most wistfully;
Gather thy last clear resolution
To look upon thy dissolution.

The great God's life throbs far and free,
And thou art but a spark
Known only in thy dark,
Or a foam-fleck upon the awful ocean,
Thyself thy slender dignity,
Thy own thy vexing mystery,
In the vast change that is not change but motion.

'Tis not so hard as it would seem;
Thy life is but a dream -
And yet thou hast some thoughts about the past;
Let go, let go thy memories,
They are not things but wandering cries -
Wave them each one a long farewell at last:
I hear thee say - "Take them, O tide,
And I will turn aside,
Gazing with heedlessness, nay, even with laughter!
Bind me, ye winds and storms,
Among the things that once had forms,
And carry me clean out of sight thereafter!"

Thou hast lived long enough
To know thy own weak stuff,
Laughing thy fondest joys to utter scorn;
Give up the idle strife -
It is but mockery of life;
The fates had need of thee and thou wast born!
They are, in sooth, but thou shalt die.
O wandering spark! O homeless cry!
O empty will, still lacking self-intent!
Look up among the autumn trees:
The ripened fruits fall through the breeze,
And they will shake thee even like these
Into the lap of an Accomplishment!

Thou hadst a faith, and voices said: -
"Doubt not _that_ truth, but bend thy head
Unto the God who drew thee from the night:"
Thou liftedst up thy eyes - and, lo!
A host of voices answered - "No;
A thousand things as good have seen the light!"
Look how the swarms arise
From every clod before thy eyes!
Are thine the only hopes that fade and fall
When to the centre of its action
One purpose draws each separate fraction,
And nothing but effects are left at all?
Aha, thy faith! what is thy faith?
The sleep that waits on coming death -
A blind delirious swoon that follows pain.
"True to thy nature!" - well! right well!
But what that nature is thou canst not tell -
It has a thousand voices in thy brain.
Danced all the leaflets to and fro?
- Thy feet have trod them long ago!
Sprung the glad music up the blue?
- The hawk hath cut the song in two.
All the mountains crumble,
All the forests fall,
All thy brethren stumble,
And rise no more at all!
In the dim woods there is a sound
When the winds begin to moan;
It is not of joy or yet of mirth,
But the mournful cry of our mother Earth,
As she calleth back her own.
Through the rosy air to-night
The living creatures play
Up and down through the rich faint light -
None so happy as they!
But the blast is here, and noises fall
Like the sound of steps in a ruined hall,
An icy touch is upon them all,
And they sicken and fade away.

The child awoke with an eye of gladness,
With a light on his head and a matchless grace,
And laughed at the passing shades of sadness
That chased the smiles on his mother's face;
And life with its lightsome load of youth
Swam like a boat on a shining lake -
Freighted with hopes enough, in sooth,
But he lived to trample on joy and truth,
And change his crown for a murder-stake!

Oh, a ruddy light went through the room,
Till the dark ran out to his mother Night!
And that little chamber showed through the gloom
Like a Noah's ark with its nest of light!
Right glad was the maiden there, I wis,
With the youth that held her hand in his!
Oh, sweet were the words that went and came
Through the light and shade of the leaping flame
That glowed on the cheerful faces!
So human the speech, so sunny and kind,
That the darkness danced on the wall behind,
And even the wail of the winter wind
Sang sweet through the window-cases!

But a mournful wail crept round and round,
And a voice cried: - "Come!" with a dreary sound,
And the circle wider grew;
The light flame sank, and sorrow fell
On the faces of those that loved so well;
Darker and wilder grew the tone;
Fainter and fainter the faces shone;
The wild night clasped them, and they were gone -
And thou art passing too!

Lo, the morning slowly springs
Like a meek white babe from the womb of night!
One golden planet sits and stings
The shifting gloom with his point of light!
Lo, the sun on its throne of flame!
- Wouldst thou climb and win a crown?
Oh, many a heart that pants for the same
Falls to the earth ere he goes down!
Thy heart is a flower with an open cup -
Sit and watch, if it pleaseth thee,
Till the melting twilight fill it up
With a crystal of tender sympathy;
So, gently will it tremble
The silent midnight through,
And flocks of stars assemble
By turns in its depths of dew; -
But look! oh, look again!
After the driving wind and rain!
When the day is up and the sun is strong,
And the voices of men are loud and long,
When the flower hath slunk to its rest again,
And love is lost in the strife of men!

Let the morning break with thoughts of love,
And the evening fall with dreams of bliss -
So vainly panteth the prisoned dove
For the depths of her sweet wilderness;
So stoops the eagle in his pride
From his rocky nest ere the bow is bent;
So sleeps the deer on the mountain-side
Ere the howling pack hath caught the scent!

The fire climbs high till its work is done;
The stalk falls down when the flower is gone;
And the stars of heaven when their course is run
Melt silently away!
There was a footfall on the snow,
A line of light on the ocean-flow,
And a billow's dash on the rocks below
That stand by the wintry bay: -
The snow was gone on the coming night;
Another wave arose in his might,
Uplifted his foaming breast of white,
And died like the rest for aye!

Oh, the stars were bright! and thyself in thee
Yearned for an immortality!
And the thoughts that drew from thy busy brain
Clasped the worlds like an endless chain -
When a moon arose, and her moving chime
Smote on thy soul, like a word in time,
Or a breathless wish, or a thought in rime,
And the truth that looked so gloomy and high
Leapt to thy arms with a joyful cry!
But what wert thou when a soulless Cause
Opened the book of its barren laws,
And thy spirit that was so glad and free
Was caught in the gin of necessity,
And a howl arose from the strife of things
Vexing each other with scorpion stings?
What wert thou but an orphan child
Thrust from the door when the night was wild?
Or a sailor on the toiling main
Looking blindly up through the wind and rain
As the hull of the vessel fell in twain!

Seals are on the book of fate,
Hands may not unbind it;
Eyes may search for truth till late,
But will never find it - !
Rising on the brow of night
Like a portent of dismay,
As the worlds in wild affright
Track it on its direful way;
Resting like a rainbow bar
Where the curve and level meet,
As the children chase it far
O'er the sands with blistered feet;
Sadly through the mist of ages
Gazing on this life of fear,
Doubtful shining on its pages,
Only seen to disappear!
Sit thee by the sounding shore
- Winds and waves of human breath! -
Learn a lesson from their roar,
Swelling, bursting evermore:
Live thy life and die thy death!
Die not like the writhing worm,
Rise and win thy highest stake;
Better perish in the storm
Than sit rotting on the lake!
Triumph in thy present youth,
Pulse of fire and heart of glee;

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