George MacDonald.

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

. (page 11 of 20)
Online LibraryGeorge MacDonaldThe poetical works of George MacDonald in two volumes — Volume 2 → online text (page 11 of 20)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

Leap at once into the truth,
If there is a truth for thee.

Shapeless thoughts and dull opinions,
Slow distinctions and degrees, -
Vex not thou thy weary pinions
With such leaden weights as these -
Through this mystic jurisdiction
Reaching out a hand by chance,
Resting on a dull conviction
Whetted but by ignorance;
Living ever to behold
Mournful eyes that watch and weep;
Spirit suns that flashed in gold
Failing from the vasty deep;
Starry lights that glowed like Truth
Gazing with unnumbered eyes,
Melting from the skies of youth,
Swallowed up of mysteries;
Cords of love that sweetly bound thee;
Faded writing on thy brow;
Presences that came around thee;
Hands of faith that fail thee now!

Groping hands will ever find thee
In the night with loads of chains!
Lift thy fetters and unbind thee,
Cast thee on the midnight plains:
Shapes of vision all-providing -
Famished cheeks and hungry cries!
Sound of crystal waters sliding -
Thirsty lips and bloodshot eyes!
Empty forms that send no gleaming
Through the mystery of this strife! -
Oh, in such a life of seeming,
Death were worth an endless life!

Hark the trumpet of the ocean
Where glad lands were wont to be!
Many voices of commotion
Break in tumult over thee!
Lo, they climb the frowning ages,
Marching o'er their level lands!
Far behind the strife that rages
Silence sits with clasped hands;
Undivided Purpose, freeing
His own steps from hindrances,
Sending out great floods of being,
Bathes thy steps in silentness.
Sit thee down in mirth and laughter -
One there is that waits for thee;
If there is a true hereafter
He will lend thee eyes to see.

Like a snowflake gently falling
On a quiet fountain,
Or a weary echo calling
From a distant mountain,
Drop thy hands in peace, -
Fail - falter - cease.


Loosener of springs, he died by thee!
Softness, not hardness, sent him home;
He loved thee - and thou mad'st him free
Of all the place thou comest from!


Are the leaves falling round about
The churchyard on the hill?
Is the glow of autumn going out?
Is that the winter chill?
And yet through winter's noise, no doubt
The graves are very still!

Are the woods empty, voiceless, bare?
On sodden leaves do you tread?
Is nothing left of all those fair?
Is the whole summer fled?
Well, so from this unwholesome air
Have gone away these dead!

The seasons pierce me; like a leaf
I feel the autumn blow,
And tremble between nature's grief
And the silent death below.
O Summer, thou art very brief!
Where do these exiles go?

_Gilesgate, Durham._


Few in joy's sweet riot
Able are to listen:
Thou, to make me quiet,
Quenchest the sweet riot,
Tak'st away my diet,
Puttest me in prison -
Quenchest joy's sweet riot
That the heart may listen.


Yes, Master, when thou comest thou shalt find
A little faith on earth, if I am here!
Thou know'st how oft I turn to thee my mind.
How sad I wait until thy face appear!

Hast thou not ploughed my thorny ground full sore,
And from it gathered many stones and sherds?
Plough, plough and harrow till it needs no more -
Then sow thy mustard-seed, and send thy birds.

I love thee, Lord; and if I yield to fears,
Nor trust with triumph that pale doubt defies,
Remember, Lord, 'tis nigh two thousand years,
And I have never seen thee with mine eyes!

And when I lift them from the wondrous tale,
See, all about me hath so strange a show!
Is that thy river running down the vale?
Is that thy wind that through the pines doth blow?

Could'st thou right verily appear again,
The same who walked the paths of Palestine,
And here in England teach thy trusting men
In church and field and house, with word and sign?

Here are but lilies, sparrows, and the rest!
My hands on some dear proof would light and stay!
But my heart sees John leaning on thy breast,
And sends them forth to do what thou dost say.


0 Lord, my God, how long
Shall my poor heart pant for a boundless joy?
How long, O mighty Spirit, shall I hear
The murmur of Truth's crystal waters slide
From the deep caverns of their endless being,
But my lips taste not, and the grosser air
Choke each pure inspiration of thy will?

I am a denseness 'twixt me and the light;
1 cannot round myself; my purest thought,
Ere it is thought, hath caught the taint of earth,
And mocked me with hard thoughts beyond my will.

I would be a wind
Whose smallest atom is a viewless wing,
All busy with the pulsing life that throbs
To do thy bidding; yea, or the meanest thing
That has relation to a changeless truth,
Could I but be instinct with thee - each thought
The lightning of a pure intelligence,
And every act as the loud thunder-clap
Of currents warring for a vacuum.

Lord, clothe me with thy truth as with a robe;
Purge me with sorrow; I will bend my head
And let the nations of thy waves pass over,
Bathing me in thy consecrated strength;
And let thy many-voiced and silver winds
Pass through my frame with their clear influence,
O save me; I am blind; lo, thwarting shapes
Wall up the void before, and thrusting out
Lean arms of unshaped expectation, beckon
Down to the night of all unholy thoughts.

Oh, when at midnight one of thy strong angels
Stems back the waves of earthly influence
That shape unsteady continents around me,
And they draw off with the devouring gush
Of exile billows that have found a home,
Leaving me islanded on unseen points,
Hanging 'twixt thee and chaos - I have seen
Unholy shapes lop off my shining thoughts,
And they have lent me leathern wings of fear,
Of baffled pride and harrowing distrust;
And Godhead, with its crown of many stars,
Its pinnacles of flaming holiness,
And voice of leaves in the green summer-time,
Has seemed the shadowed image of a self!
Then my soul blackened; and I rose to find
And grasp my doom, and cleave the arching deeps
Of desolation.

O Lord, my soul is a forgotten well
Clad round with its own rank luxuriance;
A fountain a kind sunbeam searches for,
Sinking the lustre of its arrowy finger
Through the long grass its own strange virtue
Hath blinded up its crystal eye withal:
Make me a broad strong river coming down
With shouts from its high hills, whose rocky hearts
Throb forth the joy of their stability
In watery pulses from their inmost deeps;
And I shall be a vein upon thy world,
Circling perpetual from the parent deep.

Most mighty One,
Confirm and multiply my thoughts of good;
Help me to wall each sacred treasure round
With the firm battlements of special action.
Alas, my holy happy thoughts of thee
Make not perpetual nest within my soul,
But like strange birds of dazzling colours stoop
The trailing glories of their sunward speed
For one glad moment, filling my blasted boughs
With the sunshine of their wings. Make me a forest
Of gladdest life wherein perpetual spring
Lifts up her leafy tresses in the wind.
Lo, now I see
Thy trembling starlight sit among my pines,
And thy young moon slide down my arching boughs
With a soft sound of restless eloquence!
And I can feel a joy as when thy hosts
Of trampling winds, gathering in maddened bands,
Roar upward through the blue and flashing day
Round my still depths of uncleft solitude.

Hear me, O Lord,
When the black night draws down upon my soul,
And voices of temptation darken down
The misty wind, slamming thy starry doors
With bitter jests: - "Thou fool!" they seem to say,
"Thou hast no seed of goodness in thee; all
Thy nature hath been stung right through and through;
Thy sin hath blasted thee and made thee old;
Thou hadst a will, but thou hast killed it dead,
And with the fulsome garniture of life
Built out the loathsome corpse; thou art a child
Of night and death, even lower than a worm;
Gather the skirts up of thy shadowy self,
And with what resolution thou hast left
Fall on the damned spikes of doom!"

Oh, take me like a child,
If thou hast made me for thyself, my God,
And lead me up thy hills. I shall not fear,
So thou wilt make me pure, and beat back sin
With the terrors of thine eye: it fears me not
As once it might have feared thine own good image,
But lays bold siege at my heart's doors.

Oh, I have seen a thing of beauty stand
In the young moonlight of its upward thoughts,
And the old earth came round it with its gifts
Of gladness, whispering leaves, and odorous plants,
Until its large and spiritual eye
Burned with intensest love: my God, I could
Have watched it evermore with Argus-eyes,
Lest when the noontide of the summer's sun
Let down the tented sunlight on the plain,
His flaming beams should scorch my darling flower;
And through the fruitless nights of leaden gloom,
Of plashing rains, and knotted winds of cold,
Yea, when thy lightnings ran across the sky,
And the loud stumbling blasts fell from the hills
Upon the mounds of death, I could have watched
Guarding such beauty like another life!
But, O my God, it changed! -
Yet methinks I know not if it was not I!
Its beauty turned to ghastly loathsomeness!
Then a hand spurned me backwards from the clouds,
And with the gather of a mighty whirlwind,
Drew in the glittering gifts of life.

How long, O Lord, how long?
I am a man lost in a rocky place!
Lo, all thy echoes smite me with confusion
Of varied speech, - the cry of vanished Life
Rolled upon nations' sighs - of hearts uplifted
Against despair - the stifled sounds of Woe
Sitting perpetual by its grey cold well -
Or wasted Toil climbing its endless hills
With quickening gasps - or the thin winds of Joy
That beat about the voices of the crowd!

Lord, hast thou sent
Thy moons to mock us with perpetual hope?
Lighted within our breasts the love of love
To make us ripen for despair, my God?

Oh, dost thou hold each individual soul
Strung clear upon thy flaming rods of purpose?
Or does thine inextinguishable will
Stand on the steeps of night with lifted hand
Filling the yawning wells of monstrous space
With mixing thought - drinking up single life
As in a cup? and from the rending folds
Of glimmering purpose, do all thy navied stars
Slide through the gloom with mystic melody,
Like wishes on a brow? Oh, is my soul,
Hung like a dewdrop in thy grassy ways,
Drawn up again into the rack of change
Even through the lustre which created it?
- O mighty one, thou wilt not smite me through
With scorching wrath, because my spirit stands
Bewildered in thy circling mysteries!

Oh lift the burdened gloom that chokes my soul
With dews of darkness; smite the lean winds of death
That run with howls around the ruined temples,
Blowing the souls of men about like leaves.

Lo, the broad life-lands widen overhead,
Star-galaxies arise like drifting snow,
And happy life goes whitening down the stream
Of boundless action, whilst my fettered soul
Sits, as a captive in a noisome dungeon
Watches the pulses of his withered heart
Lave out the sparkling minutes of his life
On the idle flags!

Come in the glory of thine excellence,
Rive the dense gloom with wedges of clear light,
And let the shimmer of thy chariot wheels
Burn through the cracks of night! So slowly, Lord,
To lift myself to thee with hands of toil,
Climbing the slippery cliffs of unheard prayer!
Lift up a hand among my idle days -
One beckoning finger: I will cast aside
The clogs of earthly circumstance and run
Up the broad highways where the countless worlds
Sit ripening in the summer of thy love.
Send a clear meaning sparkling through the years;
Burst all the prison-doors, and make men's hearts
Gush up like fountains with thy melody;
Brighten the hollow eyes; fill with life's fruits
The hands that grope and scramble down the wastes;
And let the ghastly troops of withered ones
Come shining o'er the mountains of thy love.

Lord, thy strange mysteries come thickening down
Upon my head like snowflakes, shutting out
The happy upper fields with chilly vapour.
Shall I content my soul with a weak sense
Of safety? or feed my ravenous hunger with
Sore purged hopes, that are not hopes but fears
Clad in white raiment?

The creeds lie in the hollow of men's hearts
Like festering pools glassing their own corruption;
The slimy eyes stare up with dull approval,
And answer not when thy bright starry feet
Move on the watery floors: oh, shake men's souls
Together like the gathering of all oceans
Rent from their hidden chambers, till the waves
Lift up their million voices of high joy
Along the echoing cliffs! come thus, O Lord,
With nightly gifts of stars, and lay a hand
Of mighty peace upon the quivering flood.

O wilt thou hear me when I cry to thee?
I am a child lost in a mighty forest;
The air is thick with voices, and strange hands
Reach through the dusk, and pluck me by the skirts.
There is a voice which sounds like words from home,
But, as I stumble on to reach it, seems
To leap from rock to rock: oh, if it is
Willing obliquity of sense, descend,
Heal all my wanderings, take me by the hand,
And lead me homeward through the shadows.
Let me not by my wilful acts of pride
Block up the windows of thy truth, and grow
A wasted, withered thing, that stumbles on
Down to the grave with folded hands of sloth
And leaden confidence.


Still am I haunting
Thy door with my prayers;
Still they are panting
Up thy steep stairs!
Wouldst thou not rather
Come down to my heart,
And there, O my Father,
Be what thou art?


My thoughts are like fire-flies, pulsing in moonlight;
My heart like a silver cup, filled with red wine;
My soul a pale gleaming horizon, whence soon light
Will flood the gold earth with a torrent divine.


0 Lord, at Joseph's humble bench
Thy hands did handle saw and plane;
Thy hammer nails did drive and clench,
Avoiding knot and humouring grain.

That thou didst seem, thou wast indeed,
In sport thy tools thou didst not use;
Nor, helping hind's or fisher's need,
The labourer's hire, too nice, refuse.

Lord, might I be but as a saw,
A plane, a chisel, in thy hand! -
No, Lord! I take it back in awe,
Such prayer for me is far too grand.

I pray, O Master, let me lie,
As on thy bench the favoured wood;
Thy saw, thy plane, thy chisel ply,
And work me into something good.

No, no; ambition, holy-high,
Urges for more than both to pray:
Come in, O gracious Force, I cry -
O workman, share my shed of clay.

Then I, at bench, or desk, or oar,
With knife or needle, voice or pen,
As thou in Nazareth of yore,
Shall do the Father's will again.

Thus fashioning a workman rare,
O Master, this shall be thy fee:
Home to thy father thou shall bear
Another child made like to thee.



I stood in an ancient garden
With high red walls around;
Over them grey and green lichens
In shadowy arabesque wound.

The topmost climbing blossoms
On fields kine-haunted looked out;
But within were shelter and shadow,
With daintiest odours about.

There were alleys and lurking arbours,
Deep glooms into which to dive.
The lawns were as soft as fleeces,
Of daisies I counted but five.

The sun-dial was so aged
It had gathered a thoughtful grace;
'Twas the round-about of the shadow
That so had furrowed its face.

The flowers were all of the oldest
That ever in garden sprung;
Red, and blood-red, and dark purple
The rose-lamps flaming hung.

Along the borders fringed
With broad thick edges of box
Stood foxgloves and gorgeous poppies
And great-eyed hollyhocks.

There were junipers trimmed into castles,
And ash-trees bowed into tents;
For the garden, though ancient and pensive,
Still wore quaint ornaments.

It was all so stately fantastic
Its old wind hardly would stir;
Young Spring, when she merrily entered,
Scarce felt it a place for her.


I stood in the summer morning
Under a cavernous yew;
The sun was gently climbing,
And the scents rose after the dew.

I saw the wise old mansion,
Like a cow in the noon-day heat,
Stand in a lake of shadows
That rippled about its feet.

Its windows were oriel and latticed,
Lowly and wide and fair;
And its chimneys like clustered pillars
Stood up in the thin blue air.

White doves, like the thoughts of a lady,
Haunted it all about;
With a train of green and blue comets
The peacock went marching stout.

The birds in the trees were singing
A song as old as the world,
Of love and green leaves and sunshine,
And winter folded and furled.

They sang that never was sadness
But it melted and passed away;
They sang that never was darkness
But in came the conquering day.

And I knew that a maiden somewhere,
In a low oak-panelled room,
In a nimbus of shining garments,
An aureole of white-browed bloom,

Looked out on the garden dreamy,
And knew not it was old;
Looked past the gray and the sombre,
Saw but the green and the gold,


I stood in the gathering twilight,
In a gently blowing wind;
Then the house looked half uneasy,
Like one that was left behind.

The roses had lost their redness,
And cold the grass had grown;
At roost were the pigeons and peacock,
The sun-dial seemed a head-stone.

The world by the gathering twilight
In a gauzy dusk was clad;
Something went into my spirit
And made me a little sad.

Grew and gathered the twilight,
It filled my heart and brain;
The sadness grew more than sadness,
It turned to a gentle pain.

Browned and brooded the twilight,
Pervaded, absorbed the calm,
Till it seemed for some human sorrows
There could not be any balm.


Then I knew that, up a staircase
Which untrod will yet creak and shake,
Deep in a distant chamber
A ghost was coming awake -

In the growing darkness growing,
Growing till her eyes appear
Like spots of a deeper twilight,
But more transparent clear:

Thin as hot air up-trembling,
Thin as sun-molten crape,
An ethereal shadow of something
Is taking a certain shape;

A shape whose hands hang listless,
Let hang its disordered hair;
A shape whose bosom is heaving
But draws not in the air.

And I know, what time the moonlight
On her nest of shadows will sit,
Out on the dim lawn gliding
That shadowy shadow will flit.


The moon is dreaming upward
From a sea of cloud and gleam;
She looks as if she had seen me
Never but in a dream.

Down the stair I know she is coming,
Bare-footed, lifting her train;
It creaks not - she hears it creaking
Where once there was a brain.

Out at yon side-door she's coming,
With a timid glance right and left;
Her look is hopeless yet eager,
The look of a heart bereft.

Across the lawn she is flitting,
Her thin gown feels the wind;
Are her white feet bending the grasses?
Her hair is lifted behind!


Shall I stay to look on her nearer?
Would she start and vanish away?
Oh, no, she will never see me,
Stand I near as I may!

It is not this wind she is feeling,
Not this cool grass below;
'Tis the wind and the grass of an evening
A hundred years ago.

She sees no roses darkling,
No stately hollyhocks dim;
She is only thinking and dreaming
The garden, the night, and him,

The unlit windows behind her,
The timeless dial-stone,
The trees, and the moon, and the shadows
A hundred years agone!

'Tis a night for a ghostly lover
To haunt the best-loved spot:
Is he come in his dreams to this garden?
I gaze, but I see him not.


I will not look on her nearer,
My heart would be torn in twain;
From my eyes the garden would vanish
In the falling of their rain.

I will not look on a sorrow
That darkens into despair,
On the surge of a heart that cannot
Yet cannot cease to bear.

My soul to hers would be calling:
She would hear no word it said!
If I cried aloud in the stillness
She would never turn her head!

She is dreaming the sky above her,
She is dreaming the earth below: -
This night she lost her lover
A hundred years ago.


Everything goes to its rest;
The hills are asleep in the noon;
And life is as still in its nest
As the moon when she looks on a moon
In the depth of a calm river's breast
As it steals through a midnight in June.

The streams have forgotten the sea
In the dream of their musical sound;
The sunlight is thick on the tree,
And the shadows lie warm on the ground, -
So still, you may watch them and see
Every breath that awakens around.

The churchyard lies still in the heat,
With its handful of mouldering bone,
As still as the long stalk of wheat
In the shadow that sits by the stone,
As still as the grass at my feet
When I walk in the meadows alone.

The waves are asleep on the main,
And the ships are asleep on the wave;
And the thoughts are as still in my brain
As the echo that sleeps in the cave;
All rest from their labour and pain -
Then why should not I in my grave?


Who lights the fire - that forth so gracefully
And freely frolicketh the fairy smoke?
Some pretty one who never felt the yoke -
Glad girl, or maiden more sedate than she.

Pedant it cannot, villain cannot be!
Some genius, may-be, his own symbol woke;
But puritan, nor rogue in virtue's cloke,
Nor kitchen-maid has done it certainly!

Ha, ha! you cannot find the lighter out
For all the blue smoke's pantomimic gesture -
His name or nature, sex or age or vesture!
The fire was lit by human care, no doubt -
But now the smoke is Nature's tributary,
Dancing 'twixt man and nothing like a fairy.


Who would have thought that even an idle song
Were such a holy and celestial thing
That wickedness and envy cannot sing -
That music for no moment lives with wrong?
I know this, for a very grievous throng,
Dark thoughts, low wishes, round my bosom cling,
And, underneath, the hidden holy spring
Stagnates because of their enchantment strong.

Blow, breath of heaven, on all this poison blow!
And, heart, glow upward to this gracious breath!
Between them, vanish, mist of sin and death,
And let the life of life within me flow!
Love is the green earth, the celestial air,
And music runs like dews and rivers there!



This is the sweetness of an April day;
The softness of the spring is on the face
Of the old year. She has no natural grace,
But something comes to her from far away

Out of the Past, and on her old decay
The beauty of her childhood you can trace. -
And yet she moveth with a stormy pace,
And goeth quickly. - Stay, old year, oh, stay!

We do not like new friends, we love the old;
With young, fierce, hopeful hearts we ill agree;
But thou art patient, stagnant, calm, and cold,
And not like that new year that is to be; -
Life, promise, love, her eyes may fill, fair child!
We know the past, and will not be beguiled.


Yet the free heart will not be captive long;
And if she changes often, she is free.
But if she changes: One has mastery
Who makes the joy the last in every song.
And so to-day I blessed the breezes strong
That swept the blue; I blessed the breezes free
That rolled wet leaves like rivers shiningly;
I blessed the purple woods I stood among.

"And yet the spring is better!" Bitterness
Came with the words, but did not stay with them.
"Accomplishment and promise! field and stem
New green fresh growing in a fragrant dress!
And we behind with death and memory!"
- Nay, prophet-spring! but I will follow thee.


Beautiful stories wed with lovely days
Like words and music: - what shall be the tale
Of love and nobleness that might avail
To express in action what this sweetness says -

The sweetness of a day of airs and rays
That are strange glories on the winter pale?
Alas, O beauty, all my fancies fail!
I cannot tell a story in thy praise!

Thou hast, thou hast one - set, and sure to chime
With thee, as with the days of "winter wild;"
For Joy like Sorrow loves his blessed feet
Who shone from Heaven on Earth this Christmas-time
A Brother and a Saviour, Mary's child! -
And so, fair day, thou _hast_ thy story sweet.


I know not what among the grass thou art,
Thy nature, nor thy substance, fairest flower,
Nor what to other eyes thou hast of power
To send thine image through them to the heart;
But when I push the frosty leaves apart
And see thee hiding in thy wintry bower
Thou growest up within me from that hour,
And through the snow I with the spring depart.

I have no words. But fragrant is the breath,
Pale beauty, of thy second life within.
There is a wind that cometh for thy death,

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 11 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20

Online LibraryGeorge MacDonaldThe poetical works of George MacDonald in two volumes — Volume 2 → online text (page 11 of 20)