George MacDonald.

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

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And soft to lie in:
The sun doth shine
The blue sky in:
_Heart, be alive;
Let the new things thrive._

Round again!
Here art thou,
A rimy fruit
On a bare bough!
Winter comes,
Winter and snow;
And a weary sighing
To fall and go!
_Heart, thy hour shall be;
Thy dead will comfort thee._


Why do the houses stand
When they that built them are gone;
When remaineth even of one
That lived there and loved and planned
Not a face, not an eye, not a hand,
Only here and there a bone?
Why do the houses stand
When they who built them are gone?

Oft in the moonlighted land
When the day is overblown,
With happy memorial moan
Sweet ghosts in a loving band
Roam through the houses that stand -
For the builders are not gone.


The miser lay on his lonely bed;
Life's candle was burning dim.
His heart in an iron chest was hid
Under heaps of gold and an iron lid;
And whether it were alive or dead
It never troubled him.

Slowly out of his body he crept.
He said, "I am just the same!
Only I want my heart in my breast;
I will go and fetch it out of my chest!"
Through the dark a darker shadow he leapt,
Saying "Hell is a fabled flame!"

He opened the lid. Oh, Hell's own night!
His ghost-eyes saw no gold! -
Empty and swept! Not a gleam was there!
In goes his hand, but the chest is bare!
Ghost-fingers, aha! have only might
To close, not to clasp and hold!

But his heart he saw, and he made a clutch
At the fungous puff-ball of sin:
Eaten with moths, and fretted with rust,
He grasped a handful of rotten dust,
And shrieked, as ghosts may, at the crumbling touch,
But hid it his breast within.

And some there are who see him sit
Under the church, apart,
Counting out coins and coins of gold
Heap by heap on the dank death-mould:
Alas poor ghost and his sore lack of wit -
They breed in the dust of his heart!

Another miser has now his chest,
And it hoards wealth more and more;
Like ferrets his hands go in and out,
Burrowing, tossing the gold about -
Nor heed the heart that, gone from his breast,
Is the cold heap's bloodless core.

Now wherein differ old ghosts that sit
Counting ghost-coins all day
From the man who clings with spirit prone
To whatever can never be his own?
Who will leave the world with not one whit
But a heart all eaten away?


Satan, avaunt!
Nay, take thine hour,
Thou canst not daunt,
Thou hast no power;
Be welcome to thy nest,
Though it be in my breast.

Burrow amain;
Dig like a mole;
Fill every vein
With half-burnt coal;
Puff the keen dust about,
And all to choke me out.

Fill music's ways
With creaking cries,
That no loud praise
May climb the skies;
And on my labouring chest
Lay mountains of unrest.

My slumber steep
In dreams of haste,
That only sleep,
No rest, I taste -
With stiflings, rimes of rote,
And fingers on my throat.

Satan, thy might
I do defy;
Live core of night
I patient lie:
A wind comes up the gray
Will blow thee clean away.

Christ's angel, Death,
All radiant white,
With one cold breath
Will scare thee quite,
And give my lungs an air
As fresh as answered prayer.

So, Satan, do
Thy worst with me
Until the True
Shall set me free,
And end what he began,
By making me a man.


Lord, what is man
That thou art mindful of him!
Though in creation's van,
Lord, what is man!
He wills less than he can,
Lets his ideal scoff him!
Lord, what is man
That thou art mindful of him!


All things are shadows of thee, Lord;
The sun himself is but thy shade;
My spirit is the shadow of thy word,
A thing that thou hast said.

Diamonds are shadows of the sun,
They gleam as after him they hark:
My soul some arrows of thy light hath won.
And feebly fights the dark!

All knowledges are broken shades,
In gulfs of dark a scattered horde:
Together rush the parted glory-grades -
Then, lo, thy garment, Lord!

My soul, the shadow, still is light
Because the shadow falls from thee;
I turn, dull candle, to the centre bright,
And home flit shadowy.

Shine, Lord; shine me thy shadow still;
The brighter I, the more thy shade!
My motion be thy lovely moveless will!
My darkness, light delayed!


Come through the gloom of clouded skies,
The slow dim rain and fog athwart;
Through east winds keen with wrong and lies
Come and lift up my hopeless heart.

Come through the sickness and the pain,
The sore unrest that tosses still;
Through aching dark that hides the gain
Come and arouse my fainting will.

Come through the prate of foolish words,
The science with no God behind;
Through all the pangs of untuned chords
Speak wisdom to my shaken mind.

Through all the fears that spirits bow
Of what hath been, or may befall,
Come down and talk with me, for thou
Canst tell me all about them all.

Hear, hear my sad lone heart entreat,
Heart of all joy, below, above!
Come near and let me kiss thy feet,
And name the names of those I love!


Roses all the rosy way!
Roses to the rosier west
Where the roses of the day
Cling to night's unrosy breast!

Thou who mak'st the roses, why
Give to every leaf a thorn?
On thy rosy highway I
Still am by thy roses torn!

Pardon! I will not mistake
These good thorns that make me fret!
Goads to urge me, stings to wake,
For my freedom they are set.

Yea, on one steep mountain-side,
Climbing to a fancied fold,
Roses grasped had let me slide
But the thorns did keep their hold.

Out of darkness light is born,
Out of weakness make me strong:
One glad day will every thorn
Break into a rose of song.

Though like sparrow sit thy bird
Lonely on the house-top dark,
By the rosy dawning stirred
Up will soar thy praising lark;

Roses, roses all his song!
Roses in a gorgeous feast!
Roses in a royal throng,
Surging, rosing from the east!


I am a bubble
Upon thy ever-moving, resting sea:
Oh, rest me now from tossing, trespass, trouble!
Take me down into thee.

Give me thy peace.
My heart is aching with unquietness:
Oh, make its inharmonious beating cease!
Thy hand upon it press.

My Night! my Day!
Swift night and day betwixt, my world doth reel:
Potter, take not thy hand from off the clay
That whirls upon thy wheel.

O Heart, I cry
For love and life, pardon and hope and strength!
O Father, I am thine; I shall not die,
But I shall sleep at length!


Mercy to thee, O Lord, belongs,
For as his work thou giv'st the man.
From us, not thee, come all our wrongs;
Mercy to thee, O Lord, belongs:
With small-cord whips and scorpion thongs
Thou lay'st on every ill thy ban.
Mercy to thee, O Lord, belongs,
For as his work thou giv'st the man.


The stars are spinning their threads,
And the clouds are the dust that flies,
And the suns are weaving them up
For the day when the sleepers arise.

The ocean in music rolls,
The gems are turning to eyes,
And the trees are gathering souls
For the day when the sleepers arise.

The weepers are learning to smile,
And laughter to glean the sighs,
And hearts to bury their care and guile
For the day when the sleepers arise.

Oh, the dews and the moths and the daisy-red,
The larks and the glimmers and flows!
The lilies and sparrows and daily bread,
And the something that nobody knows!

_CHRISTMAS, 1880._

Great-hearted child, thy very being _The Son_,
Who know'st the hearts of all us prodigals; -
For who is prodigal but he who has gone
Far from the true to heart it with the false? -
Who, who but thou, that, from the animals',
Know'st all the hearts, up to the Father's own,
Can tell what it would be to be alone!

Alone! No father! - At the very thought
Thou, the eternal light, wast once aghast;
A death in death for thee it almost wrought!
But thou didst haste, about to breathe thy last,
And call'dst out _Father_ ere thy spirit passed,
Exhausted in fulfilling not any vow,
But doing his will who greater is than thou.

That we might know him, thou didst come and live;
That we might find him, thou didst come and die;
The son-heart, brother, thy son-being give -
We too would love the father perfectly,
And to his bosom go back with the cry,
Father, into thy hands I give the heart
Which left thee but to learn how good thou art!

There are but two in all the universe -
The father and his children - not a third;
Nor, all the weary time, fell any curse!
Not once dropped from its nest an unfledged bird
But thou wast with it! Never sorrow stirred
But a love-pull it was upon the chain
That draws the children to the father again!

O Jesus Christ, babe, man, eternal son,
Take pity! we are poor where thou art rich:
Our hearts are small; and yet there is not one
In all thy father's noisy nursery which,
Merry, or mourning in its narrow niche,
Needs not thy father's heart, this very now,
With all his being's being, even as thou!


I do not know thy final will,
It is too good for me to know:
Thou willest that I mercy show,
That I take heed and do no ill,
That I the needy warm and fill,
Nor stones at any sinner throw;
But I know not thy final will -
It is too good for me to know.

I know thy love unspeakable -
For love's sake able to send woe!
To find thine own thou lost didst go,
And wouldst for men thy blood yet spill! -
How should I know thy final will,
Godwise too good for me to know!


O Lord, I cannot but believe
The birds do sing thy praises then, when they sing to one another,
And they are lying seed-sown land when the winter makes them grieve,
Their little bosoms breeding songs for the summer to unsmother!

If thou hadst finished me, O Lord,
Nor left out of me part of that great gift that goes to singing,
I sure had known the meaning high of the songster's praising word,
Had known upon what thoughts of thee his pearly talk he was stringing!

I should have read the wisdom hid
In the storm-inspired melody of thy thrush's bosom solemn:
I should not then have understood what thy free spirit did
To make the lark-soprano mount like to a geyser-column!

I think I almost understand
Thy owl, his muffled swiftness, moon-round eyes, and intoned hooting;
I think I could take up the part of a night-owl in the land,
With yellow moon and starry things day-dreamers all confuting.

But 'mong thy creatures that do sing
Perhaps of all I likest am to the housetop-haunting sparrow,
That flies brief, sudden flights upon a dumpy, fluttering wing,
And chirps thy praises from a throat that's very short and narrow.

But if thy sparrow praise thee well
By singing well thy song, nor letting noisy traffic quell it,
It may be that, in some remote and leafy heavenly dell,
He may with a trumpet-throat awake, and a trumpet-song to swell it!

_DECEMBER 23, 1879._


A thousand houses of poesy stand around me everywhere;
They fill the earth and they fill my thought, they are in and above the
But to-night they have shut their doors, they have shut their shining
windows fair,
And I am left in a desert world, with an aching as if of care.


Cannot I break some little nut and get at the poetry in it?
Cannot I break the shining egg of some all but hatched heavenly linnet?
Cannot I find some beauty-worm, and its moony cocoon-silk spin it?
Cannot I find my all but lost day in the rich content of a minute?


I will sit me down, all aching and tired, in the midst of this
Of door or window that makes it look as if truth herself were dozing;
I will sit me down and make me a tent, call it poetizing or prosing,
Of what may be lying within my reach, things at my poor disposing!


Now what is nearest? - My conscious self. Here I sit quiet and say:
"Lo, I myself am already a house of poetry solemn and gay!
But, alas, the windows are shut, all shut: 'tis a cold and foggy day,
And I have not now the light to see what is in me the same alway!"


Nay, rather I'll say: "I am a nut in the hard and frozen ground;
Above is the damp and frozen air, the cold blue sky all round;
And the power of a leafy and branchy tree is in me crushed and bound
Till the summer come and set it free from the grave-clothes
in which it is wound!"


But I bethink me of something better! - something better, yea best!
"I am lying a voiceless, featherless thing in God's own perfect nest;
And the voice and the song are growing within me, slowly lifting my
And his wide night-wings are closed about me, for his sun is down in the


Doors and windows, tents and grave-clothes, winters and eggs and seeds,
Ye shall all be opened and broken and torn; ye are but to serve my needs!
On the will of the Father all lovely things are strung like a string of
For his heart to give the obedient child that the will of the father


I shall be satisfied
With the seeing of thy face.
When I awake, wide-eyed,
I shall be satisfied
With what this life did hide,
The one supernal grace!
I shall be satisfied
With the seeing of thy face.

_DECEMBER 27, 1879_

Every time would have its song
If the heart were right,
Seeing Love all tender-strong
Fills the day and night.

Weary drop the hands of Prayer
Calling out for peace;
Love always and everywhere
Sings and does not cease.

Fear, the caitiff, through the night
Silent peers about;
Love comes singing with a light
And doth cast him out.

Hate and Guile and Wrath and Doubt
Never try to sing;
If they did, oh, what a rout
Anguished ears would sting!

Pride indeed will sometimes aim
At the finer speech,
But the best that he can frame
Is a peacock-screech.

Greed will also sometimes try:
Happiness he hunts!
But his dwelling is a sty,
And his tones are grunts.

Faith will sometimes raise a song
Soaring up to heaven,
Then she will be silent long,
And will weep at even.

Hope has many a gladsome note
Now and then to pipe;
But, alas, he has the throat
Of a bird unripe.

Often Joy a stave will start
Which the welkin rends,
But it always breaks athwart,
And untimely ends.

Grief, who still for death doth long,
Always self-abhorred,
Has but one low, troubled song,
_I am sorry, Lord_.

But Love singeth in the vault.
Singeth on the stair;
Even for Sorrow will not halt,
Singeth everywhere.

For the great Love everywhere
Over all doth glow;
Draws his birds up trough the air,
Tends his birds below.

And with songs ascending sheer
Love-born Love replies,
Singing _Father_ in his ear
Where she bleeding lies.

Therefore, if my heart were right
I should sing out clear,
Sing aloud both day and night
Every month in the year!


DECEMBER 28, 1879.

A dim, vague shrinking haunts my soul,
My spirit bodeth ill -
As some far-off restraining bank
Had burst, and waters, many a rank,
Were marching on my hill;

As if I had no fire within
For thoughts to sit about;
As if I had no flax to spin,
No lamp to lure the good things in
And keep the bad things out.

The wind, south-west, raves in the pines
That guard my cottage round;
The sea-waves fall in stormy lines
Below the sandy cliffs and chines,
And swell the roaring sound.

The misty air, the bellowing wind
Not often trouble me;
The storm that's outside of the mind
Doth oftener wake my heart to find
More peace and liberty.

Why is not such my fate to-night?
Chance is not lord of things!
Man were indeed a hapless wight
Things, thoughts occurring as they might -
Chaotic wallowings!

The man of moods might merely say
As by the fire he sat,
"I am low spirited to-day;
I must do something, work or play,
Lest care should kill the cat!"

Not such my saw: I was not meant
To be the sport of things!
The mood has meaning and intent,
And my dull heart is humbly bent
To have the truth it brings.

This sense of needed shelter round,
This frequent mental start
Show what a poor life mine were found,
To what a dead self I were bound,
How feeble were my heart,

If I who think did stand alone
Centre to what I thought,
A brain within a box of bone,
A king on a deserted throne,
A something that was nought!

A being without power to be,
Or any power to cease;
Whom objects but compelled to see,
Whose trouble was a windblown sea,
A windless sea his peace!

This very sadness makes me think
How readily I might
Be driven to reason's farthest brink,
Then over it, and sudden sink
In ghastly waves of night.

It makes me know when I am glad
'Tis thy strength makes me strong;
But for thy bliss I should be sad,
But for thy reason should be mad,
But for thy right be wrong.

Around me spreads no empty waste,
No lordless host of things;
My restlessness but seeks thy rest;
My little good doth seek thy best,
My needs thy ministerings.

'Tis this, this only makes me safe -
I am, immediate,
Of one that lives; I am no waif
That haggard waters toss and chafe,
But of a royal fate,

The born-child of a Power that lives
Because it will and can,
A Love whose slightest motion gives,
A Freedom that forever strives
To liberate his Man.

I live not on the circling air,
Live not by daily food;
I live not even by thinkings fair,
I hold my very being there
Where God is pondering good.

Because God lives I live; because
He thinks, I also think;
I am dependent on no laws
But on himself, and without pause;
Between us hangs no link.

The man that lives he knows not how
May well fear any mouse!
I should be trembling this same now
If I did think, my Father, thou
Wast nowhere in the house!

O Father, lift me on thine arm,
And hold me close to thee;
Lift me into thy breathing warm,
Then cast me, and I fear no harm,
Into creation's sea!


In his arms thy silly lamb,
Lo, he gathers to his breast!
See, thou sadly bleating dam,
See him lift thy silly lamb!
Hear it cry, "How blest I am!
Here is love, and love is rest!"
In his arms thy silly lamb
See him gather to his breast!



I say! hey! cousin there! I mustn't call you brother!
Yet you have a tail behind, and I have another!
You pull, and I pull, though we don't pull together:
You have less hardship, and I have more weather!


Your legs are long, mine are short; I am lean, you are fatter;
Your step is bold and free, mine goes pitter-patter;
Your head is in the air, and mine hangs down like lead -
But then my two great ears are so heavy on my head!


You need not whisk your stump, nor turn away your nose;
Poor donkeys ain't so stupid as rich horses may suppose!
I could feed in any manger just as well as you,
Though I don't despise a thistle - with sauce of dust and dew!


T'other day a bishop's cob stopped before me in a lane,
With a tail as broad as oil-cake, and a close-clipped hoggy mane;
I stood sideways to the hedge, but he did not want to pass,
And he was so full of corn he didn't care about the grass.


Quoth the cob, "You are a donkey of a most peculiar breed!
You've just eaten up a thistle that was going fast to seed!
If you had but let it be, you might have raised a crop!
To many a coming dinner you have put a sad stop!"


I told him I was hungry, and to leave one of ten
Would have spoiled my best dinner, the one I wanted then.
Said the cob, "_I_ ought to know the truth about dinners,
_I_ don't eat on roadsides like poor tramping sinners!"


"Why don't you take it easy? You are working much too hard!
In the shafts you'll die one day, if you're not upon your guard!
Have pity on your friends: work seems to you delectable,
But believe me such a cart - excuse me - 's not respectable!"


I told him I must trot in the shafts where I was put,
Nor look round at the cart, but set foremost my best foot;
It _was_ rather rickety, and the axle wanted oil,
But I always slept at night with the deep sleep of toil!


"All very fine," he said, "to wag your ears and parley,
And pretend you quite despise my bellyfuls of barley!
But with blows and with starving, and with labour over-hard,
By spurs! a week will see you in the knacker's yard."


I thanked him for his counsel, and said I thought I'd take it, really,
If he'd spare me half a feed out of four feeds daily.
He tossed his head at that: "Now don't be cheeky!" said he;
"When I find I'm getting fat, I'll think of you: keep steady."


"Good-bye!" I said - and say, for you are such another!
Why, now I look at you, I see you are his brother!
Yes, thank you for your kick: 'twas all that you could spare,
For, sure, they clip and singe you very, very bare!


My cart it is upsets you! but in that cart behind
There's no dirt or rubbish, no bags of gold or wind!
There's potatoes there, and wine, and corn, and mustard-seed,
And a good can of milk, and some honey too, indeed!


Few blows I get, some hay, and of water many a draught:
I tell you he's no coster that sits upon my shaft!
And for the knacker's yard - that's not my destined bed:
No donkey ever yet saw himself there lying dead.


Strait is the path? He means we must not roam?
Yes; but the strait path leads into a boundless home.



Close her eyes: she must not peep!
Let her little puds go slack;
Slide away far into sleep:
Sis will watch till she comes back!

Mother's knitting at the door,
Waiting till the kettle sings;
When the kettle's song is o'er
She will set the bright tea-things.

Father's busy making hay
In the meadow by the brook,
Not so very far away -
Close its peeps, it needn't look!

God is round us everywhere -
Sees the scythe glitter and rip;
Watches baby gone somewhere;
Sees how mother's fingers skip!

Sleep, dear baby; sleep outright:
Mother's sitting just behind:
Father's only out of sight;
God is round us like the wind.


Sweep and sweep and sweep the floor,
Sweep the dust, pick up the pin;
Make it clean from fire to door,
Clean for father to come in!

Mother said that God goes sweeping,
Looking, sweeping with a broom,
All the time that we are sleeping,
For a shilling in the room:

Did he drop it out of glory,
Walking far above the birds?
Or did parson make the story
For the thinking afterwards?

If I were the swept-for shilling
I would hearken through the gloom;
Roll out fast, and fall down willing
Right before the sweeping broom!


This is the way we wash the clo'es
Free from dirt and smoke and clay!
Through and through the water flows,
Carries Ugly right away!

This is the way we bleach the clo'es:
Lay them out upon the green;
Through and through the sunshine goes,
Makes them white as well as clean!

This is the way we dry the clo'es:
Hang them on the bushes about;
Through and through the soft wind blows,
Draws and drives the wetness out!

Water, sun, and windy air
Make the clothes clean, white, and sweet
Lay them now in lavender
For the Sunday, folded neat!


Dark, as if it would not tell,
Lies the water, still and cool:
Dip the bucket in the well,
Lift it from the precious pool!

Up it comes all brown and dim,
Telling of the twilight sweet:
As it rises to the brim
See the sun and water meet!

See the friends each other hail!
"Here you are!" cries Master Sun;
Mistress Water from the pail
Flashes back, alive with fun!

Have you not a tale to tell,
Water, as I take you home?
Tell me of the hidden well
Whence you, first of all, did come.

Of it you have kept some flavour
Through long paths of darkling strife:
Water all has still a savour
Of the primal well of life!

Could you show the lovely way
Back and up through sea and sky
To that well? Oh, happy day,
I would drink, and never die!

Jesus sits there on its brink
All the world's great thirst to slake,
Offering every one to drink
Who will only come and take!

Lord of wells and waters all,
Lord of rains and dewy beads,

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