George MacDonald.

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

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He cast the three anchors there.

The whirlpool roared, and the day went by,
And night came down on the sea;
But or ever the morning broke the sky
The hemp was broken in three.

The night it came down, the whirlpool it ran,
The wind it fiercely blew;
And or ever the second morning began
The wool it parted in two.

The storm it roared all day the third,
The whirlpool wallowed about,
The night came down like a wild black bird,
But the cable of hair held out.

Round and round with a giddy swing
Went the sea-king through the dark;
Round went the rope in the swivel-ring,
Round reeled the straining bark.

Prince Breacan he stood on his dragon prow,
A lantern in his hand:
Blest be the maidens of Denmark now,
By them shall Denmark stand!

He watched the rope through the tempest black
A lantern in his hold:
Out, out, alack! one strand will crack!
It is the strand of gold!

The third morn clear and calm came out:
No anchored ship was there!
The golden strand in the cable stout
Was not all of maidens' hair.


The witch lady walked along the strand,
Heard a roaring of the sea,
On the edge of a pool saw a dead man's hand,
Good thing for a witch lady!

Lightly she stepped across the rocks,
Came where the dead man lay:
Now pretty maid with your merry mocks,
Now I shall have my way!

On a finger shone a sapphire blue
In the heart of six rubies red:
Come back to me, my promise true,
Come back, my ring, she said.

She took the dead hand in the live,
And at the ring drew she;
The dead hand closed its fingers five,
And it held the witch lady.

She swore the storm was not her deed,
Dark spells she backward spoke;
If the dead man heard he took no heed,
But held like a cloven oak.

Deathly cold, crept up the tide,
Sure of her, made no haste;
Crept up to her knees, crept up each side,
Crept up to her wicked waist.

Over the blue sea sailed the bride
In her love's own sailing ship,
And the witch she saw them across the tide
As it rose to her lying lip.

Oh, the heart of the dead and the hand of the dead
Are strong hasps they to hold!
Fled the true dove with the kite's new love,
And left the false kite with the old.



As to her child a mother calls,
"Come to me, child; come near!"
Calling, in silent intervals,
The Master's voice I hear.

But does he call me verily?
To have me does he care?
Why should he seek my poverty,
My selfishness so bare?

The dear voice makes his gladness brim,
But not a child can know
Why that large woman cares for him,
Why she should love him so!

Lord, to thy call of me I bow,
Obey like Abraham:
Thou lov'st me because thou art thou,
And I am what I am!

Doubt whispers, _Thou art such a blot
He cannot love poor thee_:
If what I am he loveth not,
He loves what I shall be.

Nay, that which can be drawn and wooed,
And turned away from ill,
Is what his father made for good:
He loves me, I say still!


To give a thing and take again
Is counted meanness among men;
To take away what once is given
Cannot then be the way of heaven!

But human hearts are crumbly stuff,
And never, never love enough,
Therefore God takes and, with a smile,
Puts our best things away a while.

Thereon some weep, some rave, some scorn,
Some wish they never had been born;
Some humble grow at last and still,
And then God gives them what they will.


Would-be prophets tell us
We shall not re-know
Them that walked our fellows
In the ways below!

Smoking, smouldering Tophets
Steaming hopeless plaints!
Dreary, mole-eyed prophets!
Mean, skin-pledging saints!

Knowing not the Father
What their prophecies!
Grapes of such none gather,
Only thorns and lies.

Loving thus the brother,
How the Father tell?
Go without each other
To your heavenly hell!


O Thou that walkest with nigh hopeless feet
Past the one harbour, built for thee and thine.
Doth no stray odour from its table greet,
No truant beam from fire or candle shine?

At his wide door the host doth stand and call;
At every lattice gracious forms invite;
Thou seest but a dull-gray, solid wall
In forest sullen with the things of night!

Thou cravest rest, and Rest for thee doth crave,
The white sheet folded down, white robe apart. -
Shame, Faithless! No, I do not mean the grave!
I mean Love's very house and hearth and heart.


When thou turn'st away from ill,
Christ is this side of thy hill.

When thou turnest toward good,
Christ is walking in thy wood.

When thy heart says, "Father, pardon!"
Then the Lord is in thy garden.

When stern Duty wakes to watch,
Then his hand is on the latch.

But when Hope thy song doth rouse,
Then the Lord is in the house.

When to love is all thy wit,
Christ doth at thy table sit.

When God's will is thy heart's pole,
Then is Christ thy very soul.


Bands of dark and bands of light
Lie athwart the homeward way;
Now we cross a belt of Night,
Now a strip of shining Day!

Now it is a month of June,
Now December's shivering hour;
Now rides high loved memories' Moon,
Now the Dark is dense with power!

Summers, winters, days, and nights,
Moons, and clouds, they come and go;
Joys and sorrows, pains, delights,
Hope and fear, and _yes_ and _no_.

All is well: come, girls and boys,
Not a weary mile is vain!
Hark - dim laughter's radiant noise!
See the windows through the rain!


Love alone is great in might,
Makes the heavy burden light,
Smooths rough ways to weary feet,
Makes the bitter morsel sweet:
Love alone is strength!

Might that is not born of Love
Is not Might born from above,
Has its birthplace down below
Where they neither reap nor sow:
Love alone is strength!

Love is stronger than all force,
Is its own eternal source;
Might is always in decay,
Love grows fresher every day:
Love alone is strength!

Little ones, no ill can chance;
Fear ye not, but sing and dance;
Though the high-heaved heaven should fall
God is plenty for us all:
God is Love and Strength!


When the snow is on the earth
Birds and waters cease their mirth;
When the sunlight is prevailing
Even the night-winds drop their wailing.

On the earth when deep snows lie
Still the sun is in the sky,
And when most we miss his fire
He is ever drawing nigher.

In the darkest winter day
Thou, God, art not far away;
When the nights grow colder, drearer,
Father, thou art coming nearer!

For thee coming I would watch
With my hand upon the latch -
Of the door, I mean, that faces
Out upon the eternal spaces!


With us there is no gray fearing,
With us no aching for lack!
For the morn it is always nearing,
And the night is at our back.
At times a song will fall dumb,
A thought-bell burst in a sigh,
But no one says, "He will not come!"
She says, "He is almost nigh!"

The thing you call a sorrow
Is our delight on its way:
We know that the coming morrow
Comes on the wheels of to-day!
Our Past is a child asleep;
Delay is ripening the kiss;
The rising tear we will not weep
Until it flow for bliss.


Trust him in the common light;
Trust him in the awesome night;

Trust him when the earth doth quake:
Trust him when thy heart doth ache;

Trust him when thy brain doth reel
And thy friend turns on his heel;

Trust him when the way is rough,
Cry not yet, _It is enough_!

But obey with true endeavour,
Else the salt hath lost his savour.


I would I were an angel strong,
An angel of the sun, hasting along!

I would I were just come awake,
A child outbursting from night's dusky brake!

Or lark whose inward, upward fate
Mocks every wall that masks the heavenly gate!

Or hopeful cock whose clarion clear
Shrills ten times ere a film of dawn appear!

Or but a glowworm: even then
My light would come straight from the Light of Men!

I am a dead seed, dark and slow:
Father of larks and children, make me grow.


When I am dead unto myself, and let,
O Father, thee live on in me,
Contented to do nought but pay my debt,
And leave the house to thee,

Then shall I be thy ransomed - from the cark
Of living, from the strain for breath,
From tossing in my coffin strait and dark,
At hourly strife with death!

Have mercy! in my coffin! and awake!
A buried temple of the Lord!
Grow, Temple, grow! Heart, from thy cerements break!
Stream out, O living Sword!

When I am with thee as thou art with me,
Life will be self-forgetting power;
Love, ever conscious, buoyant, clear, and free,
Will flame in darkest hour.

Where now I sit alone, unmoving, calm,
With windows open to thy wind,
Shall I not know thee in the radiant psalm
Soaring from heart and mind?

The body of this death will melt away,
And I shall know as I am known;
Know thee my father, every hour and day,
As thou know'st me thine own!


"My life is drear; walking I labour sore;
The heart in me is heavy as a stone;
And of my sorrows this the icy core:
Life is so wide, and I am all alone!"

Thou did'st walk so, with heaven-born eyes down bent
Upon the earth's gold-rosy, radiant clay,
That thou had'st seen no star in all God's tent
Had not thy tears made pools first on the way.

Ah, little knowest thou the tender care
In a love-plenteous cloak around thee thrown!
Full many a dim-seen, saving mountain-stair
Toiling thou climb'st - but not one step alone!

Lift but thy languid head and see thy guide;
Let thy steps go in his, nor choose thine own;
Then soon wilt thou, thine eyes with wonder wide,
Cry, _Now I know I never was alone_!



Came of old to houses lonely
Men with wings, but did not show them:
Angels come to our house, only,
For their wings, they do not know them!


'Tis we, not in thine arms, who weep and pray;
The children in thy bosom laugh and play.


Who know thee, love: thy life be such
That, ere the year be o'er,
Each one who loves thee now so much,
Even God, may love thee more!


Go not forth to call Dame Sorrow
From the dim fields of Tomorrow;
Let her roam there all unheeded,
She will come when she is needed;
Then, when she draws near thy door,
She will find God there before.


Lie, little cow, and chew thy cud,
The farmer soon will shift thy tether;
Chirp, linnet, on the frozen mud,
Sun and song will come together;
Wait, soul, for God, and thou shalt bud,
He waits thy waiting with his weather.


Lost the little one roams about,
Pathway or shelter none can find;
Blinking stars are coming out;
No one is moving but the wind;
It is no use to cry or shout,
All the world is still as a mouse;
One thing only eases her mind:
"Father knows I'm not in the house!"


When thy heart, love-filled, grows graver,
And eternal bliss looks nearer,
Ask thy heart, nor show it favour,
Is the gift or giver dearer?

Love, love on; love higher, deeper;
Let love's ocean close above her;
Only, love thou more love's keeper,
More, the love-creating lover.


An unborn bird lies crumpled and curled,
A-dreaming of the world.

Round it, for castle-wall, a shell
Is guarding it well.

_Hope_ is the bird with its dim sensations;
The shell that keeps it alive is _Patience_.


I took it for a bird of prey that soared
High over ocean, battled mount, and plain;
'Twas but a bird-moth, which with limp horns gored
The invisibly obstructing window-pane!

Better than eagle, with far-towering nerve
But downward bent, greedy, marauding eye,
Guest of the flowers, thou art: unhurt they serve
Thee, little angel of a lower sky!


The hinges are so rusty
The door is fixed and fast;
The windows are so dusty
The sun looks in aghast:
Knock out the glass, I pray,
Or dash the door away,
Or break the house down bodily,
And let my soul go free!


Imagination cannot rise above thee;
Near and afar I see thee, and I love thee;
My misery away from me I thrust it,
For thy perfection I behold, and trust it.


When, with all the loved around thee,
Still thy heart says, "I am lonely,"
It is well; the truth hath found thee:
Rest is with the Father only.


Oh how oft I wake and find
I have been forgetting thee!
I am never from thy mind:
Thou it is that wakest me.


Oh that men would praise the Lord
For his goodness unto men!
Forth he sends his saving word,
- Oh that men would praise the Lord! -
And from shades of death abhorred
Lifts them up to light again:
Oh that men would praise the Lord
For his goodness unto men!


Where the bud has never blown
Who for scent is debtor?
Where the spirit rests unknown
Fatal is the letter.

In thee, Jesus, Godhead-stored,
All things we inherit,
For thou art the very Word
And the very Spirit!


Graut Euch nicht, Ihr lieben Leute,
Vor dem ungeheuren Morgen;
Wenn es kommt, es ist das Heute,
Und der liebe Gott zu sorgen.


Thou art my thought, my heart, my being's fortune,
The search for thee my growth's first conscious date;
For nought, for everything, I thee importune;
Thou art my all, my origin and fate!


"Where is thy crown, O tree of Love?
Flowers only bears thy root!
Will never rain drop from above
Divine enough for fruit?"

"I dwell in hope that gives good cheer,
Twilight my darkest hour;
For seest thou not that every year
I break in better flower?"


God gives his child upon his slate a sum -
To find eternity in hours and years;
With both sides covered, back the child doth come,
His dim eyes swollen with shed and unshed tears;
God smiles, wipes clean the upper side and nether,
And says, "Now, dear, we'll do the sum together!"


O Father, I am in the dark,
My soul is heavy-bowed:
I send my prayer up like a lark,
Up through my vapoury shroud,
To find thee,
And remind thee
I am thy child, and thou my father,
Though round me death itself should gather.

Lay thy loved hand upon my head,
Let thy heart beat in mine;
One thought from thee, when all seems dead,
Will make the darkness shine
About me
And throughout me!
And should again the dull night gather,
I'll cry again, _Thou art my father_.


If in my arms I bore my child,
Would he cry out for fear
Because the night was dark and wild
And no one else was near?

Shall I then treat thee, Father, as
My fatherhood would grieve?
I will be hopeful, though, alas,
I cannot quite believe!

I had no power, no wish to be:
Thou madest me half blind!
The darkness comes! I cling to thee!
Be thou my perfect mind.




There breathes not a breath of the summer air
But the spirit of love is moving there;
Not a trembling leaf on the shadowy tree,
Flutters with hundreds in harmony,
But that spirit can part its tone from the rest,
And read the life in its beetle's breast.
When the sunshiny butterflies come and go,
Like flowers paying visits to and fro,
Not a single wave of their fanning wings
Is unfelt by the spirit that feeleth all things.
The long-mantled moths that sleep at noon
And rove in the light of the gentler moon;
And the myriad gnats that dance like a wall,
Or a moving column that will not fall;
And the dragon-flies that go burning by,
Shot like a glance from a seeking eye -
There is one being that loves them all:
Not a fly in a spider's web can fall
But he cares for the spider, and cares for the fly;
He cares for you, whether you laugh or cry,
Cares whether your mother smile or sigh.
How he cares for so many, I do not know,
But it would be too strange if he did not so -
Dreadful and dreary for even a fly:
So I cannot wait for the _how_ and _why_,
But believe that all things are gathered and nursed
In the love of him whose love went first
And made this world - like a huge great nest
For a hen to sit on with feathery breast.


The bird on the leafy tree,
The bird in the cloudy sky,
The hart in the forest free,
The stag on the mountain high,
The fish inside the sea,
The albatross asleep
On the outside of the deep,
The bee through the summer sunny
Hunting for wells of honey -
What is the thought in the breast
Of the little bird in its nest?
What is the thought in the songs
The lark in the sky prolongs?
What mean the dolphin's rays,
Winding his watery ways?
What is the thought of the stag,
Stately on yonder crag?
What does the albatross think,
Dreaming upon the brink
Of the mountain billow, and then
Dreaming down in its glen?
What is the thought of the bee
Fleeting so silently,
Or flitting - with busy hum,
But a careless go-and-come -
From flower-chalice to chalice,
Like a prince from palace to palace?
What makes them alive, so very -
Some of them, surely, merry.
And others so stately calm
They might be singing a psalm?

I cannot tell what they think - -
Only know they eat and drink,
And on all that lies about
With a quiet heart look out,
Each after its kind, stately or coy,
Solemn like man, gamesome like boy,
Glad with its own mysterious joy.

And God, who knows their thoughts and ways
Though his the creatures do not know,
From his full heart fills each of theirs:
Into them all his breath doth go;
Good and better with them he shares;
Content with their bliss while they have no prayers,
He takes their joy for praise.

If thou wouldst be like him, little one, go
And be kind with a kindness undefiled;
Who gives for the pleasure of thanks, my child,
God's gladness cannot know.


Root met root in the spongy ground,
Searching each for food:
Each turned aside, and away it wound.
And each got something good.

Sound met sound in the wavy air -
That made a little to-do!
They jostled not long, but were quick and fair;
Each found its path and flew.

Drop dashed on drop, as the rain-shower fell;
They joined and sank below:
In gathered thousands they rose a well,
With a singing overflow.

Wind met wind in a garden green,
They began to push and fret:
A tearing whirlwind arose between:
There love lies bleeding yet.


Winter froze both brook and well;
Fast and fast the snowflakes fell;
Children gathered round the hearth
Made a summer of their mirth;
When a boy, so lately come
That his life was yet one sum
Of delights - of aimless rambles.
Romps and dreams and games and gambols,
Thought aloud: "I wish I knew
What makes summer - that I do!"
Father heard, and it did show him
How to write a little poem.

What makes summer, little one,
Do you ask? It is the sun.
Want of heat is all the harm,
Summer is but winter warm.
'Tis the sun - yes, that one there,
Dim and gray, low in the air!
Now he looks at us askance,
But will lift his countenance
Higher up, and look down straighter.
Rise much earlier, set much later,
Till we sing out, "Hail, Well-comer,
Thou hast brought our own old Summer!"

When the sun thus rises early
And keeps shining all day rarely,
Up he draws the larks to meet him,
Earth's bird-angels, wild to greet him;
Up he draws the clouds, and pours
Down again their shining showers;
Out he draws the grass and clover,
Daisies, buttercups all over;
Out he wiles all flowers to stare
At their father in the air -
He all light, they how much duller,
Yet son-suns of every colour!
Then he draws their odours out,
Sends them on the winds about.
Next he draws out flying things -
Out of eggs, fast-flapping wings;
Out of lumps like frozen snails,
Butterflies with splendid sails;
Draws the blossoms from the trees,
From their hives the buzzy bees,
Golden things from muddy cracks -
Beetles with their burnished backs;
Laughter draws he from the river
Gleaming back to the gleam-giver;
Light he sends to every nook
That no creature be forsook;
Draws from gloom and pain and sadness,
Hope and blessing, peace and gladness,
Making man's heart sing and shine
With his brilliancy divine:
Summer, thus it is he makes it,
And the little child he takes it.

Day's work done, adown the west
Lingering he goes to rest;
Like a child, who, blissful yet,
Is unwilling to forget,
And, though sleepy, heels and head,
Thinks he cannot go to bed.
Even when down behind the hill
Back his bright look shineth still,
Whose keen glory with the night
Makes the lovely gray twilight -
Drawing out the downy owl,
With his musical bird-howl;
Drawing out the leathery bats -
Mice they are, turned airy cats -
Noiseless, sly, and slippery things
Swimming through the air on wings;
Drawing out the feathery moth,
Lazy, drowsy, very loath;
Drawing children to the door
For one goodnight-frolic more;
Drawing from the glow-worms' tails
Glimmers green in grassy dales;
Making ocean's phosphor-flashes
Glow as if they were sun-ashes.

Then the moon comes up the hill,
Wide awake, but dreaming still,
Soft and slow, as if in fear
Lest her path should not be clear.
Like a timid lady she
Looks around her daintily,
Begs the clouds to come about her,
Tells the stars to shine without her,
Then unveils, and, bolder grown,
Climbs the steps of her blue throne:
Stately in a calm delight,
Mistress of a whole fair night,
Lonely but for stars a few,
There she sits in silence blue,
And the world before her lies
Faint, a round shade in the skies!

But what fun is all about
When the humans are shut out!
Shadowy to the moon, the earth
Is a very world of mirth!
Night is then a dream opaque
Full of creatures wide awake!
Noiseless then, on feet or wings,
Out they come, all moon-eyed things!
In and out they pop and play,
Have it all their own wild way,
Fly and frolic, scamper, glow;
Treat the moon, for all her show,
State, and opal diadem,
Like a nursemaid watching them.
And the nightingale doth snare
All the merry tumult rare,
All the music and the magic,
All the comic and the tragic,
All the wisdom and the riot
Of the midnight moonlight diet,
In a diamond hoop of song,
Which he trundles all night long.

What doth make the sun, you ask,
Able for such mighty task?
He is not a lamp hung high
Sliding up and down the sky,
He is carried in a hand:
That's what makes him strong and grand!
From that hand comes all his power;
If it set him down one hour,
Yea, one moment set him by,
In that moment he would die,
And the winter, ice, and snow
Come on us, and never go.

Need I tell you whose the hand
Bears him high o'er sea and land?


Beautiful mother is busy all day,
So busy she neither can sing nor say;
But lovely thoughts, in a ceaseless flow,
Through her eyes, and her ears, and her bosom go -
Motion, sight, and sound, and scent,
Weaving a royal, rich content.

When night is come, and her children sleep,
Beautiful mother her watch doth keep;
With glowing stars in her dusky hair
Down she sits to her music rare;
And her instrument that never fails,
Is the hearts and the throats of her nightingales.


Kiss me: there now, little Neddy,
Do you see her staring steady?
There again you had a chance of her!
Didn't you catch the pretty glance of her?
See her nest! On any planet
Never was a sweeter than it!
Never nest was such as this is:
Tis the nest of all the kisses,
With the mother kiss-bird sitting
All through Christmas, never flitting,
Kisses, kisses, kisses hatching,
Sweetest birdies, for the catching!
Oh, the precious little brood
Always in a loving mood! -
There's one under Mamy's hood!

There, that's one I caught this minute,
Musical as any linnet!
Where it is, your big eyes question,
With of doubt a wee suggestion?
There it is - upon mouth merry!
There it is - upon cheek cherry!
There's another on chin-chinnie!
Now it's off, and lights on Minnie!
There's another on nose-nosey!
There's another on lip-rosy!
And the kissy-bird is hatching
Hundreds more for only catching.

Why the mistletoe she chooses,
And the Christmas-tree refuses?
There's a puzzle for your mother?

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Online LibraryGeorge MacDonaldThe poetical works of George MacDonald in two volumes — Volume 2 → online text (page 7 of 20)