George MacDonald.

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

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For that he can hardly care!

_The Father answers._

You are turning from his call
If you let that duty wait;
You would not think any duty small
If you yourself were great.

The nearest is at life's core;
With the first, you all begin:
What matter how little the little door
If it only let you in?


_Willie speaks._

Papa, I am come again:
It is now three months and more
That I've tried to do the thing that was plain,
And I feel as small as before.

_The Father answers._

Your honour comes too slow?
How much then have you done?
One foot on a mole-heap, would you crow
As if you had reached the sun?

_Willie speaks._

But I cannot help a doubt
Whether this way be the true:
The more I do to work it out
The more there comes to do;

And yet, were all done and past,
I should feel just as small,
For when I had tried to the very last -
'Twas my duty, after all!

It is only much the same
As not being liar or thief!

_The Father answers._

One who tried it found even, with shame,
That of sinners he was the chief!

My boy, I am glad indeed
You have been finding the truth!

_Willie speaks._

But where's the good? I shall never speed -
Be one whit greater, in sooth!

If duty itself must fail,
And that be the only plan,
How shall my scarce begun duty prevail
To make me a mighty man?

_The Father answers._

Ah, Willie! what if it were
Quite another way to fall?
What if the greatness itself lie there -
In knowing that you are small?

In seeing the good so good
That you feel poor, weak, and low;
And hungrily long for it as for food,
With an endless need to grow?

The man who was lord of fate,
Born in an ox's stall,
Was great because he was much too great
To care about greatness at all.

Ever and only he sought
The will of his Father good;
Never of what was high he thought,
But of what his Father would.

You long to be great; you try;
You feel yourself smaller still:
In the name of God let ambition die;
Let him make you what he will.

Who does the truth, is one
With the living Truth above:
Be God's obedient little son,
Let ambition die in love.


King Cole he reigned in Aureoland,
But the sceptre was seldom in his hand

Far oftener was there his golden cup -
He ate too much, but he drank all up!

To be called a king and to be a king,
That is one thing and another thing!

So his majesty's head began to shake,
And his hands and his feet to swell and ache,

The doctors were called, but they dared not say
Your majesty drinks too much Tokay;

So out of the king's heart died all mirth,
And he thought there was nothing good on earth.

Then up rose the fool, whose every word
Was three parts wise and one part absurd.

Nuncle, he said, never mind the gout;
I will make you laugh till you laugh it out.

King Cole pushed away his full gold plate:
The jester he opened the palace gate,

Brought in a cold man, with hunger grim,
And on the dais-edge seated him;

Then caught up the king's own golden plate,
And set it beside him: oh, how he ate!

And the king took note, with a pleased surprise,
That he ate with his mouth and his cheeks and his eyes,

With his arms and his legs and his body whole,
And laughed aloud from his heart and soul.

Then from his lordly chair got up,
And carried the man his own gold cup;

The goblet was deep and wide and full,
The poor man drank like a cow at a pool.

Said the king to the jester - I call it well done
To drink with two mouths instead of one!

Said the king to himself, as he took his seat,
It is quite as good to feed as to eat!

It is better, I do begin to think,
To give to the thirsty than to drink!

And now I have thought of it, said the king,
There might be more of this kind of thing!

The fool heard. The king had not long to wait:
The fool cried aloud at the palace-gate;

The ragged and wretched, the hungry and thin,
Loose in their clothes and tight in their skin,

Gathered in shoals till they filled the hall,
And the king and the fool they fed them all;

And as with good things their plates they piled
The king grew merry as a little child.

On the morrow, early, he went abroad
And sought poor folk in their own abode -

Sought them till evening foggy and dim,
Did not wait till they came to him;

And every day after did what he could,
Gave them work and gave them food.

Thus he made war on the wintry weather,
And his health and the spring came back together.

But, lo, a change had passed on the king,
Like the change of the world in that same spring!

His face had grown noble and good to see,
And the crown sat well on his majesty.

Now he ate enough, and ate no more,
He drank about half what he drank before,

He reigned a real king in Aureoland,
Reigned with his head and his heart and his hand.

All this through the fool did come to pass.
And every Christmas-eve that was,

The palace-gates stood open wide
And the poor came in from every side,

And the king rose up and served them duly,
And his people loved him very truly.


Said the boy as he read, "I too will be bold,
I will fight for the truth and its glory!"
He went to the playground, and soon had told
A very cowardly story!

Said the girl as she read, "That was grand, I declare!
What a true, what a lovely, sweet soul!"
In half-an-hour she went up the stair,
Looking as black as a coal!

"The mean little wretch, I wish I could fling
This book at his head!" said another;
Then he went and did the same ugly thing
To his own little trusting brother!

Alas for him who sees a thing grand
And does not fit himself to it!
But the meanest act, on sea or on land,
Is to find a fault, and then do it!


"What! you Dr. Doddridge's dog, and not know who made you?"

My little dog, who blessed you
With such white toothy-pegs?
And who was it that dressed you
In such a lot of legs?

Perhaps he never told you!
Perhaps you know quite well,
And beg me not to scold you
For you can't speak to tell!

I'll tell you, little brother,
In case you do not know: -
One only, not another,
Could make us two just so.

You love me? - Quiet! - I'm proving! -
It must be God above
That filled those eyes with loving:
He was the first to love!

One day he'll stop all sadness -
Hark to the nightingale!
Oh blessed God of gladness! -
Come, doggie, wag your tail!

That's - Thank you, God! - He gave you
Of life this little taste;
And with more life he'll save you,
Not let you go to waste!

He says now, Live together,
And share your bite and sup;
And then he'll say, Come hither -
And lift us both high up.


There was a girl that lost things -
Nor only from her hand;
She lost, indeed - why, most things,
As if they had been sand!

She said, "But I must use them,
And can't look after all!
Indeed I did not lose them,
I only let them fall!"

That's how she lost her thimble,
It fell upon the floor:
Her eyes were very nimble
But she never saw it more.

And then she lost her dolly,
Her very doll of all!
That loss was far from jolly,
But worse things did befall.

She lost a ring of pearls
With a ruby in them set;
But the dearest girl of girls
Cried only, did not fret.

And then she lost her robin;
Ah, that was sorrow dire!
He hopped along, and - bob in -
Hopped bob into the fire!

And once she lost a kiss
As she came down the stair;
But that she did not miss,
For sure it was somewhere!

Just then she lost her heart too,
But did so well without it
She took that in good part too,
And said - not much about it.

But when she lost her health
She did feel rather poor,
Till in came loads of wealth
By quite another door!

And soon she lost a dimple
That was upon her cheek,
But that was very simple -
She was so thin and weak!

And then she lost her mother,
And thought that she was dead;
Sure there was not another
On whom to lay her head!

And then she lost her self -
But that she threw away;
And God upon his shelf
It carefully did lay.

And then she lost her sight,
And lost all hope to find it;
But a fountain-well of light
Came flashing up behind it.

At last she lost the world:
In a black and stormy wind
Away from her it whirled -
But the loss how could she mind?

For with it she lost her losses,
Her aching and her weeping,
Her pains and griefs and crosses,
And all things not worth keeping;

It left her with the lost things
Her heart had still been craving;
'Mong them she found - why, most things,
And all things worth the saving.

She found her precious mother,
Who not the least had died;
And then she found that other
Whose heart had hers inside.

And next she found the kiss
She lost upon the stair;
'Twas sweeter far, I guess,
For ripening in that air.

She found her self, all mended,
New-drest, and strong, and white;
She found her health, new-blended
With a radiant delight.

She found her little robin:
He made his wings go flap,
Came fluttering, and went bob in,
Went bob into her lap.

So, girls that cannot keep things,
Be patient till to-morrow;
And mind you don't beweep things
That are not worth such sorrow;

For the Father great of fathers,
Of mothers, girls, and boys,
In his arms his children gathers,
And sees to all their toys.


I will think as thinks the rabbit: -

Oh, delight
In the night
When the moon
Sets the tune
To the woods!
And the broods
All run out,
Frisk about,
Go and come,
Beat the drum -
Here in groups,
There in troops!
Now there's one!
Now it's gone!
There are none!
And now they are dancing like chaff!
I look, and I laugh,
But sit by my door, and keep to my habit -
A wise, respectable, clean-furred old rabbit!

Now I'm going,
Business calls me out -
Going, going,
Very knowing,
Slow, long-heeled, and stout,
Loping, lumbering,
Nipping, numbering,
Head on this side and on that,
Along the pathway footed flat,
Through the meadow, through the heather,
Through the rich dusky weather -
Big stars and little moon!

Dews are lighting down in crowds,
Odours rising in thin clouds,
Night has all her chords in tune -
The very night for us, God's rabbits,
Suiting all our little habits!
Wind not loud, but playful with our fur,
Just a cool, a sweet, a gentle stir!
And all the way not one rough bur,
But the dewiest, freshest grasses,
That whisper thanks to every foot that passes!

I, the king the rest call Mappy,
Canter on, composed and happy,
Till I come where there is plenty
For a varied meal and dainty.
Is it cabbage, I grab it;
Is it parsley, I nab it;
Is it carrot, I mar it;
The turnip I turn up
And hollow and swallow;
A lettuce? Let us eat it!
A beetroot? Let's beat it!
If you are juicy,
Sweet sir, I will use you!
For all kinds of corn-crop
I have a born crop!
Are you a green top?
You shall be gleaned up!
Sucking and feazing,
Crushing and squeezing
All that is feathery,
Crisp, not leathery,
Juicy and bruisy -
All comes proper
To my little hopper
Still on the dance,
Driven by hunger and drouth!

All is welcome to my crunching,
Finding, grinding,
Milling, munching,
Gobbling, lunching,
Fore-toothed, three-lipped mouth -
Eating side way, round way, flat way,
Eating this way, eating that way,
Every way at once!

Hark to the rain! -
Pattering, clattering,
The cabbage leaves battering,
Down it comes amain! -
Home we hurry
Hop and scurry,
And in with a flurry!
Hustling, jostling
Out of the airy land
Into the dry warm sand;
Our family white tails,
The last of our vitals,
Following hard with a whisk to them,
And with a great sense of risk to them!

Hear to it pouring!
Hear the thunder roaring
Far off and up high,
While we all lie
So warm and so dry
In the mellow dark,
Where never a spark,
White or rosy or blue,
Of the sheeting, fleeting,
Forking, frightening,
Lashing lightning
Ever can come through!

Let the wind chafe
In the trees overhead,
We are quite safe
In our dark, yellow bed!
Let the rain pour!
It never can bore
A hole in our roof -
It is waterproof!
So is the cloak
We always carry,
We furry folk,
In sandhole or quarry!
It is perfect bliss
To lie in a nest
So soft as this,
All so warmly drest!
No one to flurry you!
No one to hurry you!
No one to scurry you!
Holes plenty to creep in!
All day to sleep in!
All night to roam in!
Gray dawn to run home in!
And all the days and nights to come after -
All the to-morrows for hind-legs and laughter!

Now the rain is over,
We are out again,
Every merry, leaping rover,
On his right leg and his wrong leg,
On his doubled, shortened long leg,
Floundering amain!
Oh, it is merry
And jolly - yes, very!

But what - what is that?
What can he be at?
Is it a cat?
Ah, my poor little brother,
He's caught in the trap
That goes-to with a snap!
Ah me! there was never,
Nor will be for ever -
There was never such another,
Such a funny, funny bunny,
Such a frisking, such a whisking,
Such a frolicking brother!
He's screeching, beseeching!
They're going to -

Ah, my poor foot,
It is caught in a root!
No, no! 'tis a trap
That goes-to with a snap!
Ah me, I'm forsaken!
Ah me, I am taken!
I am screeching, beseeching!
They are going to -

No more! no more! I must stop this play,
Be a boy again, and kneel down and pray
To the God of sparrows and rabbits and men,
Who never lets any one out of his ken -
It must be so, though it be bewild'ring -
To save his dear beasts from his cruel children!


"Little one, who straight hast come
Down the heavenly stair,
Tell us all about your home,
And the father there."

"He is such a one as I,
Like as like can be.
Do his will, and, by and by,
Home and him you'll see."


Loving looks the large-eyed cow,
Loving stares the long-eared ass
At Heaven's glory in the grass!
Child, with added human birth
Come to bring the child of earth
Glad repentance, tearful mirth,
And a seat beside the hearth
At the Father's knee -
Make us peaceful as thy cow;
Make us patient as thine ass;
Make us quiet as thou art now;
Make us strong as thou wilt be.
Make us always know and see
We are his as well as thou.


There is a river
whose waters run asleep
run run ever
singing in the shallows
dumb in the hollows
sleeping so deep
and all the swallows
that dip their feathers
in the hollows
or in the shallows
are the merriest swallows
and the nests they make
with the clay they cake
with the water they shake
from their wings that rake
the water out of the shallows
or out of the hollows
will hold together
in any weather
and the swallows
are the merriest fellows
and have the merriest children
and are built very narrow
like the head of an arrow
to cut the air
and go just where
the nicest water is flowing
and the nicest dust is blowing
and each so narrow
like the head of an arrow
is a wonderful barrow
to carry the mud he makes
for his children's sakes
from the wet water flowing
and the dry dust blowing
to build his nest
for her he loves best
and the wind cakes it
the sun bakes it
into a nest
for the rest
of her he loves best
and all their merry children
each little fellow
with a beak as yellow
as the buttercups growing
beside the flowing
of the singing river
always and ever
growing and blowing
as fast as the sheep
awake or asleep
crop them and crop
and cannot stop
their yellowness blowing
nor yet the growing
of the obstinate daisies
the little white praises
they grow and they blow
they spread out their crown
and they praise the sun
and when he goes down
their praising is done
they fold up their crown
and sleep every one
till over the plain
he is shining amain
and they're at it again
praising and praising
such low songs raising
that no one can hear them
but the sun so near them
and the sheep that bite them
but do not fright them
are the quietest sheep
awake or asleep
with the merriest bleat
and the little lambs
are the merriest lambs
forgetting to eat
for the frolic in their feet
and the lambs and their dams
are the whitest sheep
with the woolliest wool
for the swallow to pull
when he makes his nest
for her he loves best
and they shine like snow
in the grasses that grow
by the singing river
that sings for ever
and the sheep and the lambs
are merry for ever
because the river
sings and they drink it
and the lambs and their dams
would any one think it
are bright and white
because of their diet
which gladdens them quiet
for what they bite
is buttercups yellow
and daisies white
and grass as green
as the river can make it
with wind as mellow
to kiss it and shake it
as never was known
but here in the hollows
beside the river
where all the swallows
are the merriest fellows
and the nests they make
with the clay they cake
in the sunshine bake
till they are like bone
and as dry in the wind
as a marble stone
dried in the wind
the sweetest wind
that blows by the river
flowing for ever
and who shall find
whence comes the wind
that blows on the hollows
and over the shallows
where dip the swallows
and comes and goes
and the sweet life blows
into the river
that sings as it flows
and the sweet life blows
into the sheep
awake or asleep
with the woolliest wool
and the trailingest tails
and never fails
gentle and cool
to wave the wool
and to toss the grass
as the lambs and the sheep
over it pass
and tug and bite
with their teeth so white
and then with the sweep
of their trailing tails
smooth it again
and it grows amain
and amain it grows
and the wind that blows
tosses the swallows
over the hollows
and over the shallows
and blows the sweet life
and the joy so rife
into the swallows
that skim the shallows
and have the yellowest children
and the wind that blows
is the life of the river
that flows for ever
and washes the grasses
still as it passes
and feeds the daisies
the little white praises
and buttercups sunny
with butter and honey
that whiten the sheep
awake or asleep
that nibble and bite
and grow whiter than white
and merry and quiet
on such good diet
watered by the river
and tossed for ever
by the wind that tosses
the wool and the grasses
and the swallow that crosses
with all the swallows
over the shallows
dipping their wings
to gather the water
and bake the cake
for the wind to make
as hard as a bone
and as dry as a stone
and who shall find
whence comes the wind
that blows from behind
and ripples the river
that flows for ever
and still as it passes
waves the grasses
and cools the daisies
the white sun praises
that feed the sheep
awake or asleep
and give them their wool
for the swallows to pull
a little away
to mix with the clay
that cakes to a nest
for those they love best
and all the yellow children
soon to go trying
their wings at the flying
over the hollows
and over the shallows
with all the swallows
that do not know
whence the wind doth blow
that comes from behind
a blowing wind.


Poems by Three Friends.



First, most, to thee, my son, I give this book
In which a friend's and brother's verses blend
With mine; for not son only - brother, friend,
Art thou, through sonship which no veil can brook
Between the eyes that in each other look,
Or any shadow 'twixt the hearts that tend
Still nearer, with divine approach, to end
In love eternal that cannot be shook
When all the shakable shall cease to be.
With growing hope I greet the coming day
When from thy journey done I welcome thee
Who sharest in the names of all the three,
And take thee to the two, and humbly say,
_Let this man be the fourth with us, I pray._

_May, 1883._



_Suggested by a drawing of Thomas Moran, the American painter._

This must be the very night!
The moon knows it! - and the trees!
They stand straight upright,
Each a sentinel drawn up,
As if they dared not know
Which way the wind might blow!
The very pool, with dead gray eye,
Dully expectant, feels it nigh,
And begins to curdle and freeze!
And the dark night,
With its fringe of light,
Holds the secret in its cup!

II. What can it be, to make
The poplars cease to shiver and shake,
And up in the dismal air
Stand straight and stiff as the human hair
When the human soul is dizzy with dread -
All but those two that strain
Aside in a frenzy of speechless pain,
Though never a wind sends out a breath
To tunnel the foggy rheum of death?
What can it be has power to scare
The full-grown moon to the idiot stare
Of a blasted eye in the midnight air?
Something has gone wrong;
A scream will come tearing out ere long!

III. Still as death,
Although I listen with bated breath!
Yet something is coming, I know - is coming!
With an inward soundless humming
Somewhere in me, or if in the air
I cannot tell, but it is there!
Marching on to an unheard drumming
Something is coming - coming -
Growing and coming!
And the moon is aware,
Aghast in the air
At the thing that is only coming
With an inward soundless humming
And an unheard spectral drumming!

IV. Nothing to see and nothing to hear!
Only across the inner sky
The wing of a shadowy thought flits by,
Vague and featureless, faceless, drear -
Only a thinness to catch the eye:
Is it a dim foreboding unborn,
Or a buried memory, wasted and worn
As the fading frost of a wintry sigh?
Anon I shall have it! - anon! - it draws nigh!
A night when - a something it was took place
That drove the blood from that scared moon-face!
Hark! was that the cry of a goat,
Or the gurgle of water in a throat?
Hush! there is nothing to see or hear,
Only a silent something is near;
No knock, no footsteps three or four,
Only a presence outside the door!
See! the moon is remembering! - what?
The wail of a mother-left, lie-alone brat?
Or a raven sharpening its beak to peck?
Or a cold blue knife and a warm white neck?
Or only a heart that burst and ceased
For a man that went away released?
I know not - know not, but something is coming
Somehow back with an inward humming!

V. Ha! look there! look at that house,
Forsaken of all things, beetle and mouse!
Mark how it looks! It must have a soul!
It looks, it looks, though it cannot stir!
See the ribs of it, how they stare!
Its blind eyes yet have a seeing air!
It _knows_ it has a soul!
Haggard it hangs o'er the slimy pool,
And gapes wide open as corpses gape:
It is the very murderer!
The ghost has modelled himself to the shape
Of this drear house all sodden with woe
Where the deed was done, long, long ago,
And filled with himself his new body full -
To haunt for ever his ghastly crime,
And see it come and go -
Brooding around it like motionless time,
With a mouth that gapes, and eyes that yawn
Blear and blintering and full of the moon,
Like one aghast at a hellish dawn! -
The deed! the deed! it is coming soon!

VI. For, ever and always, when round the tune
Grinds on the barrel of organ-Time,
The deed is done. And it comes anon:
True to the roll of the clock-faced moon,
True to the ring of the spheric chime,
True to the cosmic rhythm and rime,
Every point, as it first fell out,
Will come and go in the fearsome bout.
See! palsied with horror from garret to core,
The house cannot shut its gaping door;
Its burst eye stares as if trying to see,
And it leans as if settling heavily,
Settling heavy with sickness dull:
_It_ also is hearing the soundless humming
Of the wheel that is turning - the thing that is coming!
On the naked rafters of its brain,
Gaunt and wintred, see the train
Of gossiping, scandal-mongering crows
That watch, all silent, with necks a-strain,
Wickedly knowing, with heads awry
And the sharpened gleam of a cunning eye -
Watch, through the cracks of the ruined skull,
How the evil business goes! -
Beyond the eyes of the cherubim,
Beyond the ears of the seraphim,
Outside, forsaken, in the dim
Phantom-haunted chaos grim
He stands, with the deed going on in him!

VII. O winds, winds, that lurk and peep
Under the edge of the moony fringe!
O winds, winds, up and sweep,
Up and blow and billow the air,
Billow the air with blow and swinge,
Rend me this ghastly house of groans!

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