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The Poetical Works of George MacDonald

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SCENE XV.--JULIAN seated in his room, his eyes fixed on the floor. LILY playing in a corner.

Though I am lonely, yet this little child-- She understands me better than the Twelve Knew the great heart of him they called their Lord. Ten times last night I woke in agony, I knew not why. There was no comforter. I stretched my arm to find her, and her place Was empty as my heart. Sometimes my pain Forgets its cause, benumbed by its own being; Then would I lay my aching, weary head Upon her bosom, promise of relief: I lift my eyes, and Lo, the vacant world!

[He looks up and sees the child playing with his dagger.]

You'll hurt yourself, my child; it is too sharp. Give it to me, my darling. Thank you, dear.

[He breaks the hilt from the blade and gives it her.]

'Here, take the pretty part. It's not so pretty As it was once!

[Thinking aloud.]

  I picked the jewels out

To buy your mother the last dress I gave her. There's just one left, I see, for you, my Lily.

Why did I kill Nembroni? Poor saviour I,

Saving thee only for a greater ill!

If thou wert dead, the child would comfort me;--

Is she not part of thee, and all my own? But now----

(throwing down the dagger-hilt and running up to him).

Father, what is a poetry?

A beautiful thing,--of the most beautiful That God has made.


As beautiful as mother?

No, my dear child; but very beautiful.

Do let me see a poetry.

(opening a book).

  There, love!

I don't think that's so very pretty, father. One side is very well--smooth; but the other

[Rubbing her finger up and down the ends of the lines.]

Is rough, rough; just like my hair in the morning,

[Smoothing her hair down with both hands.]

Before it's brushed. I don't care much about it.

(putting the book down, and taking her on his knee). You do not understand it yet, my child. You cannot know where it is beautiful. But though you do not see it very pretty, Perhaps your little ears could hear it pretty.

[He reads.]

(looking pleased).
Oh! that's much prettier, father. Very pretty. It sounds so nice!--not half so pretty as mother.

There's something in it very beautiful, If I could let you see it. When you're older You'll find it for yourself, and love it well. Do you believe me, Lily?


  Yes, dear father.

[Kissing him, then looking at the book.]

I wonder where its prettiness is, though; I cannot see it anywhere at all.

[He sets her down. She goes to her corner.]

True, there's not much in me to love, and yet I feel worth loving. I am very poor, But that I could not help; and I grow old, But there are saints in heaven older than I. I have a world within me; there I thought I had a store of lovely, precious things Laid up for thinking; shady woods, and grass; Clear streams rejoicing down their sloping channels; And glimmering daylight in the cloven east; There morning sunbeams stand, a vapoury column, 'Twixt the dark boles of solemn forest trees; There, spokes of the sun-wheel, that cross their bridge, Break through the arch of the clouds, fall on the earth, And travel round, as the wind blows the clouds: The distant meadows and the gloomy river Shine out as over them the ray-pencil sweeps.-- Alas! where am I? Beauty now is torture: Of this fair world I would have made her queen;-- Then led her through the shadowy gates beyond Into that farther world of things unspoken, Of which these glories are the outer stars, The clouds that float within its atmosphere. Under the holy might of teaching love, I thought her eyes would open--see how, far And near, Truth spreads her empire, widening out, And brooding, a still spirit, everywhere; Thought she would turn into her spirit's chamber, Open the little window, and look forth On the wide silent ocean, silent winds, And see what she must see, I could not tell. By sounding mighty chords I strove to wake The sleeping music of her poet-soul: We read together many magic words; Gazed on the forms and hues of ancient art; Sent forth our souls on the same tide of sound; Worshipped beneath the same high temple-roofs; And evermore I talked. I was too proud, Too confident of power to waken life, Believing in my might upon her heart, Not trusting in the strength of living truth. Unhappy saviour, who by force of self Would save from selfishness and narrow needs! I have not been a saviour. She grew weary. I began wrong. The infinitely High, Made manifest in lowliness, had been The first, one lesson. Had I brought her there, And set her down by humble Mary's side, He would have taught her all I could not teach. Yet, O my God! why hast thou made me thus Terribly wretched, and beyond relief?

[He looks up and sees that the child has taken the book to her corner. She peeps into it; then holds it to her ear; then rubs her hand over it; then puts her tongue on it.]

Julian (bursting into tears). Father, I am thy child.
Forgive me this:
Thy poetry is very hard to read.

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