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The Poetical Works of George MacDonald

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SCENE XVII.--Julian's room. JULIAN. LILY asleep.

I thank thee. Thou hast comforted me, thou, To whom I never lift my soul, in hope To reach thee with my thinking, but the tears Swell up and fill my eyes from the full heart That cannot hold the thought of thee, the thought Of him in whom I live, who lives in me, And makes me live in him; by whose one thought, Alone, unreachable, the making thought, Infinite and self-bounded, I am here, A living, thinking will, that cannot know The power whereby I am--so blest the more In being thus in thee--Father, thy child. I cannot, cannot speak the thoughts in me. My being shares thy glory: lay on me What thou wouldst have me bear. Do thou with me Whate'er thou wilt. Tell me thy will, that I May do it as my best, my highest joy; For thou dost work in me, I dwell in thee.

Wilt thou not save my wife? I cannot know The power in thee to purify from sin. But Life can cleanse the life it lived alive. Thou knowest all that lesseneth her fault. She loves me not, I know--ah, my sick heart!-- I will love her the more, to fill the cup; One bond is snapped, the other shall be doubled; For if I love her not, how desolate The poor child will be left! he loves her not.

I have but one prayer more to pray to thee:-- Give me my wife again, that I may watch And weep with her, and pray with her, and tell What loving-kindness I have found in thee; And she will come to thee to make her clean. Her soul must wake as from a dream of bliss, To know a dead one lieth in the house: Let me be near her in that agony, To tend her in the fever of the soul, Bring her cool waters from the wells of hope, Look forth and tell her that the morn is nigh; And when I cannot comfort, help her weep. God, I would give her love like thine to me, Because I love her, and her need is great. Lord, I need her far more than thou need'st me, And thou art Love down to the deeps of hell: Help me to love her with a love like thine.

How shall I find her? It were horrible If the dread hour should come, and I not near. Yet pray I not she should be spared one pang, One writhing of self-loathing and remorse, For she must hate the evil she has done; Only take not away hope utterly.

Lily (in her sleep).
Lily means me--don't throw it over the wall. Julian (going to her).
She is so flushed! I fear the child is ill. I have fatigued her too much, wandering restless. To-morrow I will take her to the sea.


If I knew where, I would write to her, and write So tenderly, she could not choose but come. I will write now; I'll tell her that strange dream I dreamed last night: 'twill comfort her as well.

[He sits down and writes.]

My heart was crushed that I could hardly breathe. I was alone upon a desolate moor; And the wind blew by fits and died away-- I know not if it was the wind or me. How long I wandered there, I cannot tell; But some one came and took me by the hand. I gazed, but could not see the form that led me, And went unquestioning, I cared not whither. We came into a street I seemed to know, Came to a house that I had seen before. The shutters were all closed; the house was dead. The door went open soundless. We went in, And entered yet again an inner room. The darkness was so dense, I shrank as if From striking on it. The door closed behind. And then I saw that there was something black, Dark in the blackness of the night, heaved up In the middle of the room. And then I saw That there were shapes of woe all round the room, Like women in long mantles, bent in grief, With long veils hanging low down from their heads, All blacker in the darkness. Not a sound Broke the death-stillness. Then the shapeless thing Began to move. Four horrid muffled figures Had lifted, bore it from the room. We followed, The bending woman-shapes, and I. We left The house in long procession. I was walking Alone beside the coffin--such it was-- Now in the glimmering light I saw the thing. And now I saw and knew the woman-shapes: Undine clothed in spray, and heaving up White arms of lamentation; Desdemona In her night-robe, crimson on the left side; Thekla in black, with resolute white face; And Margaret in fetters, gliding slow-- That last look, when she shrieked on Henry, frozen Upon her face. And many more I knew-- Long-suffering women, true in heart and life; Women that make man proud for very love Of their humility, and of his pride Ashamed. And in the coffin lay my wife. On, on, we went. The scene changed, and low hills

Began to rise on each side of the path
Until at last we came into a glen,
From which the mountains soared abrupt to heaven,

Shot cones and pinnacles into the skies. Upon the eastern side one mighty summit Shone with its snow faint through the dusky air; And on its sides the glaciers gave a tint, A dull metallic gleam, to the slow night. From base to top, on climbing peak and crag, Ay, on the glaciers' breast, were human shapes, Motionless, waiting; men that trod the earth Like gods; or forms ideal that inspired Great men of old--up, even to the apex Of the snow-spear-point. Morning had arisen From Giulian's tomb in Florence, where the chisel Of Michelangelo laid him reclining, And stood upon the crest.

  A cry awoke

Amid the watchers at the lowest base, And swelling rose, and sprang from mouth to mouth, Up the vast mountain, to its aerial top; And "_Is God coming_?" was the cry; which died Away in silence; for no voice said No. The bearers stood and set the coffin down; The mourners gathered round it in a group; Somewhat apart I stood, I know not why. So minutes passed. Again that cry awoke, And clomb the mountain-side, and died away In the thin air, far-lost. No answer came.

How long we waited thus, I cannot tell-- How oft the cry arose and died again.

At last, from far, faint summit to the base, Filling the mountain with a throng of echoes, A mighty voice descended: "_God is coming_!" Oh! what a music clothed the mountain-side, From all that multitude's melodious throats, Of joy and lamentation and strong prayer! It ceased, for hope was too intense for song. A pause.--The figure on the crest flashed out, Bordered with light. The sun was rising--rose Higher and higher still. One ray fell keen Upon the coffin 'mid the circling group.

What God did for the rest, I know not; it Was easy to help them.--I saw them not.-- I saw thee at my feet, my wife, my own! Thy lovely face angelic now with grief; But that I saw not first: thy head was bent, Thou on thy knees, thy dear hands clasped between. I sought to raise thee, but thou wouldst not rise, Once only lifting that sweet face to mine, Then turning it to earth. Would God the dream Had lasted ever!--No; 'twas but a dream; Thou art not rescued yet.

  Earth's morning came,

And my soul's morning died in tearful gray. The last I saw was thy white shroud yet steeped In that sun-glory, all-transfiguring; The last I heard, a chant break suddenly Into an anthem. Silence took me like sound: I had not listened in the excess of joy.

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