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The Poetical Works of George MacDonald

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I walked all night: the darkness did not yield. Around me fell a mist, a weary rain, Enduring long. At length the dawn revealed

A temple's front, high-lifted from the plain. Closed were the lofty doors that led within; But by a wicket one might entrance gain.

'Twas awe and silence when I entered in; The night, the weariness, the rain were lost In hopeful spaces. First I heard a thin

Sweet sound of voices low, together tossed, As if they sought some harmony to find Which they knew once, but none of all that host

Could wile the far-fled music back to mind. Loud voices, distance-low, wandered along The pillared paths, and up the arches twined

With sister arches, rising, throng on throng, Up to the roof's dim height. At broken times The voices gathered to a burst of song,

But parted sudden, and were but single rimes By single bells through Sabbath morning sent, That have no thought of harmony or chimes.

Hopeful confusion! Who could be content Looking and hearkening from the distant door? I entered further. Solemnly it went--

Thy voice, Truth's herald, walking the untuned roar, Calm and distinct, powerful and sweet and fine: I loved and listened, listened and loved more.

May not the faint harp, tremulous, combine Its ghostlike sounds with organ's mighty tone? Let my poor song be taken in to thine.

Will not thy heart, with tempests of its own, Yet hear aeolian sighs from thin chords blown?


First-born of the creating Voice! Minister of God's Spirit, who wast sent Waiting upon him first, what time he went Moving about mid the tumultuous noise Of each unpiloted element
Upon the face of the void formless deep! Thou who didst come unbodied and alone Ere yet the sun was set his rule to keep, Or ever the moon shone,
Or e'er the wandering star-flocks forth were driven! Thou garment of the Invisible, whose skirt Sweeps, glory-giving, over earth and heaven! Thou comforter, be with me as thou wert When first I longed for words, to be A radiant garment for my thought, like thee!

We lay us down in sorrow,
Wrapt in the old mantle of our mother Night; In vexing dreams we strive until the morrow; Grief lifts our eyelids up--and Lo, the light! The sunlight on the wall! And visions rise Of shining leaves that make sweet melodies; Of wind-borne waves with thee upon their crests; Of rippled sands on which thou rainest down; Of quiet lakes that smooth for thee their breasts; Of clouds that show thy glory as their own; O joy! O joy! the visions are gone by! Light, gladness, motion, are reality!

Thou art the god of earth. The skylark springs Far up to catch thy glory on his wings; And thou dost bless him first that highest soars. The bee comes forth to see thee; and the flowers Worship thee all day long, and through the skies Follow thy journey with their earnest eyes. River of life, thou pourest on the woods, And on thy waves float out the wakening buds; The trees lean toward thee, and, in loving pain, Keep turning still to see thee yet again; South sides of pines, haunted all day by thee, Bear violins that tremble humanly. And nothing in thine eyes is mean or low: Where'er thou art, on every side, All things are glorified;
And where thou canst not come, there thou dost throw Beautiful shadows, made out of the dark, That else were shapeless; now it bears thy mark.

And men have worshipped thee. The Persian, on his mountain-top, Waits kneeling till thy sun go up, God-like in his serenity.
All-giving, and none-gifted, he draws near, And the wide earth waits till his face appear-- Longs patient. And the herald glory leaps Along the ridges of the outlying clouds, Climbing the heights of all their towering steeps. Sudden, still multitudinous laughter crowds The universal face: Lo, silently, Up cometh he, the never-closing eye! Symbol of Deity, men could not be Farthest from truth when they were kneeling unto thee!

Thou plaything of the child, When from the water's surface thou dost spring, Thyself upon his chamber ceiling fling, And there, in mazy dance and motion wild, Disport thyself--etherial, undefiled. Capricious, like the thinkings of the child! I am a child again, to think of thee In thy consummate glee.
How I would play with thee, athirst to climb On sloping ladders of thy moted beams, When through the gray dust darting in long streams! How marvel at the dusky glimmering red, With which my closed fingers thou hadst made Like rainy clouds that curtain the sun's bed! And how I loved thee always in the moon! But most about the harvest-time, When corn and moonlight made a mellow tune, And thou wast grave and tender as a cooing dove! And then the stars that flashed cold, deathless love! And the ghost-stars that shimmered in the tide! And more mysterious earthly stars, That shone from windows of the hill and glen-- Thee prisoned in with lattice-bars, Mingling with household love and rest of weary men! And still I am a child, thank God!--to spy Thee starry stream from bit of broken glass Upon the brown earth undescried, Is a found thing to me, a gladness high, A spark that lights joy's altar-fire within, A thought of hope to prophecy akin, That from my spirit fruitless will not pass.

Thou art the joy of age:

Thy sun is dear when long the shadow falls. Forth to its friendliness the old man crawls, And, like the bird hung out in his poor cage To gather song from radiance, in his chair Sits by the door; and sitteth there His soul within him, like a child that lies Half dreaming, with half-open eyes, At close of a long afternoon in summer-- High ruins round him, ancient ruins, where The raven is almost the only comer-- Half dreams, half broods, in wonderment At thy celestial ascent
Through rifted loop to light upon the gold That waves its bloom in some high airy rent: So dreams the old man's soul, that is not old, But sleepy mid the ruins that infold.

What soul-like changes, evanescent moods,

Upon the face of the still passive earth, Its hills, and fields, and woods, Thou with thy seasons and thy hours art ever calling forth! Even like a lord of music bent Over his instrument,
Giving to carol, now to tempest birth! When, clear as holiness, the morning ray Casts the rock's dewy darkness at its feet, Mottling with shadows all the mountain gray; When, at the hour of sovereign noon, Infinite silent cataracts sheet Shadowless through the air of thunder-breeding June; When now a yellower glory slanting passes 'Twixt longer shadows o'er the meadow grasses; And now the moon lifts up her shining shield, High on the peak of a cloud-hill revealed; Now crescent, low, wandering sun-dazed away, Unconscious of her own star-mingled ray, Her still face seeming more to think than see, Makes the pale world lie dreaming dreams of thee! No mood, eternal or ephemeral, But wakes obedient at thy silent call!

Of operative single power,
And simple unity the one emblem, Yet all the colours that our passionate eyes devour, In rainbow, moonbow, or in opal gem, Are the melodious descant of divided thee. Lo thee in yellow sands! Lo thee In the blue air and sea!
In the green corn, with scarlet poppies lit, Thy half-souls parted, patient thou dost sit. Lo thee in dying triumphs of the west! Lo thee in dew-drop's tiny breast! Thee on the vast white cloud that floats away, Bearing upon its skirt a brown moon-ray! Gold-regent, thou dost spendthrift throw Thy hoardless wealth of gleam and glow! The thousand hues and shades upon the flowers Are all the pastime of thy leisure hours; The jewelled ores in mines that hidden be, Are dead till touched by thee.


Thou art lancing through the air! Every atom from another
Takes thee, gives thee to his brother; Continually,
Thou art wetting the wet sea, Bathing its sluggish woods below, Making the salt flowers bud and blow; Silently,
Workest thou, and ardently, Waking from the night of nought Into being and to thought;


Every beam of thine dispenses, Potent, subtle, reaching far, Shooting different from each star. Not an iron rod can lie
In circle of thy beamy eye, But its look doth change it so That it cannot choose but show Thou, the worker, hast been there; Yea, sometimes, on substance rare, Thou dost leave thy ghostly mark Even in what men call the dark. Ever doing, ever showing,
Thou dost set our hearts a glowing-- Universal something sent
To shadow forth the Excellent!

When the firstborn affections-- Those winged seekers of the world within, That search about in all directions, Some bright thing for themselves to win-- Through pathless woods, through home-bred fogs, Through stony plains, through treacherous bogs, Long, long, have followed faces fair, Fair soul-less faces, vanished into air, And darkness is around them and above, Desolate of aught to love,
And through the gloom on every side, Strange dismal forms are dim descried, And the air is as the breath From the lips of void-eyed Death, And the knees are bowed in prayer To the Stronger than despair-- Then the ever-lifted cry,
Give us light, or we shall die, Cometh to the Father's ears, And he hearkens, and he hears:--

As some slow sun would glimmer forth From sunless winter of the north, We, hardly trusting hopeful eyes, Discern and doubt the opening skies. From a misty gray that lies on Our dim future's far horizon, It grows a fresh aurora, sent Up the spirit's firmament,
Telling, through the vapours dun, Of the coming, coming sun!
Tis Truth awaking in the soul! His Righteousness to make us whole! And what shall we, this Truth receiving, Though with but a faint believing, Call it but eternal Light?
'Tis the morning, 'twas the night!

All things most excellent

Are likened unto thee, excellent thing! Yea, he who from the Father forth was sent, Came like a lamp, to bring, Across the winds and wastes of night, The everlasting light.
Hail, Word of God, the telling of his thought! Hail, Light of God, the making-visible! Hail, far-transcending glory brought In human form with man to dwell-- Thy dazzling gone; thy power not less To show, irradiate, and bless; The gathering of the primal rays divine Informing chaos, to a pure sunshine!

Dull horrid pools no motion making!

No bubble on the surface breaking! The dead air lies, without a sound, Heavy and moveless on the marshy ground.

Rushing winds and snow-like drift, Forceful, formless, fierce, and swift! Hair-like vapours madly riven! Waters smitten into dust!
Lightning through the turmoil driven, Aimless, useless, yet it must!

Gentle winds through forests calling! Bright birds through the thick leaves glancing! Solemn waves on sea-shores falling! White sails on blue waters dancing! Mountain streams glad music giving! Children in the clear pool laving! Yellow corn and green grass waving! Long-haired, bright-eyed maidens living! Light, O radiant, it is thou! Light!--we know our Father now!

Forming ever without form;
Showing, but thyself unseen; Pouring stillness on the storm; Breathing life where death had been! If thy light thou didst draw in, Death and Chaos soon were out, Weltering o'er the slimy sea, Riding on the whirlwind's rout, In wild unmaking energy!
God, be round us and within, Fighting darkness, slaying sin.

Father of Lights, high-lost, unspeakable, On whom no changing shadow ever fell! Thy light we know not, are content to see; Thee we know not, and are content to be!-- Nay, nay! until we know thee, not content are we! But, when thy wisdom cannot be expressed, Shall we imagine darkness in thy breast? Our hearts awake and witness loud for thee! The very shadows on our souls that lie, Good witness to the light supernal bear; The something 'twixt us and the sky Could cast no shadow if light were not there! If children tremble in the night, It is because their God is light! The shining of the common day Is mystery still, howe'er it ebb and flow-- Behind the seeing orb, the secret lies: Thy living light's eternal play, Its motions, whence or whither, who shall know?-- Behind the life itself, its fountains rise! In thee, the Light, the darkness hath no place; And we have seen thee in the Saviour's face.

Enlighten me, O Light!--why art thou such? Why art thou awful to our eyes, and sweet? Cherished as love, and slaying with a touch? Why in thee do the known and unknown meet? Why swift and tender, strong and delicate? Simple as truth, yet manifold in might? Why does one love thee, and another hate? Why cleave my words to the portals of my speech When I a goodly matter would indite? Why mounts my thought of thee beyond my reach? --In vain to follow thee, I thee beseech, For God is light.


When, long ago, the daring of my youth Drew nigh thy greatness with a little thing, Thou didst receive me; and thy sky of truth

Has domed me since, a heaven of sheltering, Made homely by the tenderness and grace Which round thy absolute friendship ever fling

A radiant atmosphere. Turn not thy face From that small part of earnest thanks, I pray, Which, spoken, leaves much more in speechless case.

I see thee far before me on thy way Up the great peaks, and striding stronger still; Thy intellect unrivalled in its sway,

Upheld and ordered by a regnant will; Thy wisdom, seer and priest of holy fate, Searching all truths its prophecy to fill;

But this my joy: throned in thy heart so great, High Love is queen, and sits without a mate.

May, 1857.


I would I were a child,

That I might look, and laugh, and say, My Father!

follow thee with running feet, or rather Be led through dark and wild!

How I would hold thy hand,

My glad eyes often to thy glory lifting! Should darkness 'twixt thy face and mine come drifting,

My heart would but expand.

If an ill thing came near,

I would but creep within thy mantle's folding, Shut my eyes close, thy hand yet faster holding,

And soon forget my fear.

O soul, O soul, rejoice!

Thou art God's child indeed, for all thy sinning; A poor weak child, yet his, and worth the winning

With saviour eyes and voice.

Who spake the words? Didst Thou?

They are too good, even for such a giver: Such water drinking once, I should feel ever

As I had drunk but now.

Yet sure the Word said so,

Teaching our lips to cry with his, Our Father! Telling the tale of him who once did gather

His goods to him, and go!

Ah, thou dost lead me, God!

But it is dark and starless, the way dreary; Almost I sleep, I am so very weary

Upon this rough hill-road.

Almost! Nay, I do sleep;

There is no darkness save in this my dreaming;

fatherhood above, around, is beaming; Thy hand my hand doth keep.

With sighs my soul doth teem;

I have no knowledge but that I am sleeping; Haunted with lies, my life will fail in weeping;

Wake me from this my dream.

How long shall heavy night

Deny the day? How long shall this dull sorrow

in my heart that never any morrow Will bring the friendly light?

Lord, art thou in the room?

Come near my bed; oh, draw aside the curtain! A child's heart would say Father, were it certain

That it would not presume.

But if this dreary sleep

May not be broken, help thy helpless sleeper To rest in thee; so shall his sleep grow deeper--

For evil dreams too deep.

Father! I dare at length;

My childhood sure will hold me free from blaming: Sinful yet hoping, I to thee come, claiming

Thy tenderness, my strength.


All sights and sounds of day and year,

All groups and forms, each leaf and gem, Are thine, O God, nor will I fear To talk to thee of them.

Too great thy heart is to despise,

Whose day girds centuries about; From things which we name small, thine eyes See great things looking out.

Therefore the prayerful song I sing

May come to thee in ordered words: Though lowly born, it needs not cling In terror to its chords.

I think that nothing made is lost;

That not a moon has ever shone, That not a cloud my eyes hath crossed But to my soul is gone.

That all the lost years garnered lie

In this thy casket, my dim soul; And thou wilt, once, the key apply, And show the shining whole.

But were they dead in me, they live

In thee, whose Parable is--Time, And Worlds, and Forms--all things that give Me thoughts, and this my rime.

And after what men call my death,

When I have crossed the unknown sea, Some heavenly morn, on hopeful breath, Shall rise this prayer to thee.

Oh let me be a child once more,

And dream fine glories in the gloom, Of sun and moon and stars in store To ceil my humble room.

Oh call again the moons that crossed

Blue gulfs, behind gray vapours crept; Show me the solemn skies I lost Because in thee I slept.

Once more let gathering glory swell,

And lift the world's dim eastern eye; Once more let lengthening shadows tell Its time is come to die.

But show me first--oh, blessed sight!

The lowly house where I was young; There winter sent wild winds at night, And up the snow-heaps flung;

Or soundless brought a chaos fair,

Full, formless, of fantastic forms, White ghostly trees in sparkling air-- Chamber for slumbering storms.

There sudden dawned a dewy morn;

A man was turning up the mould; And in our hearts the spring was born, Crept thither through the cold.

And Spring, in after years of youth,

Became the form of every form For hearts now bursting into truth, Now sighing in the storm.

On with the glad year let me go,

With troops of daisies round my feet; Flying my kite, or, in the glow Of arching summer heat,

Outstretched in fear upon a bank,

Lest, gazing up on awful space, I should fall down into the blank, From off the round world's face.

And let my brothers come with me

To play our old games yet again, Children on earth, more full of glee That we in heaven are men.

If then should come the shadowy death,

Take one of us and go,
We left would say, under our breath, "It is a dream, you know!"

"And in the dream our brother's gone

Upstairs: he heard our father call; For one by one we go alone, Till he has gathered all."

Father, in joy our knees we bow:

This earth is not a place of tombs: We are but in the nursery now; They in the upper rooms.

For are we not at home in thee,

And all this world a visioned show; That, knowing what Abroad is, we What Home is too may know?

And at thy feet I sit, O Lord,

As once of old, in moonlight pale, I at my father's sat, and heard Him read a lofty tale.

On with my history let me go,

And reap again the gliding years, Gather great noontide's joyous glow, Eve's love-contented tears;

One afternoon sit pondering

In that old chair, in that old room, Where passing pigeon's sudden wing Flashed lightning through the gloom;

There try once more, with effort vain,

To mould in one perplexed things; There find the solace yet again Hope in the Father brings;

Or mount and ride in sun and wind,

Through desert moors, hills bleak and high, Where wandering vapours fall, and find In me another sky!

For so thy Visible grew mine,

Though half its power I could not know; And in me wrought a work divine, Which thou hadst ordered so;

Giving me cups that would not spill,

But water carry and yield again; New bottles with new wine to fill For comfort of thy men.

But if thou thus restore the past

One hour, for me to wander in, I now bethink me at the last-- O Lord, leave out the sin.

And with the thought comes doubt, my God:

Shall I the whole desire to see, And walk once more, of that hill-road By which I went to thee?

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