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The Poetical Works of George MacDonald (Parables)

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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? I'll present you with another! Tell me why, you question-asker, Cruel, heartless mother-tasker-- Why, of all the trees before her, Gathered round, or spreading o'er her, Jenny Wren should choose the apple For her nursery and chapel! Or Jack Daw build in the steeple High above the praying people! Tell me why the limping plover O'er moist meadow likes to hover; Why the partridge with such trouble Builds her nest where soon the stubble Will betray her hop-thumb-cheepers To the eyes of all the reapers!-- Tell me, Charley; tell me, Janey; Answer all, or answer any,
And I'll tell you, with much pleasure, Why this little bird of treasure Nestles only in the mistletoe, Never, never goes the thistle to.

  Not an answer? Tell without it? Yes--all that I know about it:-- Mistletoe, then, cannot flourish, Cannot find the food to nourish But on other plant when planted-- And for kissing two are wanted. That is why the kissy-birdie Looks about for oak-tree sturdy And the plant that grows upon it Like a wax-flower on a bonnet.

  But, my blessed little mannie, All the birdies are not cannie That the kissy-birdie hatches! Some are worthless little patches, Which indeed if they don't smutch you, 'Tis they're dead before they touch you! While for kisses vain and greedy, Kisses flattering, kisses needy, They are birds that never waddled Out of eggs that only addled! Some there are leave spots behind them, On your cheek for years you'd find them: Little ones, I do beseech you, Never let such birdies reach you.

  It depends what net you venture What the sort of bird will enter! I will tell you in a minute What net takes kiss--lark or linnet-- Any bird indeed worth hatching And just therefore worth the catching: The one net that never misses Catching at least some true kisses, Is the heart that, loving truly, Always loves the old love newly; But to spread out would undo it-- Let the birdies fly into it.


Nobody knows the world but me. The rest go to bed; I sit up and see. I'm a better observer than any of you all, For I never look out till the twilight fall, And never then without green glasses, And that is how my wisdom passes.

I never think, for that is not fit: I observe. I have seen the white moon sit On her nest, the sea, like a fluffy owl, Hatching the boats and the long-legged fowl! When the oysters gape--you may make a note-- She drops a pearl into every throat.

I can see the wind: can you do that? I see the dreams he has in his hat, I see him shaking them out as he goes, I see them rush in at man's snoring nose. Ten thousand things you could not think, I can write down plain with pen and ink!

You know that I know; therefore pull off your hat, Whether round and tall, or square and flat: You cannot do better than trust in me; You may shut your eyes in fact--I see! Lifelong I will lead you, and then, like the owl, I will bury you nicely with my spade and showl.


I will sing a song,

  Said the owl. You sing a song, sing-song

  Ugly fowl! What will you sing about,
Night in and day out?

All about the night,

  When the gray With her cloak smothers bright,

  Hard, sharp day. Oh, the moon! the cool dew! And the shadows!--tu-whoo!

I will sing a song,

  Said the nightingale. Sing a song, long, long,

  Little Neverfail! What will you sing about,
Day in or day out?

All about the light

  Gone away, Down, away, and out of sight:

  Wake up, day! For the master is not dead, Only gone to bed.

I will sing a song,

  Said the lark. Sing, sing, Throat-strong,

  Little Kill-the-dark! What will you sing about,
Day in and night out?

I can only call!

  I can't think! Let me up, that's all!

  I see a chink! I've been thirsting all night For the glorious light!


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