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The Poetical Works of George MacDonald (Parables)

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There comes no voice from thee, O Lord,

Across the mid-sea of the night! I lift my voice and cry with might:

If thou keep silent, soon a horde Of imps again will swarm aboard,

  And I shall be in sorry plight If no voice come from thee, my Lord, Across the mid-sea of the night.

There comes no voice; I hear no word!

But in my soul dawns something bright:-- There is no sea, no foe to fight!

Thy heart and mine beat one accord: I need no voice from thee, O Lord,

  Across the mid-sea of the night.


Heart, thou must learn to do without--

That is the riches of the poor, Their liberty is to endure;

Wrap thou thine old cloak thee about, And carol loud and carol stout;

  Let thy rags fly, nor wish them fewer; Thou too must learn to do without,

  Must earn the riches of the poor!

Why should'st thou only wear no clout?

Thou only walk in love-robes pure? Why should thy step alone be sure?

Thou only free of fortune's flout? Nay, nay! but learn to go without,

  And so be humbly, richly poor.


Lighter and sweeter

  Let your song be; And for sorrow--oh cheat her

  With melody!


Lord, I have laid my heart upon thy altar

  But cannot get the wood to burn; It hardly flares ere it begins to falter

  And to the dark return.

Old sap, or night-fallen dew, makes damp the fuel;

  In vain my breath would flame provoke; Yet see--at every poor attempt's renewal

  To thee ascends the smoke!

'Tis all I have--smoke, failure, foiled endeavour,

  Coldness and doubt and palsied lack: Such as I have I send thee!--perfect Giver,

  Send thou thy lightning back.


Such guests as you, sir, were not in my mind When I my homely dish with care designed; 'Twas certain humble souls I would have fed Who do not turn from wholesome milk and bread: You came, slow-trotting on the narrow way, O'erturned the food, and trod it in the clay; Then low with discoid nostrils sniffing curt, Cried, "Sorry cook! why, what a mess of dirt!"


She loves thee, loves thee not! That, that is all, my heart. Why should she take a part
In every selfish blot,
In every greedy spot
That now doth ache and smart Because she loves thee not-- Not, not at all, poor heart!

Thou art no such dove-cot
Of virtues--no such chart
Of highways, though the dart Of love be through thee shot! Why should she not love not Thee, poor, pinched, selfish heart?


Lord, hear my discontent: all blank I stand, A mirror polished by thy hand; Thy sun's beams flash and flame from me-- I cannot help it: here I stand, there he! To one of them I cannot say, Go, and on yonder water play; Nor one poor ragged daisy can I fashion-- I do not make the words of this my limping passion! If I should say, Now I will think a thought, Lo, I must wait, unknowing
What thought in me is growing, Until the thing to birth be brought! Nor know I then what next will come From out the gulf of silence dumb: I am the door the thing will find To pass into the general mind! I cannot say I think--
I only stand upon the thought-well's brink: From darkness to the sun the water bubbles up-- lift it in my cup.
Thou only thinkest--I am thought; Me and my thought thou thinkest. Nought Am I but as a fountain spout From which thy water welleth out. Thou art the only one, the all in all.-- Yet when my soul on thee doth call And thou dost answer out of everywhere, I in thy allness have my perfect share.


Some men there are who cannot spare

A single tear until they feel The last cold pressure, and the heel

Is stamped upon the outmost layer.

And, waking, some will sigh to think

The clouds have borrowed winter's wing, Sad winter, when the grasses spring

No more about the fountain's brink.

And some would call me coward fool:

I lay a claim to better blood, But yet a heap of idle mud

Hath power to make me sorrowful.


0 Earth, Earth, Earth,

  I am dying for love of thee, For thou hast given me birth,

  And thy hands have tended me.

I would fall asleep on thy breast

  When its swelling folds are bare, When the thrush dreams of its nest

  And the life of its joy in the air;

When thy life is a vanished ghost,

  And the glory hath left thy waves, When thine eye is blind with frost,

  And the fog sits on the graves;

When the blasts are shivering about,

  And the rain thy branches beats, When the damps of death are out,

  And the mourners are in the streets.

Oh my sleep should be deep

  In the arms of thy swiftening motion, And my dirge the mystic sweep

  Of the winds that nurse the ocean.

And my eye would slowly ope

  With the voice that awakens thee, And runs like a glance of hope

  Up through the quickening tree;

When the roots of the lonely fir

  Are dipt in thy veining heat, And thy countless atoms stir

  With the gather of mossy feet;

When the sun's great censer swings

  In the hands that always be, And the mists from thy watery rings

  Go up like dust from the sea;

When the midnight airs are assembling

  With a gush in thy whispering halls, And the leafy air is trembling

  Like a stream before it falls.

Thy shadowy hand hath found me

  On the drifts of the Godhead's will, And thy dust hath risen around me

  With a life that guards me still.

O Earth! I have caught from thine

  The pulse of a mystic chase; O Earth! I have drunk like wine

  The life of thy swiftening race.

Wilt miss me, mother sweet,

  A life in thy milky veins? Wilt miss the sound of my feet

  In the tramp that shakes thy plains

When the jaws of darkness rend,

  And the vapours fold away, And the sounds of life ascend

  Like dust in the blinding day?

I would know thy silver strain

  In the shouts of the starry crowd When the souls of thy changing men

  Rise up like an incense cloud.

I would know thy brightening lobes

  And the lap of thy watery bars Though space were choked with globes

  And the night were blind with stars!

From the folds of my unknown place,

  When my soul is glad and free, I will slide by my God's sweet grace

  And hang like a cloud on thee.

When the pale moon sits at night

  By the brink of her shining well, Laving the rings of her widening light

  On the slopes of the weltering swell,

I will fall like a wind from the west

  On the locks of thy prancing streams, And sow the fields of thy rest

  With handfuls of sweet young dreams.

When the sound of thy children's cry

  Hath stricken thy gladness dumb, I will kindle thine upward eye

  With a laugh from the years that come.

Far above where the loud wind raves,

  On a wing as still as snow I will watch the grind of the curly waves

  As they bite the coasts below;

When the shining ranks of the frost

  Draw down on the glistening wold In the mail of a fairy host,

  And the earth is mossed with cold,

Till the plates that shine about

  Close up with a filmy din, Till the air is frozen out,

  And the stars are frozen in.

I will often stoop to range

  On the fields where my youth was spent, And my feet shall smite the cliffs of change

  With the rush of a steep descent;

And my glowing soul shall burn

  With a love that knows no pall, And my eye of worship turn

  Upon him that fashioned all--

When the sounding waves of strife

  Have died on the Godhead's sea, And thy life is a purer life

  That nurses a life in me.


Make not of thy heart a casket, Opening seldom, quick to close; But of bread a wide-mouthed basket, Or a cup that overflows.


From the German of Dessler.

O Lord, how happy is the time

  When in thy love I rest! When from my weariness I climb

  Even to thy tender breast! The night of sorrow endeth there--

  Thou art brighter than the sun; And in thy pardon and thy care

  The heaven of heaven is won.

Let the world call herself my foe,

  Or let the world allure-- I care not for the world; I go

  To this dear friend and sure. And when life's fiercest storms are sent

  Upon life's wildest sea, My little bark is confident

  Because it holds by thee.

When the law threatens endless death

  Upon the dreadful hill, Straightway from her consuming breath

  My soul goeth higher still-- Goeth to Jesus, wounded, slain,

  And maketh him her home, Whence she will not go out again,

  And where death cannot come.

I do not fear the wilderness

  Where thou hast been before; Nay rather will I daily press

  After thee, near thee, more! Thou art my food; on thee I lean,

  Thou makest my heart sing; And to thy heavenly pastures green

  All thy dear flock dost bring.

And if the gate that opens there

  Be dark to other men, It is not dark to those who share

  The heart of Jesus then: That is not losing much of life

  Which is not losing thee, Who art as present in the strife

  As in the victory.

Therefore how happy is the time

  When in thy love I rest! When from my weariness I climb

  Even to thy tender breast! The night of sorrow endeth there--

  Thou art brighter than the sun! And in thy pardon and thy care

  The heaven of heaven is won!


O Lord, if on the wind, at cool of day,

  I heard one whispered word of mighty grace; If through the darkness, as in bed I lay,

  But once had come a hand upon my face;

If but one sign that might not be mistook

  Had ever been, since first thy face I sought, I should not now be doubting o'er a book,

  But serving thee with burning heart and thought.

So dreams that heart. But to my heart I say,

  Turning my face to front the dark and wind: Such signs had only barred anew his way

  Into thee, longing heart, thee, wildered mind.

They asked the very Way, where lies the way?

  The very Son, where is the Father's face? How he could show himself, if not in clay,

  Who was the lord of spirit, form, and space!

My being, Lord, will nevermore be whole

  Until thou come behind mine ears and eyes, Enter and fill the temple of my soul

  With perfect contact--such a sweet surprise,

Such presence as, before it met the view,

  The prophet-fancy could not once foresee, Though every corner of the temple knew

  By very emptiness its need of thee.

When I keep all thy words, no favoured some,

  Heedless of worldly winds or judgment's tide, Then, Jesus, thou wilt with thy father come--

  Oh, ended prayers!--and in my soul abide.

Ah, long delay! ah, cunning, creeping sin!

  I shall but fail, and cease at length to try: O Jesus, though thou wilt not yet come in,

  Knock at my window as thou passest by!


  What dost thou here, O soul, Beyond thy own control,
Under the strange wild sky? 0 stars, reach down your hands, And clasp me in your silver bands, I tremble with this mystery!-- Flung hither by a chance
Of restless circumstance,
Thou art but here, and wast not sent; Yet once more mayest thou draw By thy own mystic law
To the centre of thy wonderment.

  Why wilt thou stop and start? Draw nearer, oh my heart,
And I will question thee most wistfully; Gather thy last clear resolution To look upon thy dissolution.

  The great God's life throbs far and free, And thou art but a spark
Known only in thy dark,
Or a foam-fleck upon the awful ocean, Thyself thy slender dignity, Thy own thy vexing mystery, In the vast change that is not change but motion.

  'Tis not so hard as it would seem; Thy life is but a dream--
And yet thou hast some thoughts about the past; Let go, let go thy memories, They are not things but wandering cries-- Wave them each one a long farewell at last: I hear thee say--"Take them, O tide, And I will turn aside,
Gazing with heedlessness, nay, even with laughter! Bind me, ye winds and storms, Among the things that once had forms, And carry me clean out of sight thereafter!"

  Thou hast lived long enough To know thy own weak stuff, Laughing thy fondest joys to utter scorn; Give up the idle strife--
It is but mockery of life;
The fates had need of thee and thou wast born! They are, in sooth, but thou shalt die. O wandering spark! O homeless cry! O empty will, still lacking self-intent! Look up among the autumn trees: The ripened fruits fall through the breeze, And they will shake thee even like these Into the lap of an Accomplishment!

  Thou hadst a faith, and voices said:-- "Doubt not that truth, but bend thy head Unto the God who drew thee from the night:" Thou liftedst up thy eyes--and, lo! A host of voices answered--"No; A thousand things as good have seen the light!" Look how the swarms arise
From every clod before thy eyes! Are thine the only hopes that fade and fall When to the centre of its action One purpose draws each separate fraction, And nothing but effects are left at all? Aha, thy faith! what is thy faith? The sleep that waits on coming death-- A blind delirious swoon that follows pain. "True to thy nature!"--well! right well! But what that nature is thou canst not tell-- It has a thousand voices in thy brain. Danced all the leaflets to and fro? --Thy feet have trod them long ago! Sprung the glad music up the blue? --The hawk hath cut the song in two. All the mountains crumble,
All the forests fall,
All thy brethren stumble,
And rise no more at all!
In the dim woods there is a sound When the winds begin to moan; It is not of joy or yet of mirth, But the mournful cry of our mother Earth, As she calleth back her own. Through the rosy air to-night The living creatures play
Up and down through the rich faint light-- None so happy as they!
But the blast is here, and noises fall Like the sound of steps in a ruined hall, An icy touch is upon them all, And they sicken and fade away.

  The child awoke with an eye of gladness, With a light on his head and a matchless grace, And laughed at the passing shades of sadness That chased the smiles on his mother's face; And life with its lightsome load of youth Swam like a boat on a shining lake-- Freighted with hopes enough, in sooth, But he lived to trample on joy and truth, And change his crown for a murder-stake!

  Oh, a ruddy light went through the room, Till the dark ran out to his mother Night! And that little chamber showed through the gloom Like a Noah's ark with its nest of light! Right glad was the maiden there, I wis, With the youth that held her hand in his! Oh, sweet were the words that went and came Through the light and shade of the leaping flame That glowed on the cheerful faces! So human the speech, so sunny and kind, That the darkness danced on the wall behind, And even the wail of the winter wind Sang sweet through the window-cases!

  But a mournful wail crept round and round, And a voice cried:--"Come!" with a dreary sound, And the circle wider grew;
The light flame sank, and sorrow fell On the faces of those that loved so well; Darker and wilder grew the tone; Fainter and fainter the faces shone; The wild night clasped them, and they were gone-- And thou art passing too!

  Lo, the morning slowly springs Like a meek white babe from the womb of night! One golden planet sits and stings The shifting gloom with his point of light! Lo, the sun on its throne of flame! --Wouldst thou climb and win a crown? Oh, many a heart that pants for the same Falls to the earth ere he goes down! Thy heart is a flower with an open cup-- Sit and watch, if it pleaseth thee, Till the melting twilight fill it up With a crystal of tender sympathy; So, gently will it tremble
The silent midnight through, And flocks of stars assemble By turns in its depths of dew;-- But look! oh, look again!
After the driving wind and rain! When the day is up and the sun is strong, And the voices of men are loud and long, When the flower hath slunk to its rest again, And love is lost in the strife of men!

  Let the morning break with thoughts of love, And the evening fall with dreams of bliss-- So vainly panteth the prisoned dove For the depths of her sweet wilderness; So stoops the eagle in his pride From his rocky nest ere the bow is bent; So sleeps the deer on the mountain-side Ere the howling pack hath caught the scent!

  The fire climbs high till its work is done; The stalk falls down when the flower is gone; And the stars of heaven when their course is run Melt silently away!
There was a footfall on the snow, A line of light on the ocean-flow, And a billow's dash on the rocks below That stand by the wintry bay:-- The snow was gone on the coming night; Another wave arose in his might, Uplifted his foaming breast of white, And died like the rest for aye!

  Oh, the stars were bright! and thyself in thee Yearned for an immortality! And the thoughts that drew from thy busy brain Clasped the worlds like an endless chain-- When a moon arose, and her moving chime Smote on thy soul, like a word in time, Or a breathless wish, or a thought in rime, And the truth that looked so gloomy and high Leapt to thy arms with a joyful cry! But what wert thou when a soulless Cause Opened the book of its barren laws, And thy spirit that was so glad and free Was caught in the gin of necessity, And a howl arose from the strife of things Vexing each other with scorpion stings? What wert thou but an orphan child Thrust from the door when the night was wild? Or a sailor on the toiling main Looking blindly up through the wind and rain As the hull of the vessel fell in twain!

  Seals are on the book of fate, Hands may not unbind it;
Eyes may search for truth till late, But will never find it--!
Rising on the brow of night Like a portent of dismay,
As the worlds in wild affright Track it on its direful way; Resting like a rainbow bar
Where the curve and level meet, As the children chase it far O'er the sands with blistered feet; Sadly through the mist of ages Gazing on this life of fear, Doubtful shining on its pages, Only seen to disappear!
Sit thee by the sounding shore --Winds and waves of human breath!-- Learn a lesson from their roar, Swelling, bursting evermore: Live thy life and die thy death! Die not like the writhing worm, Rise and win thy highest stake; Better perish in the storm
Than sit rotting on the lake! Triumph in thy present youth, Pulse of fire and heart of glee; Leap at once into the truth, If there is a truth for thee.

  Shapeless thoughts and dull opinions, Slow distinctions and degrees,-- Vex not thou thy weary pinions With such leaden weights as these-- Through this mystic jurisdiction Reaching out a hand by chance, Resting on a dull conviction Whetted but by ignorance;
Living ever to behold
Mournful eyes that watch and weep; Spirit suns that flashed in gold Failing from the vasty deep; Starry lights that glowed like Truth Gazing with unnumbered eyes, Melting from the skies of youth, Swallowed up of mysteries;
Cords of love that sweetly bound thee; Faded writing on thy brow;
Presences that came around thee; Hands of faith that fail thee now!

  Groping hands will ever find thee In the night with loads of chains! Lift thy fetters and unbind thee, Cast thee on the midnight plains: Shapes of vision all-providing-- Famished cheeks and hungry cries! Sound of crystal waters sliding-- Thirsty lips and bloodshot eyes! Empty forms that send no gleaming Through the mystery of this strife!-- Oh, in such a life of seeming, Death were worth an endless life!

  Hark the trumpet of the ocean Where glad lands were wont to be! Many voices of commotion
Break in tumult over thee!
Lo, they climb the frowning ages, Marching o'er their level lands! Far behind the strife that rages Silence sits with clasped hands; Undivided Purpose, freeing
His own steps from hindrances, Sending out great floods of being, Bathes thy steps in silentness. Sit thee down in mirth and laughter-- One there is that waits for thee; If there is a true hereafter He will lend thee eyes to see.

  Like a snowflake gently falling On a quiet fountain,
Or a weary echo calling
From a distant mountain,
Drop thy hands in peace,--


Loosener of springs, he died by thee! Softness, not hardness, sent him home; He loved thee--and thou mad'st him free Of all the place thou comest from!


Are the leaves falling round about

  The churchyard on the hill? Is the glow of autumn going out?

  Is that the winter chill? And yet through winter's noise, no doubt

  The graves are very still!

Are the woods empty, voiceless, bare?

  On sodden leaves do you tread? Is nothing left of all those fair?

  Is the whole summer fled? Well, so from this unwholesome air

  Have gone away these dead!

The seasons pierce me; like a leaf

  I feel the autumn blow, And tremble between nature's grief

  And the silent death below. O Summer, thou art very brief!

  Where do these exiles go?

Gilesgate, Durham.


Few in joy's sweet riot
Able are to listen:
Thou, to make me quiet,
Quenchest the sweet riot,
Tak'st away my diet,
Puttest me in prison--
Quenchest joy's sweet riot
That the heart may listen.


Yes, Master, when thou comest thou shalt find

  A little faith on earth, if I am here! Thou know'st how oft I turn to thee my mind.

  How sad I wait until thy face appear!

Hast thou not ploughed my thorny ground full sore,

  And from it gathered many stones and sherds? Plough, plough and harrow till it needs no more--

  Then sow thy mustard-seed, and send thy birds.

I love thee, Lord; and if I yield to fears,

  Nor trust with triumph that pale doubt defies, Remember, Lord, 'tis nigh two thousand years,

  And I have never seen thee with mine eyes!

And when I lift them from the wondrous tale,

  See, all about me hath so strange a show! Is that thy river running down the vale?

  Is that thy wind that through the pines doth blow?

Could'st thou right verily appear again,

  The same who walked the paths of Palestine, And here in England teach thy trusting men

  In church and field and house, with word and sign?

Here are but lilies, sparrows, and the rest!

  My hands on some dear proof would light and stay! But my heart sees John leaning on thy breast,

  And sends them forth to do what thou dost say.


0 Lord, my God, how long
Shall my poor heart pant for a boundless joy? How long, O mighty Spirit, shall I hear The murmur of Truth's crystal waters slide From the deep caverns of their endless being, But my lips taste not, and the grosser air Choke each pure inspiration of thy will?

I am a denseness 'twixt me and the light; 1 cannot round myself; my purest thought, Ere it is thought, hath caught the taint of earth, And mocked me with hard thoughts beyond my will.

I would be a wind
Whose smallest atom is a viewless wing, All busy with the pulsing life that throbs To do thy bidding; yea, or the meanest thing That has relation to a changeless truth, Could I but be instinct with thee--each thought The lightning of a pure intelligence, And every act as the loud thunder-clap Of currents warring for a vacuum.

Lord, clothe me with thy truth as with a robe; Purge me with sorrow; I will bend my head And let the nations of thy waves pass over, Bathing me in thy consecrated strength; And let thy many-voiced and silver winds Pass through my frame with their clear influence, O save me; I am blind; lo, thwarting shapes Wall up the void before, and thrusting out Lean arms of unshaped expectation, beckon Down to the night of all unholy thoughts.

Oh, when at midnight one of thy strong angels Stems back the waves of earthly influence That shape unsteady continents around me, And they draw off with the devouring gush Of exile billows that have found a home, Leaving me islanded on unseen points, Hanging 'twixt thee and chaos--I have seen Unholy shapes lop off my shining thoughts, And they have lent me leathern wings of fear, Of baffled pride and harrowing distrust; And Godhead, with its crown of many stars, Its pinnacles of flaming holiness, And voice of leaves in the green summer-time, Has seemed the shadowed image of a self! Then my soul blackened; and I rose to find And grasp my doom, and cleave the arching deeps Of desolation.

O Lord, my soul is a forgotten well Clad round with its own rank luxuriance; A fountain a kind sunbeam searches for, Sinking the lustre of its arrowy finger Through the long grass its own strange virtue Hath blinded up its crystal eye withal: Make me a broad strong river coming down With shouts from its high hills, whose rocky hearts Throb forth the joy of their stability In watery pulses from their inmost deeps; And I shall be a vein upon thy world, Circling perpetual from the parent deep.

Most mighty One,
Confirm and multiply my thoughts of good; Help me to wall each sacred treasure round With the firm battlements of special action. Alas, my holy happy thoughts of thee Make not perpetual nest within my soul, But like strange birds of dazzling colours stoop The trailing glories of their sunward speed For one glad moment, filling my blasted boughs With the sunshine of their wings. Make me a forest Of gladdest life wherein perpetual spring Lifts up her leafy tresses in the wind. Lo, now I see
Thy trembling starlight sit among my pines, And thy young moon slide down my arching boughs With a soft sound of restless eloquence! And I can feel a joy as when thy hosts Of trampling winds, gathering in maddened bands, Roar upward through the blue and flashing day Round my still depths of uncleft solitude.

Hear me, O Lord,
When the black night draws down upon my soul, And voices of temptation darken down The misty wind, slamming thy starry doors With bitter jests:--"Thou fool!" they seem to say, "Thou hast no seed of goodness in thee; all Thy nature hath been stung right through and through; Thy sin hath blasted thee and made thee old; Thou hadst a will, but thou hast killed it dead, And with the fulsome garniture of life Built out the loathsome corpse; thou art a child Of night and death, even lower than a worm; Gather the skirts up of thy shadowy self, And with what resolution thou hast left Fall on the damned spikes of doom!"

Oh, take me like a child,
If thou hast made me for thyself, my God, And lead me up thy hills. I shall not fear, So thou wilt make me pure, and beat back sin With the terrors of thine eye: it fears me not As once it might have feared thine own good image, But lays bold siege at my heart's doors.

Oh, I have seen a thing of beauty stand In the young moonlight of its upward thoughts, And the old earth came round it with its gifts Of gladness, whispering leaves, and odorous plants, Until its large and spiritual eye Burned with intensest love: my God, I could Have watched it evermore with Argus-eyes, Lest when the noontide of the summer's sun Let down the tented sunlight on the plain, His flaming beams should scorch my darling flower; And through the fruitless nights of leaden gloom, Of plashing rains, and knotted winds of cold, Yea, when thy lightnings ran across the sky, And the loud stumbling blasts fell from the hills Upon the mounds of death, I could have watched Guarding such beauty like another life! But, O my God, it changed!-- Yet methinks I know not if it was not I! Its beauty turned to ghastly loathsomeness! Then a hand spurned me backwards from the clouds, And with the gather of a mighty whirlwind, Drew in the glittering gifts of life.

How long, O Lord, how long? I am a man lost in a rocky place! Lo, all thy echoes smite me with confusion Of varied speech,--the cry of vanished Life Rolled upon nations' sighs--of hearts uplifted Against despair--the stifled sounds of Woe Sitting perpetual by its grey cold well-- Or wasted Toil climbing its endless hills With quickening gasps--or the thin winds of Joy That beat about the voices of the crowd!

Lord, hast thou sent
Thy moons to mock us with perpetual hope? Lighted within our breasts the love of love To make us ripen for despair, my God?

Oh, dost thou hold each individual soul Strung clear upon thy flaming rods of purpose? Or does thine inextinguishable will Stand on the steeps of night with lifted hand Filling the yawning wells of monstrous space With mixing thought--drinking up single life As in a cup? and from the rending folds Of glimmering purpose, do all thy navied stars Slide through the gloom with mystic melody, Like wishes on a brow? Oh, is my soul, Hung like a dewdrop in thy grassy ways, Drawn up again into the rack of change Even through the lustre which created it? --O mighty one, thou wilt not smite me through With scorching wrath, because my spirit stands Bewildered in thy circling mysteries!

Oh lift the burdened gloom that chokes my soul With dews of darkness; smite the lean winds of death That run with howls around the ruined temples, Blowing the souls of men about like leaves.

Lo, the broad life-lands widen overhead, Star-galaxies arise like drifting snow, And happy life goes whitening down the stream Of boundless action, whilst my fettered soul Sits, as a captive in a noisome dungeon Watches the pulses of his withered heart Lave out the sparkling minutes of his life On the idle flags!

Come in the glory of thine excellence, Rive the dense gloom with wedges of clear light, And let the shimmer of thy chariot wheels Burn through the cracks of night! So slowly, Lord, To lift myself to thee with hands of toil, Climbing the slippery cliffs of unheard prayer! Lift up a hand among my idle days-- One beckoning finger: I will cast aside The clogs of earthly circumstance and run Up the broad highways where the countless worlds Sit ripening in the summer of thy love. Send a clear meaning sparkling through the years; Burst all the prison-doors, and make men's hearts Gush up like fountains with thy melody; Brighten the hollow eyes; fill with life's fruits The hands that grope and scramble down the wastes; And let the ghastly troops of withered ones Come shining o'er the mountains of thy love.

Lord, thy strange mysteries come thickening down Upon my head like snowflakes, shutting out The happy upper fields with chilly vapour. Shall I content my soul with a weak sense Of safety? or feed my ravenous hunger with Sore purged hopes, that are not hopes but fears Clad in white raiment?

The creeds lie in the hollow of men's hearts Like festering pools glassing their own corruption; The slimy eyes stare up with dull approval, And answer not when thy bright starry feet Move on the watery floors: oh, shake men's souls Together like the gathering of all oceans Rent from their hidden chambers, till the waves Lift up their million voices of high joy Along the echoing cliffs! come thus, O Lord, With nightly gifts of stars, and lay a hand Of mighty peace upon the quivering flood.

O wilt thou hear me when I cry to thee? I am a child lost in a mighty forest; The air is thick with voices, and strange hands Reach through the dusk, and pluck me by the skirts. There is a voice which sounds like words from home, But, as I stumble on to reach it, seems To leap from rock to rock: oh, if it is Willing obliquity of sense, descend, Heal all my wanderings, take me by the hand, And lead me homeward through the shadows. Let me not by my wilful acts of pride Block up the windows of thy truth, and grow A wasted, withered thing, that stumbles on Down to the grave with folded hands of sloth And leaden confidence.


Still am I haunting

  Thy door with my prayers; Still they are panting

  Up thy steep stairs! Wouldst thou not rather

  Come down to my heart, And there, O my Father,

  Be what thou art?


My thoughts are like fire-flies, pulsing in moonlight;

  My heart like a silver cup, filled with red wine; My soul a pale gleaming horizon, whence soon light

  Will flood the gold earth with a torrent divine.


0 Lord, at Joseph's humble bench Thy hands did handle saw and plane; Thy hammer nails did drive and clench, Avoiding knot and humouring grain.

That thou didst seem, thou wast indeed, In sport thy tools thou didst not use; Nor, helping hind's or fisher's need, The labourer's hire, too nice, refuse.

Lord, might I be but as a saw, A plane, a chisel, in thy hand!-- No, Lord! I take it back in awe, Such prayer for me is far too grand.

I pray, O Master, let me lie, As on thy bench the favoured wood; Thy saw, thy plane, thy chisel ply, And work me into something good.

No, no; ambition, holy-high, Urges for more than both to pray: Come in, O gracious Force, I cry-- O workman, share my shed of clay.

Then I, at bench, or desk, or oar, With knife or needle, voice or pen, As thou in Nazareth of yore, Shall do the Father's will again.

Thus fashioning a workman rare, O Master, this shall be thy fee: Home to thy father thou shall bear Another child made like to thee.


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