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The Poetical Works of George MacDonald (Parables)

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No longer fly thy kite, Lord; draw me home.

  Thou pull'st the string through all the distance bleak; Lord, I am nearing thee; O Lord, I come;

  Thy pulls grow stronger and the wind grows weak.

In thy remodelling hands thou tak'st thy kite;

  A moment to thy bosom hold'st me fast. Thou flingest me abroad:--lo, in thy might

  A strong-winged bird I soar on every blast!


  1. I honour Nature, holding it unjust To look with jealousy on her designs; With every passing year more fast she twines About my heart; with her mysterious dust Claim I a fellowship not less august Although she works before me and combines Her changing forms, wherever the sun shines Spreading a leafy volume on the crust Of the old world; and man himself likewise Is of her making: wherefore then divorce What God hath joined thus, and rend by force Spirit away from substance, bursting ties By which in one great bond of unity God hath together bound all things that be?

  2. And in these lines my purpose is to show That He who left the Father, though he came Not with art-splendour or the earthly flame Of genius, yet in that he did bestow His own true loving heart, did cause to grow, Unseen and buried deep, whate'er we name The best in human art, without the shame Of idle sitting in most real woe; And that whate'er of Beautiful and Grand The Earth contains, by him was not despised, But rather was so deeply realized In word and deed, though not with artist hand, That it was either hid or all disguised From those who were not wise to understand.

  3. Art is the bond of weakness, and we find Therein acknowledgment of failing power: A man would worship, gazing on a flower-- Onward he passeth, lo his eyes are blind! The unenlivened form he left behind Grew up within him only for an hour! And he will grapple with Nature till the dower Of strength shall be retreasured in his mind. And each form-record is a high protest Of treason done unto the soul of man, Which, striving upwards, ever is oppress'd By the old bondage, underneath whose ban He, failing in his struggle for the best, Must live in pain upon what food he can.

  4. Moreover, were there perfect harmony 'Twixt soul and Nature, we should never waste The precious hours in gazing, but should haste To assimilate her offerings, and we From high life-elements, as doth the tree, Should grow to higher; so what we call Taste Is a slow living as of roots encased In the grim chinks of some sterility Both cramping and withholding. Art is Truth, But Truth dammed up and frozen, gagged and bound As is a streamlet icy and uncouth Which pebbles hath and channel but no sound: Give it again its summer heart of youth And it will be a life upon the ground.

  5. And Love had not been prisoned in cold stone, Nor Beauty smeared on the dead canvas so, Had not their worshipper been forced to go Questful and restless through the world alone, Searching but finding not, till on him shone Back from his own deep heart a chilly glow As of a frost-nipped sunbeam, or of snow Under a storm-dodged crescent which hath grown Wasted to mockery; and beneath such gleam His wan conceits have found an utterance, Which, had they found a true and sunny beam, Had ripened into real touch and glance-- Nay more, to real deed, the Truth of all, To some perfection high and personal.

  6. "But yet the great of soul have ever been The first to glory in all works of art; For from the genius-form would ever dart A light of inspiration, and a sheen As of new comings; and ourselves have seen Men of stern purpose to whose eyes would start Sorrow at sight of sorrow though no heart Did riot underneath that chilly, screen; And hence we judge such utterance native to The human soul--expression highest--best." --Nay, it is by such sign they will pursue, Albeit unknowing, Beauty, without rest; And failing in the search, themselves will fling Speechless before its shadow, worshipping.

  7. And how shall he whose mission is to bring The soul to worship at its rightful shrine, Seeing in Beauty what is most divine, Give out the mightiest impulse, and thus fling His soul into the future, scattering The living seed of wisdom? Shall there shine From underneath his hand a matchless line Of high earth-beauties, till the wide world ring With the far clang that tells a missioned soul, Kneeling to homage all about his feet? Alas for such a gift were this the whole, The only bread of life men had to eat! Lo, I behold them dead about him now, And him the heart of death, for all that brow!

  8. If Thou didst pass by Art, thou didst not scorn The souls that by such symbol yearned in vain From Truth and Love true nourishment to gain: On thy warm breast, so chilly and forlorn Fell these thy nurslings little more than born That thou wast anguished, and there fell a rain From thy blest eyelids, and in grief and pain Thou partedst from them yet one night and morn To find them wholesome food and nourishment Instead of what their blindness took for such, Laying thyself a seed in earthen rent From which, outspringing to the willing touch, Riseth for all thy children harvest great, For which they will all learn to bless thee yet.

  1. Thou sawest Beauty in the streaking cloud When grief lift up those eyelids; nor in scorn Broke ever on thine eyes the purple morn Along the cedar tops; to thee aloud Spake the night-solitude, when hushed and bowed The earth lay at thy feet stony and worn; Loving thou markedst when the lamb unshorn Was glad before thee, and amongst the crowd Famished and pent in cities did thine eye Read strangest glory--though in human art No record lives to tell us that thy heart Bowed to its own deep beauty: deeper did lie The burden of thy mission, even whereby We know that Beauty liveth where Thou art.

  1. Doubtless thine eyes have watched the sun aspire From that same Olivet, when back on thee Flushed upwards after some night-agony Thy proper Godhead, with a purer fire Purpling thy Infinite, and in strong desire Thou sattest in the dawn that was to be Uplifted on our dark perplexity. Yea in thee lay thy soul, a living lyre, And each wild beauty smote it, though the sound Rung to the night-winds oft and desert air; Beneath thine eyes the lily paled more fair, And each still shadow slanting on the ground Lay sweetly on thee as commissioned there, So full wast thou of eyes all round and round.

  2. And so thou neededst not our human skill To fix what thus were transient--there it grew Wedded to thy perfection; and anew With every coming vision rose there still Some living principle which did fulfil Thy most legitimate manhood; and unto Thy soul all Nature rendered up its due With not a contradiction; and each hill And mountain torrent and each wandering light Grew out divinely on thy countenance, Whereon, as we are told, by word and glance Thy hearers read an ever strange delight--So strange to them thy Truth, they could not tell What made thy message so unspeakable.

  3. And by such living witness didst thou preach: Not with blind hands of groping forward thrust Into the darkness, gathering only dust, But by this real sign--that thou didst reach, In natural order, rising each from each, Thy own ideals of the True and Just; And that as thou didst live, even so he must Who would aspire his fellow-men to teach, Looking perpetual from new heights of Thought On his old self. Of art no scorner thou! Instead of leafy chaplet, on thy brow Wearing the light of manhood, thou hast brought Death unto Life! Above all statues now, Immortal Artist, hail! thy work is wrought!

  4. Solemn and icy stand ye in my eyes, Far up into the niches of the Past, Ye marble statues, dim and holden fast Within your stony homes! nor human cries Had shook you from your frozen phantasies Or sent the life-blood through you, till there passed Through all your chilly bulks a new life-blast From the Eternal Living, and ye rise From out your stiffened postures rosy-warm, Walking abroad a goodly company Of living virtues at that wondrous charm, As he with human heart and hand and eye Walked sorrowing upon our highways then, The Eternal Father's living gift to men!

  5. As the pent torrent in uneasy rest Under the griping rocks, doth ever keep A monstrous working as it lies asleep In the round hollow of some mountain's breast, Till where it hideth in its sweltering nest Some earthquake finds it, and its waters leap Forth to the sunshine down the mighty steep, So in thee once was anguished forth the quest Whereby man sought for life-power as he lay Under his own proud heart and black despair Wedged fast and stifled up with loads of care, Yet at dumb struggle with the tyrant clay; Thou wentest down below the roots of prayer, And he hath cried aloud since that same day!

  6. As he that parts in hatred from a friend Mixing with other men forgets the woe Which anguished him when he beheld and lo Two souls had fled asunder which did bend Under the same blue heaven! yet ere the end, When the loud world hath tossed him to and fro, Will often strangely reappear that glow At simplest memory which some chance may send, Although much stronger bonds have lost their power: So thou God-sent didst come in lowly guise, Striking on simple chords,--not with surprise Or mightiest recollectings in that hour, But like remembered fragrance of a flower A man with human heart and loving eyes.

March, 1852.


Job xiv. 13-15.

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