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The Poetical Works of George MacDonald (Parables)

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Suggested by a drawing of Thomas Moran, the American painter.

This must be the very night! The moon knows it!--and the trees! They stand straight upright, Each a sentinel drawn up,
As if they dared not know
Which way the wind might blow! The very pool, with dead gray eye, Dully expectant, feels it nigh, And begins to curdle and freeze! And the dark night,
With its fringe of light,
Holds the secret in its cup!

  1. What can it be, to make The poplars cease to shiver and shake, And up in the dismal air Stand straight and stiff as the human hair When the human soul is dizzy with dread-- All but those two that strain Aside in a frenzy of speechless pain, Though never a wind sends out a breath To tunnel the foggy rheum of death? What can it be has power to scare The full-grown moon to the idiot stare Of a blasted eye in the midnight air? Something has gone wrong; A scream will come tearing out ere long!

  2. Still as death, Although I listen with bated breath! Yet something is coming, I know--is coming! With an inward soundless humming Somewhere in me, or if in the air I cannot tell, but it is there! Marching on to an unheard drumming Something is coming--coming-- Growing and coming! And the moon is aware, Aghast in the air At the thing that is only coming With an inward soundless humming And an unheard spectral drumming!

  3. Nothing to see and nothing to hear! Only across the inner sky The wing of a shadowy thought flits by, Vague and featureless, faceless, drear-- Only a thinness to catch the eye: Is it a dim foreboding unborn, Or a buried memory, wasted and worn As the fading frost of a wintry sigh? Anon I shall have it!--anon!--it draws nigh! A night when--a something it was took place That drove the blood from that scared moon-face! Hark! was that the cry of a goat, Or the gurgle of water in a throat? Hush! there is nothing to see or hear, Only a silent something is near; No knock, no footsteps three or four, Only a presence outside the door! See! the moon is remembering!--what? The wail of a mother-left, lie-alone brat? Or a raven sharpening its beak to peck? Or a cold blue knife and a warm white neck? Or only a heart that burst and ceased For a man that went away released? I know not--know not, but something is coming Somehow back with an inward humming!

  4. Ha! look there! look at that house, Forsaken of all things, beetle and mouse! Mark how it looks! It must have a soul! It looks, it looks, though it cannot stir! See the ribs of it, how they stare! Its blind eyes yet have a seeing air! It knows it has a soul! Haggard it hangs o'er the slimy pool, And gapes wide open as corpses gape: It is the very murderer! The ghost has modelled himself to the shape Of this drear house all sodden with woe Where the deed was done, long, long ago, And filled with himself his new body full-- To haunt for ever his ghastly crime, And see it come and go-- Brooding around it like motionless time, With a mouth that gapes, and eyes that yawn Blear and blintering and full of the moon, Like one aghast at a hellish dawn!-- The deed! the deed! it is coming soon!

  5. For, ever and always, when round the tune Grinds on the barrel of organ-Time, The deed is done. And it comes anon: True to the roll of the clock-faced moon, True to the ring of the spheric chime, True to the cosmic rhythm and rime, Every point, as it first fell out, Will come and go in the fearsome bout. See! palsied with horror from garret to core, The house cannot shut its gaping door; Its burst eye stares as if trying to see, And it leans as if settling heavily, Settling heavy with sickness dull: It also is hearing the soundless humming Of the wheel that is turning--the thing that is coming! On the naked rafters of its brain, Gaunt and wintred, see the train Of gossiping, scandal-mongering crows That watch, all silent, with necks a-strain, Wickedly knowing, with heads awry And the sharpened gleam of a cunning eye-- Watch, through the cracks of the ruined skull, How the evil business goes!-- Beyond the eyes of the cherubim, Beyond the ears of the seraphim, Outside, forsaken, in the dim Phantom-haunted chaos grim He stands, with the deed going on in him!

  6. O winds, winds, that lurk and peep Under the edge of the moony fringe! O winds, winds, up and sweep, Up and blow and billow the air, Billow the air with blow and swinge, Rend me this ghastly house of groans! Rend and scatter the skeleton's bones Over the deserts and mountains bare! Blast and hurl and shiver aside Nailed sticks and mortared stones! Clear the phantom, with torrent and tide, Out of the moon and out of my brain, That the light may fall shadowless in again!

  7. But, alas, then the ghost O'er mountain and coast Would go roaming, roaming! and never was swine That, grubbing and talking with snork and whine On Gadarene mountains, had taken him in But would rush to the lake to unhouse the sin! For any charnel This ghost is too carnal; There is no volcano, burnt out and cold, Whose very ashes are gray and old, But would cast him forth in reviving flame To blister the sky with a smudge of shame!

  8. Is there no help? none anywhere Under the earth or above the air?-- Come, sad woman, whose tender throat Has a red-lipped mouth that can sing no note! Child, whose midwife, the third grim Fate, Shears in hand, thy coming did wait! Father, with blood-bedabbled hair! Mother, all withered with love's despair! Come, broken heart, whatever thou be, Hasten to help this misery! Thou wast only murdered, or left forlorn: He is a horror, a hate, a scorn! Come, if out of the holiest blue That the sapphire throne shines through; For pity come, though thy fair feet stand Next to the elder-band; Fling thy harp on the hyaline, Hurry thee down the spheres divine; Come, and drive those ravens away; Cover his eyes from the pitiless moon, Shadow his brain from her stinging spray; Droop around him, a tent of love, An odour of grace, a fanning dove; Walk through the house with the healing tune Of gentle footsteps; banish the shape Remorse calls up thyself to ape; Comfort him, dear, with pardon sweet; Cool his heart from its burning heat With the water of life that laves the feet Of the throne of God, and the holy street!

  9. O God, he is but a living blot, Yet he lives by thee--for if thou wast not, They would vanish together, self-forgot, He and his crime:--one breathing blown From thy spirit on his would all atone, Scatter the horror, and bring relief In an amber dawn of holy grief! God, give him sorrow; arise from within, His primal being, deeper than sin!

  10. Why do I tremble, a creature at bay? 'Tis but a dream--I drive it away. Back comes my breath, and my heart again Pumps the red blood to my fainting brain Released from the nightmare's nine-fold train: God is in heaven--yes, everywhere, And Love, the all-shining, will kill Despair!-- To the wall's blank eyeless space I turn the picture's face.

  11. But why is the moon so bare, up there? And why is she so white? And why does the moon so stare, up there-- Strangely stare, out of the night? Why stand up the poplars That still way? And why do those two of them Start astray? And out of the black why hangs the gray? Why does it hang down so, I say, Over that house, like a fringed pall Where the dead goes by in a funeral?-- Soul of mine, Thou the reason canst divine: Into thee the moon doth stare With pallid, terror-smitten air! Thou, and the Horror lonely-stark, Outcast of eternal dark, Are in nature same and one, And thy story is not done! So let the picture face thee from the wall, And let its white moon stare!


In the winter, flowers are springing; In the winter, woods are green, Where our banished birds are singing, Where our summer sun is seen! Our cold midnights are coeval With an evening and a morn
Where the forest-gods hold revel, And the spring is newly born!

While the earth is full of fighting, While men rise and curse their day, While the foolish strong are smiting, And the foolish weak betray-- The true hearts beyond are growing, The brave spirits work alone, Where Love's summer-wind is blowing In a truth-irradiate zone!

While we cannot shape our living To the beauty of our skies, While man wants and earth is giving-- Nature calls and man denies-- How the old worlds round Him gather Where their Maker is their sun! How the children know the Father Where the will of God is done!

Daily woven with our story, Sounding far above our strife, Is a time-enclosing glory,
Is a space-absorbing life.
We can dream no dream Elysian, There is no good thing might be, But some angel has the vision, But some human soul shall see!

Is thy strait horizon dreary? Is thy foolish fancy chill? Change the feet that have grown weary For the wings that never will. Burst the flesh, and live the spirit; Haunt the beautiful and far; Thou hast all things to inherit, And a soul for every star.


I think I might be weary of this day That comes inevitably every year, The same when I was young and strong and gay, The same when I am old and growing sere-- I should grow weary of it every year But that thou comest to me every day.

I shall grow weary if thou every day But come to me, Lord of eternal life; I shall grow weary thus to watch and pray, For ever out of labour into strife; Take everlasting house with me, my life, And I shall be new-born this Christmas-day.

Thou art the Eternal Son, and born no day, But ever he the Father, thou the Son; I am his child, but being born alway-- How long, O Lord, how long till it be done? Be thou from endless years to years the Son-- And I thy brother, new-born every day.


Be welcome, year! with corn and sickle come;

  Make poor the body, but make rich the heart: What man that bears his sheaves, gold-nodding, home,

  Will heed the paint rubbed from his groaning cart!

Nor leave behind thy fears and holy shames,

  Thy sorrows on the horizon hanging low-- Gray gathered fuel for the sunset-flames

  When joyous in death's harvest-home we go.


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