Top 20 Greatest Poems of George MacDonald

These are the top twenty (20) greatest poems of George MacDonald.

From A Baby-Sermon to Baby.

If you want to know his greatest poems of all time, then this poetry collection is for you.

Keep reading!.

A Baby-Sermon

The lightning and thunder
They go and they come:
But the stars and the stillness
Are always at home.

George MacDonald

A Better Thing

I took it for a bird of prey that soared
High over ocean, battled mount, and plain;
‘Twas but a bird-moth, which with limp horns gored
The invisibly obstructing window-pane!

Better than eagle, with far-towering nerve
But downward bent, greedy, marauding eye,
Guest of the flowers, thou art: unhurt they serve
Thee, little angel of a lower sky!

George MacDonald

The Early Bird.

A little bird sat on the edge of her nest;
Her yellow-beaks slept as sound as tops;
Day-long she had worked almost without rest,
And had filled every one of their gibbous crops;
Her own she had filled just over-full,
And she felt like a dead bird stuffed with wool.

“Oh dear!” she sighed, as she sat with her head
Sunk in her chest, and no neck at all,
Looking like an apple on a feather-bed
Poked and rounded and fluffed to a ball,
“What’s to be done if things don’t reform?
I cannot tell where there is one more worm!

“I’ve had fifteen to-day, and the children five each,
Besides a few flies, and some very fat spiders:
Who will dare say I don’t do as I preach?
I set an example to all providers!
But what’s the use? We want a storm:
I don’t know where there’s a single worm!”

“There’s five in my crop,” chirped a wee, wee bird
Who woke at the voice of his mother’s pain;
“I know where there’s five!” And with the word
He tucked in his head and went off again.
“The folly of childhood,” sighed his mother,
“Has always been my especial bother!”

Careless the yellow-beaks slept on,
They never had heard of the bogy, Tomorrow;
The mother sat outside making her moan–
“I shall soon have to beg, or steal, or borrow!
I have always to say, the night before,
Where shall I find one red worm more!”

Her case was this, she had gobbled too many,
And sleepless, had an attack she called foresight:
A barn of crumbs, if she knew but of any!
Could she but get of the great worm-store sight!
The eastern sky was growing red
Ere she laid her wise beak in its feather-bed.

Just then, the fellow who knew of five,
Nor troubled his sleep with anxious tricks,
Woke, and stirred, and felt alive:
“To-day,” he said, “I am up to six!
But my mother feels in her lot the crook–
What if I tried my own little hook!”

When his mother awoke, she winked her eyes
As if she had dreamed that she was a mole:
Could she believe them? “What a huge prize
That child is dragging out of its hole!”
The fledgeling indeed had just caught his third!
And here is a fable to catch the bird!

George MacDonald

A Birthday-Wish

By George MacDonald
Who know thee, love: thy life be such
That, ere the year be o’er,
Each one who loves thee now so much,
Even God, may love thee more!

George MacDonald

A Broken Prayer

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.

George MacDonald

0 Lord, How Happy!

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!

George MacDonald

A Song Of Hope

I dinna ken what’s come ower me!
There’s a how whaur ance was a hert!
I never luik oot afore me,
An’ a cry winna gar me stert;
There’s naething nae mair to come ower me,
Blaw the win’ frae ony airt!

For i’ yon kirkyard there’s a hillock,
A hert whaur ance was a how;
An’ o’ joy there’s no left a mealock–
Deid aiss whaur ance was a low!
For i’ yon kirkyard, i’ the hillock,
Lies a seed ‘at winna grow.

It’s my hert ‘at hauds up the wee hillie–
That’s hoo there’s a how i’ my breist;
It’s awa doon there wi’ my Willie–
Gaed wi’ him whan he was releast;
It’s doon i’ the green-grown hillie,
But I s’ be efter it neist!

Come awa, nicht an’ mornin,
Come ooks, years, a’ Time’s clan:
Ye’re welcome: I’m no a bit scornin!
Tak me til him as fest as ye can.
Come awa, nicht an’ mornin,
Ye are wings o’ a michty span!

For I ken he’s luikin an’ waitin,
Luikin aye doon as I clim;
An’ I’ll no hae him see me sit greitin
I’stead o’ gaein to him!
I’ll step oot like ane sure o’ a meetin,
I’ll travel an’ rin to him.

George MacDonald

A Boy’s Grief.

Ah me! in ages far away,
The good, the heavenly land,
Though unbeheld, quite near them lay,
And men could understand.

The dead yet find it, who, when here,
Did love it more than this;
They enter in, are filled with cheer,
And pain expires in bliss.

Oh, fairly shines the blessed land!
Ah, God! I weep and pray–
The heart thou holdest in thy hand
Loves more this sunny day.

I see the hundred thousand wait
Around the radiant throne:
To me it is a dreary state,
A crowd of beings lone.

I do not care for singing psalms;
I tire of good men’s talk;
To me there is no joy in palms,
Or white-robed solemn walk.

I love to hear the wild winds meet,
The wild old winds at night;
To watch the starlight throb and beat,
To wait the thunder-light.

I love all tales of valiant men,
Of women good and fair;
If I were rich and strong, ah then,
I would do something rare.

I see thy temple in the skies
On pillars strong and white;
I cannot love it, though I rise
And try with all my might.

Sometimes a joy lays hold on me,
And I am speechless then;
Almost a martyr I could be,
And join the holy men.

But soon my heart is like a clod,
My spirit wrapt in doubt–
“A pillar in the house of God,
And never more go out!”

No more the sunny, breezy morn;
No more the speechless moon;
No more the ancient hills, forlorn,
A vision, and a boon.

Ah, God! my love will never burn,
Nor shall I taste thy joy;
And Jesus’ face is calm and stern–
I am a hapless boy.

George MacDonald

A Dream Song

I dreamed of a song–I heard it sung;
In the ear of my soul its strange notes rung.
What were its words I could not tell,
Only the voice I heard right well,
For its tones unearthly my spirit bound
In a calm delirium of mystic sound–
Held me floating, alone and high,
Placeless and silent, drinking my fill
Of dews that from cloudless skies distil
On desert places that thirst and sigh.
‘Twas a woman’s voice, deep calling to deep,
Rousing old echoes that all day sleep
In cavern and solitude, each apart,
Here and there in the waiting heart;–
A voice with a wild melodious cry
Reaching and longing afar and high.
Sorrowful triumph, and hopeful strife,
Gainful death, and new-born life,
Thrilled in each note of the prophet-song.
In my heart it said: O Lord, how long
Shall we groan and travail and faint and pray,
Ere thy lovely kingdom bring the day!


George MacDonald

A Song In The Night.

A brown bird sang on a blossomy tree,
Sang in the moonshine, merrily,
Three little songs, one, two, and three,
A song for his wife, for himself, and me.

He sang for his wife, sang low, sang high,
Filling the moonlight that filled the sky;
“Thee, thee, I love thee, heart alive!
Thee, thee, thee, and thy round eggs five!”

He sang to himself, “What shall I do
With this life that thrills me through and through!
Glad is so glad that it turns to ache!
Out with it, song, or my heart will break!”

He sang to me, “Man, do not fear
Though the moon goes down and the dark is near;
Listen my song and rest thine eyes;
Let the moon go down that the sun may rise!”

I folded me up in the heart of his tune,
And fell asleep with the sinking moon;
I woke with the day’s first golden gleam,
And, lo, I had dreamed a precious dream!

George MacDonald

A Prayer

When I look back upon my life nigh spent,
Nigh spent, although the stream as yet flows on,
I more of follies than of sins repent,
Less for offence than Love’s shortcomings moan.
With self, O Father, leave me not alone–
Leave not with the beguiler the beguiled;
Besmirched and ragged, Lord, take back thine own:
A fool I bring thee to be made a child.

George MacDonald

A Christmas Prayer

Loving looks the large-eyed cow,
Loving stares the long-eared ass
At Heaven’s glory in the grass!
Child, with added human birth
Come to bring the child of earth
Glad repentance, tearful mirth,
And a seat beside the hearth
At the Father’s knee–
Make us peaceful as thy cow;
Make us patient as thine ass;
Make us quiet as thou art now;
Make us strong as thou wilt be.
Make us always know and see
We are his as well as thou.

George MacDonald

Christmas Day And Every Day

Star high,
Baby low:
‘Twixt the two
Wise men go;
Find the baby,
Grasp the star–
Heirs of all things
Near and far!

George MacDonald


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;
Thou art wetting the wet sea,
Bathing its sluggish woods below,
Making the salt flowers bud and blow;
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.

George MacDonald

The Christmas Child

“Little one, who straight hast come
Down the heavenly stair,
Tell us all about your home,
And the father there.”

“He is such a one as I,
Like as like can be.
Do his will, and, by and by,
Home and him you’ll see.”

George MacDonald

A Dream Within A Dream.


Young, as the day’s first-born Titanic brood,
Lifting their foreheads jubilant to heaven,
Rose the great mountains on my opening dream.
And yet the aged peace of countless years
Reposed on every crag and precipice
Outfacing ruggedly the storms that swept
Far overhead the sheltered furrow-vales;
Which smiled abroad in green as the clouds broke
Drifting adown the tide of the wind-waves,
Till shattered on the mountain rocks. Oh! still,
And cold and hard to look upon, like men
Who do stern deeds in times of turbulence,
Quell the hail-rattle with their granite brows,
And let the thunder burst and pass away–
They too did gather round sky-dwelling peaks
The trailing garments of the travelling sun,
Which he had lifted from his ocean-bed,
And swept along his road. They rent them down
In scattering showers upon the trees and grass,
In noontide rains with heavy ringing drops,
Or in still twilight moisture tenderly.
And from their sides were born the gladsome streams;
Some creeping gently out in tiny springs,
As they were just created, scarce a foot
From the hill’s surface, in the matted roots
Of plants, whose green betrays the secret birth;
Some hurrying forth from caverns deep and dark,
Upfilling to the brim a basin huge,
Thick covered with soft moss, greening the wave,
As evermore it welled over the edge
Upon the rocks below in boiling heaps;
Fit basin for a demi-god at morn,
Waking amid the crags, to lave his limbs,
Then stride, Hyperion, o’er sun-paven peaks.
And down the hill-side sped the fresh-born wave,
Now hid from sight in arched caverns cold,
Now arrowing slantwise down the terraced steep,
Now springing like a child from step to step
Of the rough water-stair; until it found
A deep-hewn passage for its slower course,
Guiding it down to lowliness and rest,
Betwixt wet walls of darkness, darker yet
With pine trees lining all their sides like hair,
Or as their own straight needles clothe their boughs;
Until at length in broader light it ran,
With more articulate sounds amid the stones,
In the slight shadow of the maiden birch,
And the stream-loving willow; and ere long
Great blossoming trees dropt flowers upon its breast;
Chiefly the crimson-spotted, cream-white flowers,
Heaped up in cones amid cone-drooping leaves;
Green hanging leaf-cones, towering white flower-cones
Upon the great cone-fashioned chestnut tree.
Each made a tiny ripple where it fell,
The trembling pleasure of the smiling wave,
Which bore it then, in slow funereal course,
Down to the outspread sunny sheen, where lies
The lake uplooking to the far-off snow,
Its mother still, though now so far away;
Feeding it still with long descending lines
Of shining, speeding streams, that gather peace
In journeying to the rest of that still lake
Now lying sleepy in the warm red sun,
Which says its dear goodnight, and goeth down.

All pale, and withered, and disconsolate,
The moon is looking on impatiently;
For ‘twixt the shining tent-roof of the day,
And the sun-deluged lake, for mirror-floor,
Her thin pale lamping is too sadly grey
To shoot, in silver-barbed, white-plumed arrows,
Cold maiden splendours on the flashing fish:
Wait for thy empire Night, day-weary moon!
And thou shalt lord it in one realm at least,
Where two souls walk a single Paradise.
Take to thee courage, for the sun is gone;
His praisers, the glad birds, have hid their heads;
Long, ghost-like forms of trees lie on the grass;
All things are clothed in an obscuring light,
Fusing their outline in a dreamy mass;
Some faint, dim shadows from thy beauty fall
On the clear lake which melts them half away–
Shine faster, stronger, O reviving moon!
Burn up, O lamp of Earth, hung high in Heaven!

And through a warm thin summer mist she shines,
A silver setting to the diamond stars;
And the dark boat cleaveth a glittering way,
Where the one steady beauty of the moon
Makes many changing beauties on the wave
Broken by jewel-dropping oars, which drive
The boat, as human impulses the soul;
While, like the sovereign will, the helm’s firm law
Directs the whither of the onward force.
At length midway he leaves the swaying oars
Half floating in the blue gulf underneath,
And on a load of gathered flowers reclines,
Leaving the boat to any air that blows,
His soul to any pulse from the unseen heart.
Straight from the helm a white hand gleaming flits,
And settles on his face, and nestles there,
Pale, night-belated butterfly, to sleep.
For on her knees his head lies satisfied;
And upward, downward, dark eyes look and rest,
Finding their home in likeness. Lifting then
Her hair upon her white arm heavily,
The overflowing of her beauteousness,
Her hand that cannot trespass, singles out
Some of the curls that stray across her lap;
And mingling dark locks in the pallid light,
She asks him which is darker of the twain,
Which his, which hers, and laugheth like a lute.
But now her hair, an unvexed cataract,
Falls dark and heavy round his upturned face,
And with a heaven shuts out the shallow sky,
A heaven profound, the home of two black stars;
Till, tired with gazing, face to face they lie,
Suspended, with closed eyelids, in the night;
Their bodies bathed in conscious sleepiness,
While o’er their souls creeps every rippling breath
Of the night-gambols of the moth-winged wind,
Flitting a handbreadth, folding up its wings,
Its dreamy wings, then spreading them anew,
And with an unfelt gliding, like the years,
Wafting them to a water-lily bed,
Whose shield-like leaves and chalice-bearing arms
Hold back the boat from the slow-sloping shore,
Far as a child might shoot with his toy-bow.
There the long drooping grass drooped to the wave;
And, ever as the moth-wind lit thereon,
A small-leafed tree, whose roots were always cool,
Dipped one low bow, with many sister-leaves,
Upon the water’s face with a low plash,
Lifting and dipping yet and yet again;
And aye the water-drops rained from the leaves,
With music-laughter as they found their home.
And from the woods came blossom-fragrance, faint,
Or full, like rising, falling harmonies;
Luxuriance of life, which overflows
In scents ethereal on the ocean air;
Each breathing on the rest the blessedness
Of its peculiar being, filled with good
Till its cup runneth over with delight:
They drank the mingled odours as they lay,
The air in which the sensuous being breathes,
Till summer-sleep fell on their hearts and eyes.

The night was mild and innocent of ill;
‘Twas but a sleeping day that breathed low,
And babbled in its sleep. The moon at length
Grew sleepy too. Her level glances crept
Through sleeping branches to their curtained eyes,
As down the steep bank of the west she slid,
Slowly and slowly

But alas! alas!
The awful time ‘twixt moondown and sunrise!
It is a ghostly time. A low thick fog
Steamed up and swathed the trees, and overwhelmed
The floating couch with pall on pall of grey.
The sky was desolate, dull, and meaningless.
The blazing hues of the last sunset eve,
And the pale magic moonshine that had made
The common, strange,–all were swept clean away;
The earth around, the great sky over, were
Like a deserted theatre, tomb-dumb;
The lights long dead; the first sick grey of morn
Oozing through rents in the slow-mouldering curtain;
The sweet sounds fled away for evermore;
Nought left, except a creeping chill, a sense
As if dead deeds were strown upon the stage,
As if dead bodies simulated life,
And spoke dead words without informing thought.
A horror, as of power without a soul,
Dark, undefined, and mighty unto ill,
Jarred through the earth and through the vault-like air.

And on the sleepers fell a wondrous dream,
That dured till sunrise, filling all the cells
Remotest of the throbbing heart and brain.
And as I watched them, ever and anon
The quivering limb and half-unclosed eye
Witnessed of torture scarce endured, and yet
Endured; for still the dream had mastery,
And held them in a helplessness supine;
Till, by degrees, the labouring breath grew calm,
Save frequent murmured sighs; and o’er each face
Stole radiant sadness, and a hopeful grief;
And the convulsive motion passed away.

Upon their faces, reading them, I gazed,–
Reading them earnestly, like wondrous book,–
When suddenly the vapours of the dream
Rose and enveloped me, and through my soul
Passed with possession; will fell fast asleep.
And through the portals of the spirit-land,
Upon whose frontiers time and space grow dumb,
Quenched like a cloud that all the roaring wind
Drives not beyond the mountain top, I went,
And entering, beheld them in their dream.
Their world inwrapt me for the time as mine,
And what befel them there, I saw, and tell.


It was a drizzly morning where I stood.
The cloud had sunk, and filled with fold on fold
The chimneyed city; so the smoke rose not,
But spread diluted in the cloud, and fell
A black precipitate on miry streets,
Where dim grey faces vision-like went by,
But half-awake, half satisfied with sleep.

Slave engines had begun their ceaseless growl
Of labour. Iron bands and huge stone blocks
That held them to their task, strained, shook, until
The city trembled. Those pale-visaged forms
Were hastening on to feed their groaning strength
With labour to the full.

Look! there they come,
Poor amid poverty; she with her gown
Drawn over her meek head; he trying much,
But fruitless half, to shield her from the rain.
They enter the wide gates, amid the jar,
And clash, and shudder of the awful force
That, conquering force, still vibrates on, as if
With an excess of power, hungry for work.
With differing strength to different tasks they part,
To be the soul of knowledge unto strength;
For man has eked his body out with wheels,
And cranks, and belts, and levers, pinions, screws–
One body all, pervaded still with life
From man the maker’s will. ‘Mid keen-eyed men,
Thin featured and exact, his part is found;
Hers where the dusk air shines with lustrous eyes.

And there they laboured through the murky day,
Whose air was livid mist, their only breath;
Foul floating dust of swift revolving wheels
And feathery spoil of fast contorted threads
Making a sultry chaos in the sun.
Until at length slow swelled the welcome dark,
A dull Lethean heaving tide of death,
Up from the caves of Night to make an end;
And filling every corner of the place,
Choked in its waves the clanking of the looms.
And Earth put on her sleeping dress, and took
Her children home into its bosom-folds,
And nursed them as a mother-ghost might sit
With her neglected darlings in the dark.
So with dim satisfaction in their hearts,
Though with tired feet and aching head, they went,
Parting the clinging fog to find their home.
It was a dreary place. Unfinished walls,
Far drearier than ruins overspread
With long-worn sweet forgetfulness, amidst
Earth-heaps and bricks, rain-pools and ugliness,
Rose up around, banishing further yet
The Earth, with its spring-time, young-mother smile,
From children’s eyes that had forgot to play.
But though the house was dull and wrapt in fog,
It yet awoke to life, yea, cheerfulness,
When darkness oped a fire-eye in the grate,
And the dim candle’s smoky flame revealed
A room which could not be all desolate,
Being a temple, proven by the signs
Seen in the ancient place. For here was light;
And blazing fire with darkness on its skirts;
Bread; and pure water, ready to make clean,
Beside a chest of holiday attire;
And in the twilight edges of the light,
A book scarce seen; and for the wondrous veil,
Those human forms, behind which lay concealed
The Holy of Holies, God’s own secret place,
The lowly human heart wherein He dwells.
And by the table-altar they sat down
To eat their Eucharist, God feeding them:
Their food was Love, made visible in Form–
Incarnate Love in food. For he to whom
A common meal can be no Eucharist,
Who thanks for food and strength, not for the love
That made cold water for its blessedness,
And wine for gladness’ sake, has yet to learn
The heart-delight of inmost thankfulness
For innermost reception.

Then they sat
Resting with silence, the soul’s inward sleep,
Which feedeth it with strength; till gradually
They grew aware of light, that overcame
The light within, and through the dingy blind,
Cast from the window-frame, two shadow-glooms
That made a cross of darkness on the white,
Dark messenger of light itself unseen.
The woman rose, and half she put aside
The veil that hid the whole of glorious night;
And lo! a wind had mowed the earth-sprung fog;
And lo! on high the white exultant moon
From clear blue window curtained all with white,
Greeted them, at their shadowy window low,
With quiet smile; for two things made her glad:
One that she saw the glory of the sun;
For while the earth lay all athirst for light,
She drank the fountain-waves. The other joy;
Sprung from herself: she fought the darkness well,
Thinning the great cone-shadow of the earth,
Paling its ebon hue with radiant showers
Upon its sloping side. The woman said,
With hopeful look: “To-morrow will be bright
With sunshine for our holiday–to-morrow–
Think! we shall see the green fields in the sun.”
So with hearts hoping for a simple joy,
Yet high withal, being no less than the sun,
They laid them down in nightly death that waits
Patiently for the day.

That sun was high
When they awoke at length. The moon, low down,
Had almost vanished, clothed upon with light;
And night was swallowed up of day. In haste,
Chiding their weariness that leagued with sleep,
They, having clothed themselves in clean attire,
By the low door, stooping with priestly hearts,
Entered God’s vision-room, his wonder-world.

One side the street, the windows all were moons
To light the other that in shadow lay.
The path was almost dry; the wind asleep.
And down the sunny side a woman came
In a red cloak that made the whole street glad–
Fit clothing, though she was so feeble and old;
For when they stopped and asked her how she fared,
She said with cheerful words, and smile that owed
None of its sweetness to an ivory lining:
“I’m always better in the open air.”
“Dear heart!” said they, “how freely she will breathe
In the open air of heaven!” She stood in the morn
Like a belated autumn-flower in spring,
Dazed by the rushing of the new-born life
Up the earth’s winding cavern-stairs to see
Through window-buds the calling, waking sun.
Or as in dreams we meet the ghost of one
Beloved in youth, who walketh with few words,
And they are of the past. Yet, joy to her!
She too from earthy grave was climbing up
Unto the spirit-windows high and far,
She the new life for a celestial spring,
Answering the light that shineth evermore.

With hopeful sadness thus they passed along
Dissolving streets towards the smiles of spring,
Of which green visions gleamed and glided by,
Across far-narrowing avenues of brick:
The ripples only of her laughter float
Through the low winding caverns of the town;
Yet not a stone upon the paven street,
But shareth in the impulse of her joy,
Heaven’s life that thrills anew through the outworn earth;
Descending like the angel that did stir
Bethesda’s pool, and made the sleepy wave
Pulse with quick healing through the withered limb,
In joyous pangs. By an unfinished street,
Forth came they on a wide and level space;
Green fields lay side by side, and hedgerow trees
Stood here and there as waiting for some good.
But no calm river meditated through
The weary flat to the less level sea;
No forest trees on pillared stems and boughs
Bent in great Gothic arches, bore aloft
A cloudy temple-roof of tremulous leaves;
No clear line where the kissing lips of sky
And earth meet undulating, but a haze
That hides–oh, if it hid wild waves! alas!
It hides but fields, it hides but fields and trees!
Save eastward, where a few hills, far away,
Came forth in the sun, or drew back when the clouds
Went over them, dissolving them in shade.
But the life-robe of earth was beautiful,
As all most common things are loveliest;
A forest of green waving fairy trees,
That carpeted the earth for lowly feet,
Bending unto their tread, lowliest of all
Earth’s lowly children born for ministering
Unto the heavenly stranger, stately man;
That he, by subtle service from all kinds,
From every breeze and every bounding wave,
From night-sky cavernous with heaps of storm,
And from the hill rejoicing in the sun,
Might grow a humble, lowly child of God;
Lowly, as knowing his high parentage;
Humble, because all beauties wait on him,
Like lady-servants ministering for love.
And he that hath not rock, and hill, and stream,
Must learn to look for other beauty near;
To know the face of ocean solitudes,
The darkness dashed with glory, and the shades
Wind-fretted, and the mingled tints upthrown
From shallow bed, or raining from the sky.
And he that hath not ocean, and dwells low,
Not hill-befriended, if his eyes have ceased
To drink enjoyment from the billowy grass,
And from the road-side flower (like one who dwells
With homely features round him every day,
And so takes refuge in the loving eyes
Which are their heaven, the dwelling-place of light),
Must straightway lift his eyes unto the heavens,
Like God’s great palette, where His artist hand
Never can strike the brush, but beauty wakes;
Vast sweepy comet-curves, that net the soul
In pleasure; endless sky-stairs; patient clouds,
White till they blush at the sun’s goodnight kiss;
And filmy pallours, and great mountain crags.
But beyond all, absorbing all the rest,
Lies the great heaven, the expression of deep space,
Foreshortened to a vaulted dome of blue;
The Infinite, crowded in a single glance,
Where yet the eye descends depth within depth;
Like mystery of Truth, clothed in high form,
Evasive, spiritual, no limiting,
But something that denies an end, and yet
Can be beheld by wondering human eyes.
There looking up, one well may feel how vain
To search for God in this vast wilderness!
For over him would arch void depth for ever;
Nor ever would he find a God or Heaven,
Though lifting wings were his to soar abroad
Through boundless heights of space; or eyes to dive
To microscopic depths: he would come back,
And say, There is no God; and sit and weep;
Till in his heart a child’s voice woke and cried,
Father! my Father! Then the face of God
Breaks forth with eyes, everywhere, suddenly
And not a space of blue, nor floating cloud,
Nor grassy vale, nor distant purple height,
But, trembling with a presence all divine,
Says, Here I am, my child.

Gazing awhile,
They let the lesson of the sky sink deep
Into their hearts; withdrawing then their eyes,
They knew the Earth again. And as they went,
Oft in the changing heavens, those distant hills
Shone clear upon the horizon. Then awoke
A strange and unknown longing in their souls,
As if for something loved in years gone by,
And vanished in its beauty and its love
So long, that it retained no name or form,
And lay on childhood’s verge, all but forgot,
Wrapt in the enchanted rose-mists of that land:
As if amidst those hills were wooded dells,
Summer, and gentle winds, and odours free,
Deep sleeping waters, gorgeous flowers, and birds,
Pure winged throats. But here, all things around
Were in their spring. The very light that lay
Upon the grass seemed new-born like the grass,
Sprung with it from the earth. The very stones
Looked warm. The brown ploughed earth seemed swelling up,
Filled like a sponge with sunbeams, which lay still,
Nestling unseen, and broodingly, and warm,
In every little nest, corner, or crack,
Wherein might hide a blind and sleepy seed,
Waiting the touch of penetrative life
To wake, and grow, and beautify the earth.
The mossy stems and boughs, where yet no life
Exuberant overflowed in buds and leaves,
Were clothed in golden splendours, interwoven
With many shadows from the branches bare.
And through their tops the west wind rushing went,
Calling aloud the sleeping sap within:
The thrill passed downwards from the roots in air
To the roots tremulous in the embracing ground.
And though no buds with little dots of light
Sparkled the darkness of the hedgerow twigs;
Softening, expanding in the warm light-bath,
Seemed the dry smoky bark.

Thus in the fields
They spent their holiday. And when the sun
Was near the going down, they turned them home
With strengthened hearts. For they were filled with light,
And with the spring; and, like the bees, went back
To their dark house, laden with blessed sights,
With gladsome sounds home to their treasure-cave;
Where henceforth sudden gleams of spring would pass
Thorough the four-walled darkness of the room;
And sounds of spring-time whisper trembling by,
Though stony streets with iron echoed round.
And as they crossed a field, they came by chance
Upon a place where once a home had been;
Fragments of ruined walls, half-overgrown
With moss, for even stones had their green robe.
It had been a small cottage, with a plot
Of garden-ground in front, mapped out with walks
Now scarce discernible, but that the grass
Was thinner, the ground harder to the foot:
The place was simply shadowed with an old
Almost erased human carefulness.
Close by the ruined wall, where once had been
The door dividing it from the great world,
Making it home, a single snowdrop grew.
‘Twas the sole remnant of a family
Of flowers that in this garden once had dwelt,
Vanished with all their hues of glowing life,
Save one too white for death.

And as its form
Arose within the brain, a feeling sprung
Up in their souls, new, white, and delicate;
A waiting, longing, patient hopefulness,
The snowdrop of the heart. The heavenly child,
Pale with the earthly cold, hung its meek head,
Enduring all, and so victorious;
The Summer’s earnest in the waking Earth,
The spirit’s in the heart.

I love thee, flower,
With a love almost human, tenderly;
The Spring’s first child, yea, thine, my hoping heart!
Upon thy inner leaves and in thy heart,
Enough of green to tell thou know’st the grass;
In thy white mind remembering lowly friends;
But most I love thee for that little stain
Of earth on thy transfigured radiancy,
Which thou hast lifted with thee from thy grave,
The soiling of thy garments on thy road,
Travelling forth into the light and air,
The heaven of thy pure rest. Some gentle rain
Will surely wash thee white, and send the earth
Back to the place of earth; but now it signs
Thee child of earth, of human birth as we.

With careful hands uprooting it, they bore
The little plant a willing captive home;
Willing to enter dark abodes, secure
In its own tale of light. As once of old,
Bearing all heaven in words of promising,
The Angel of the Annunciation came,
It carried all the spring into that house;
A pot of mould its only tie to Earth,
Its heaven an ell of blue ‘twixt chimney-tops,
Its world henceforth that little, low-ceiled room,
Symbol and child of spring, it took its place
‘Midst all those types, to be a type with them,
Of what so many feel, not knowing it;
The hidden springtime that is drawing nigh.
And henceforth, when the shadow of the cross
Will enter, clothed in moonlight, still and dark,
The flower will nestle at its foot till day,
Pale, drooping, heart-content.

To rest they went.
And all night long the snowdrop glimmered white
Amid the dark, unconscious and unseen.

Before the sun had crowned his eastern hill
With its world-diadem, they woke.

I looked
Out of the windows of the inner dream,
And saw the edge of the sun’s glory rise
Eastward behind the hills, the lake-cup’s rim.
And as it came, it sucked up in itself,
As deeds drink words, or daylight candle-flame,
That other sun rising to light the dream.
They lay awake and thoughtful, comforted
With yesterday which nested in their hearts,
Yet haunted with the sound of grinding wheels.


And as they lay and looked into the room,
It wavered, changed, dissolved beneath the sun,
Which mingled both the mornings in their eyes,
Till the true conquered, and the unreal passed.
No walls, but woods bathed in a level sun;
No ceiling, but the vestal sky of morn;
No bed, but flowers floating ‘mid floating leaves
On water which grew audible as they stirred
And lifted up their heads. And a low wind
That flowed from out the west, washed from their eye
The last films of the dream. And they sat up,
Silent for one long cool delicious breath,
Gazing upon each other lost and found,
With a dumb ecstasy, new, undefined.
Followed a long embrace, and then the oars
Broke up their prison-bands.

And through the woods
They slowly went, beneath a firmament
Of boughs, and clouded leaves, filmy and pale
In the sunshine, but shadowy on the grass.
And roving odours met them on their way,
Sun-quickened odours, which the fog had slain.
And their green sky had many a blossom-moon,
And constellations thick with starry flowers.
And deep and still were all the woods, except
For the Memnonian, glory-stricken birds;
And golden beetles ‘mid the shadowy roots,
Green goblins of the grass, and mining mice;
And on the leaves the fairy butterflies,
Or doubting in the air, scarlet and blue.
The divine depth of summer clasped the Earth.

But ‘twixt their hearts and summer’s perfectness
Came a dividing thought that seemed to say:
“Ye wear strange looks.” Did summer speak, or they?
They said within: “We know that ye are fair,
Bright flowers; but ye shine far away, as in
A land of other thoughts. Alas! alas!

“Where shall we find the snowdrop-bell half-blown?
What shall we do? we feel the throbbing spring
Bursting in new and unexpressive thoughts;
Our hearts are swelling like a tied-up bud,
And summer crushes them with too much light.
Action is bubbling up within our souls;
The woods oppress us more than stony streets;
That was the life indeed; this is the dream;
Summer is too complete for growing hearts;
They need a broken season, and a land
With shadows pointing ever far away;
Where incompleteness rouses longing thoughts
With spires abrupt, and broken spheres, and circles
Cut that they may be widened evermore:
Through shattered cloudy roof, looks in the sky,
A discord from a loftier harmony;
And tempests waken peace within our thoughts,
Driving them inward to the inmost rest.
Come, my beloved, we will haste and go
To those pale faces of our fellow men;
Our loving hearts, burning with summer-fire,
Will cast a glow upon their pallidness;
Our hands will help them, far as servants may;
Hands are apostles still to saviour-hearts.
So we may share their blessedness with them;
So may the snowdrop time be likewise ours;
And Earth smile tearfully the spirit smile
Wherewith she smiled upon our holiday,
As a sweet child may laugh with weeping eyes.
If ever we return, these glorious flowers
May all be snowdrops of a higher spring.”
Their eyes one moment met, and then they knew
That they did mean the same thing in their hearts.
So with no farther words they turned and went
Back to the boat, and so across the mere.

I wake from out my dream, and know my room,
My darling books, the cherub forms above;
I know ’tis springtime in the world without;
I feel it springtime in my world within;
I know that bending o’er an early flower,
Crocus, or primrose, or anemone,
The heart that striveth for a higher life,
And hath not yet been conquered, findeth there
A beauty deep, unshared by any rose,
A human loveliness about the flower;
That a heath-bell upon a lonely waste
Hath more than scarlet splendour on thick leaves;
That a blue opening ‘midst rain-bosomed clouds
Is more than Paphian sun-set harmonies;
That higher beauty dwells on earth, because
Man seeks a higher home than Paradise;
And, having lost, is roused thereby to fill
A deeper need than could be filled by all
The lost ten times restored; and so he loves
The snowdrop more than the magnolia;
Spring-hope is more to him than summer-joy;
Dark towns than Eden-groves with rivers four.

George MacDonald


Came of old to houses lonely
Men with wings, but did not show them:
Angels come to our house, only,
For their wings, they do not know them!

George MacDonald

A Cry

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.

George MacDonald

Translations. – Christmas. (Luther’s Song-Book.)

Jesus we now must laud and sing,
The maiden Mary’s son and king,
Far as the blessed sun doth shine,
And reaches to earth’s utmost line.[1]

[Footnote 1: Luther’s own construction.]

The blessed maker of all we view
On him a servant’s body drew,
The flesh to save at flesh’s cost,
Else his creation had been lost.

From heaven high the Godlike grace
In the chaste mother found a place;
A secret pledge a maiden bore–
A thing to earth unknown before.

The tender heart, house modest, low,
Straightway a temple of God did grow:
Whom never man hath touched or known
By God’s word she with child is grown.

The noble mother hath brought forth
Whom Gabriel promised to the earth;
Him John did greet in joyous way
While in his mother’s womb he lay.

Right poorly lies in hay the boy;
Th’ hard manger him did not annoy;
A little milk made him content
Away who no bird hungry sent.

Therefore the heavenly choir is loud;
The angels sing their praise to God,
And tell poor men their flocks who keep
He’s come who made and keeps their sheep.

Praise, honour, thanks, to thee be said,
Christ Jesus, born of holy maid!
With God the Father and Holy Ghost,
Now and for ever, ending not. Amen!

George MacDonald


Where did you come from, baby dear?
Out of the everywhere into here.

Where did you get those eyes so blue?
Out of the sky as I came through.

What makes the light in them sparkle and spin?
Some of the starry twinkles left in.

Where did you get that little tear?
I found it waiting when I got here.

What makes your forehead so smooth and high?
A soft hand stroked it as I went by.

What makes your cheek like a warm white rose?
I saw something better than any one knows.

Whence that three-cornered smile of bliss?
Three angels gave me at once a kiss.

Where did you get this pearly ear?
God spoke, and it came out to hear.

Where did you get those arms and hands?
Love made itself into bonds and bands.

Feet, whence did you come, you darling things?
From the same box as the cherubs’ wings.

How did they all just come to be you?
God thought about me, and so I grew.

But how did you come to us, you dear?
God thought about you, and so I am here.

George MacDonald

That was indeed the greatest compilation of his poems!

No wonder he is often valued as the founding father of modern fantasy writing. He created such gems out of his poems.

Well, I wouldn’t ever forget—A Dream Song, my all-time favorite poem. 

What about you? What’s your most favorite poem of George MacDonald?

Do you still want to add another of his poem to this list? Let me know in the comment section below! 😉


One thought on “Top 20 Greatest Poems of George MacDonald

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