THE song birds that come to me night and morn,
Fly oft away and vanish if I sleep,
Nor to my fowling-net will one return:
Is the thing ever ours we cannot keep?—
But their souls go not out into the deep.
What matter if with changed song they come back?
Old strength nor yet fresh beauty shall they lack.
Gloriously wasteful, O my Lord, art thou!
Sunset faints after sunset into the night,
Splendorously dying from thy window-sill—
For ever. Sad our poverty doth bow
Before the riches of thy making might:
Sweep from thy space thy systems at thy will—
In thee the sun sets every sunset still.
And in the perfect time, O perfect God,
When we are in our home, our natal home,
When joy shall carry every sacred load,
And from its life and peace no heart shall roam,
What if thou make us able to make like thee—
To light with moons, to clothe with greenery,
To hang gold sunsets o’er a rose and purple sea!
Then to his neighbour one may call out, “Come!
Brother, come hither—I would show you a thing;”
And lo, a vision of his imagining,
Informed of thought which else had rested dumb,
Before the neighbour’s truth-delighted eyes,
In the great æther of existence rise,
And two hearts each to each the closer cling!
We make, but thou art the creating core.
Whatever thing I dream, invent, or feel,
Thou art the heart of it, the atmosphere.
Thou art inside all love man ever bore;
Yea, the love itself, whatever thing be dear.
Man calls his dog, he follows at his heel,
Because thou first art love, self-caused, essential, mere.
This day be with me, Lord, when I go forth,
Be nearer to me than I am able to ask.
In merriment, in converse, or in task,
Walking the street, listening to men of worth,
Or greeting such as only talk and bask,
Be thy thought still my waiting soul around,
And if He come, I shall be watching found.
What if, writing, I always seem to leave
Some better thing, or better way, behind,
Why should I therefore fret at all, or grieve!
The worse I drop, that I the better find;
The best is only in thy perfect mind.
Fallen threads I will not search for—I will weave.
Who makes the mill-wheel backward strike to grind!
Be with me, Lord. Keep me beyond all prayers:
For more than all my prayers my need of thee,
And thou beyond all need, all unknown cares;
What the heart’s dear imagination dares,
Thou dost transcend in measureless majesty
All prayers in one—my God, be unto me
Thy own eternal self, absolutely.
Where should the unknown treasures of the truth
Lie, but there whence the truth comes out the most—
In the Son of man, folded in love and ruth?
Fair shore we see, fair ocean; but behind
Lie infinite reaches bathing many a coast—
The human thought of the eternal mind,
Pulsed by a living tide, blown by a living wind.
Thou, healthful Father, art the Ancient of Days,
And Jesus is the eternal youth of thee.
Our old age is the scorching of the bush
By life’s indwelling, incorruptible blaze.
O Life, burn at this feeble shell of me,
Till I the sore singed garment off shall push,
Flap out my Psyche wings, and to thee rush.
But shall I then rush to thee like a dart?
Or lie long hours æonian yet betwixt
This hunger in me, and the Father’s heart?—
It shall be good, how ever, and not ill;
Of things and thoughts even now thou art my next;
Sole neighbour, and no space between, thou art—
And yet art drawing nearer, nearer still.
Therefore, my brothers, therefore, sisters dear,
However I, troubled or selfish, fail
In tenderness, or grace, or service clear,
I every moment draw to you more near;
God in us from our hearts veil after veil
Keeps lifting, till we see with his own sight,
And all together run in unity’s delight.
I love thee, Lord, for very greed of love—
Not of the precious streams that towards me move,
But of the indwelling, outgoing, fountain store.
Than mine, oh, many an ignorant heart loves more!
Therefore the more, with Mary at thy feet,
I must sit worshipping—that, in my core,
Thy words may fan to a flame the low primeval heat.
Oh my beloved, gone to heaven from me!
I would be rich in love to heap you with love;
I long to love you, sweet ones, perfectly—
Like God, who sees no spanning vault above,
No earth below, and feels no circling air—
Infinitely, no boundary anywhere.
I am a beast until I love as God doth love.
Ah, say not, ’tis but perfect self I want
But if it were, that self is fit to live
Whose perfectness is still itself to scant,
Which never longs to have, but still to give.
A self I must have, or not be at all:
Love, give me a self self-giving—or let me fall
To endless darkness back, and free me from life’s thrall.
“Back,” said I! Whither back? How to the dark?
From no dark came I, but the depths of light;
From the sun-heart I came, of love a spark:
What should I do but love with all my might?
To die of love severe and pure and stark,
Were scarcely loss; to lord a loveless height—
That were a living death, damnation’s positive night.
But love is life. To die of love is then
The only pass to higher life than this.
All love is death to loving, living men;
All deaths are leaps across clefts to the abyss.
Our life is the broken current, Lord, of thine,
Flashing from morn to morn with conscious shine—
Then first by willing death self-made, then life divine.
I love you, my sweet children, who are gone
Into another mansion; but I know
I love you not as I shall love you yet.
I love you, sweet dead children; there are none
In the land to which ye vanished to go,
Whose hearts more truly on your hearts are set—
Yet should I die of grief to love you only so.
“I am but as a beast before thee, Lord.”—
Great poet-king, I thank thee for the word.—
Leave not thy son half-made in beastly guise—
Less than a man, with more than human cries—
An unshaped thing in which thyself cries out!
Finish me, Father; now I am but a doubt;
Oh! make thy moaning thing for joy to leap and shout.
Let my soul talk to thee in ordered words,
O king of kings, O lord of only lords!—
When I am thinking thee within my heart,
From the broken reflex be not far apart.
The troubled water, dim with upstirred soil,
Makes not the image which it yet can spoil:—
Come nearer, Lord, and smooth the wrinkled coil.
O Lord, when I do think of my departed,
I think of thee who art the death of parting;
Of him who crying Father breathed his last,
Then radiant from the sepulchre upstarted.—
Even then, I think, thy hands and feet kept smarting:
With us the bitterness of death is past,
But by the feet he still doth hold us fast.
Therefore our hands thy feet do hold as fast.
We pray not to be spared the sorest pang,
But only—be thou with us to the last.
Let not our heart be troubled at the clang
Of hammer and nails, nor dread the spear’s keen fang,
Nor the ghast sickening that comes of pain,
Nor yet the last clutch of the banished brain.
Lord, pity us: we have no making power;
Then give us making will, adopting thine.
Make, make, and make us; temper, and refine.
Be in us patience—neither to start nor cower.
Christ, if thou be not with us—not by sign,
But presence, actual as the wounds that bleed—
We shall not bear it, but shall die indeed.
O Christ, have pity on all men when they come
Unto the border haunted of dismay;
When that they know not draweth very near—
The other thing, the opposite of day,
Formless and ghastly, sick, and gaping-dumb,
Before which even love doth lose his cheer:
O radiant Christ, remember then thy fear.
Be by me, Lord, this day. Thou know’st I mean—
Lord, make me mind thee. I herewith forestall
My own forgetfulness, when I stoop to glean
The corn of earth—which yet thy hand lets fall.
Be for me then against myself. Oh lean
Over me then when I invert my cup;
Take me, if by the hair, and lift me up.
Lord of essential life, help me to die.
To will to die is one with highest life,
The mightiest act that to Will’s hand doth lie—
Born of God’s essence, and of man’s hard strife:
God, give me strength my evil self to kill,
And die into the heaven of thy pure will.—
Then shall this body’s death be very tolerable.
As to our mothers came help in our birth—
Not lost in lifing us, but saved and blest—
Self bearing self, although right sorely prest,
Shall nothing lose, but die and be at rest
In life eternal, beyond all care and dearth.
God-born then truly, a man does no more ill,
Perfectly loves, and has whate’er he will.
As our dear animals do suffer less
Because their pain spreads neither right nor left,
Lost in oblivion and foresightlessness—
Our suffering sore by faith shall be bereft
Of all dismay, and every weak excess.
His presence shall be better in our pain,
Than even self-absence to the weaker brain.
“Father, let this cup pass.” He prayed—was heard.
What cup was it that passed away from him?
Sure not the death-cup, now filled to the brim!
There was no quailing in the awful word;
He still was king of kings, of lords the lord:—
He feared lest, in the suffering waste and grim,
His faith might grow too faint and sickly dim.
Thy mind, my master, I will dare explore;
What we are told, that we are meant to know.
Into thy soul I search yet more and more,
Led by the lamp of my desire and woe.
If thee, my Lord, I may not understand,
I am a wanderer in a houseless land,
A weeping thirst by hot winds ever fanned.
Therefore I look again—and think I see
That, when at last he did cry out, “My God,
Why hast thou me forsaken?” straight man’s rod
Was turned aside; for, that same moment, he
Cried “Father!” and gave up will and breath and spirit
Into his hands whose all he did inherit—
Delivered, glorified eternally.
© George MacDonald