THOU art of this world, Christ. Thou know’st it all;
Thou know’st our evens, our morns, our red and gray;
How moons, and hearts, and seasons rise and fall;
How we grow weary plodding on the way;
Of future joy how present pain bereaves,
Rounding us with a dark of mere decay,
Tossed with a drift Of summer-fallen leaves.
Thou knowest all our weeping, fainting, striving;
Thou know’st how very hard it is to be;
How hard to rouse faint will not yet reviving;
To do the pure thing, trusting all to thee;
To hold thou art there, for all no face we see;
How hard to think, through cold and dark and dearth,
That thou art nearer now than when eye-seen on earth.
Have pity on us for the look of things,
When blank denial stares us in the face.
Although the serpent mask have lied before,
It fascinates the bird that darkling sings,
And numbs the little prayer-bird’s beating wings.
For how believe thee somewhere in blank space,
If through the darkness come no knocking to our door?
If we might sit until the darkness go,
Possess our souls in patience perhaps we might;
But there is always something to be done,
And no heart left to do it. To and fro
The dull thought surges, as the driven waves fight
In gulfy channels. Oh! victorious one,
Give strength to rise, go out, and meet thee in the night.
“Wake, thou that sleepest; rise up from the dead,
And Christ will give thee light.” I do not know
What sleep is, what is death, or what is light;
But I am waked enough to feel a woe,
To rise and leave death. Stumbling through the night,
To my dim lattice, O calling Christ! I go,
And out into the dark look for thy star-crowned head.
There are who come to me, and write, and send,
Whom I would love, giving good things to all,
But friend—that name I cannot on them spend;
‘Tis from the centre of self-love they call
For cherishing—for which they first must know
How to be still, and take the seat that’s low:
When, Lord, shall I be fit—when wilt thou call me friend?
Wilt thou not one day, Lord? In all my wrong,
Self-love and weakness, laziness and fear,
This one thing I can say: I am content
To be and have what in thy heart I am meant
To be and have. In my best times I long
After thy will, and think it glorious-dear;
Even in my worst, perforce my will to thine is bent.
My God, I look to thee for tenderness
Such as I could not seek from any man,
Or in a human heart fancy or plan—
A something deepest prayer will not express:
Lord, with thy breath blow on my being’s fires,
Until, even to the soul with self-love wan,
I yield the primal love, that no return desires.
Only no word of mine must ever foster
The self that in a brother’s bosom gnaws;
I may not fondle failing, nor the boaster
Encourage with the breath of my applause.
Weakness needs pity, sometimes love’s rebuke;
Strength only sympathy deserves and draws—
And grows by every faithful loving look.
‘Tis but as men draw nigh to thee, my Lord,
They can draw nigh each other and not hurt.
Who with the gospel of thy peace are girt,
The belt from which doth hang the Spirit’s sword,
Shall breathe on dead bones, and the bones shall live,
Sweet poison to the evil self shall give,
And, clean themselves, lift men clean from the mire abhorred.
My Lord, I have no clothes to come to thee;
My shoes are pierced and broken with the road;
I am torn and weathered, wounded with the goad,
And soiled with tugging at my weary load:
The more I need thee! A very prodigal
I stagger into thy presence, Lord of me:
One look, my Christ, and at thy feet I fall!
Why should I still hang back, like one in a dream,
Who vainly strives to clothe himself aright,
That in great presence he may seemly seem?
Why call up feeling?—dress me in the faint,
Worn, faded, cast-off nimbus of some saint?
Why of old mood bring back a ghostly gleam—
While there He waits, love’s heart and loss’s blight!
Son of the Father, elder brother mine,
See thy poor brother’s plight; See how he stands
Defiled and feeble, hanging down his hands!
Make me clean, brother, with thy burning shine;
From thy rich treasures, householder divine,
Bring forth fair garments, old and new, I pray,
And like thy brother dress me, in the old home-bred way.
My prayer-bird was cold—would not away,
Although I set it on the edge of the nest.
Then I bethought me of the story old—
Love-fact or loving fable, thou know’st best—
How, when the children had made sparrows of clay,
Thou mad’st them birds, with wings to flutter and fold:
Take, Lord, my prayer in thy hand, and make it pray.
My poor clay-sparrow seems turned to a stone,
And from my heart will neither fly nor run.
I cannot feel as thou and I both would,
But, Father, I am willing—make me good.
What art thou father for, but to help thy son?
Look deep, yet deeper, in my heart, and there,
Beyond where I can feel, read thou the prayer.
Oh what it were to be right sure of thee!
Sure that thou art, and the same as thy son, Jesus!
Oh, faith is deeper, wider than the sea,
Yea, than the blue of heaven that ever flees us!
Yet simple as the cry of sore-hurt child,
Or as his shout, with sudden gladness wild,
When home from school he runs, till morn set free.
If I were sure thou, Father, verily art,
True father of the Nazarene as true,
Sure as I am of my wife’s shielding heart,
Sure as of sunrise in the watching blue,
Sure as I am that I do eat and drink,
And have a heart to love and laugh and think,
Meseems in flame the joy might from my body start.
But I must know thee in a deeper way
Than any of these ways, or know thee not;
My heart at peace far loftier proof must lay
Than if the wind thou me the wave didst roll,
Than if I lay before thee a sunny spot,
Or knew thee as the body knows its soul,
Or even as the part doth know its perfect whole.
There is no word to tell how I must know thee;
No wind clasped ever a low meadow-flower
So close that as to nearness it could show thee;
No rainbow so makes one the sun and shower.
A something with thee, I am a nothing fro’ thee.
Because I am not save as I am in thee,
My soul is ever setting out to win thee.
I know not how—for that I first must know thee.
I know I know thee not as I would know thee,
For my heart burns like theirs that did not know him,
Till he broke bread, and therein they must know him.
I know thee, knowing that I do not know thee,
Nor ever shall till one with me I know thee—
Even as thy son, the eternal man, doth know thee.
Creation under me, in, and above,
Slopes upward from the base, a pyramid,
On whose point I shall stand at last, and love.
From the first rush of vapour at thy will,
To the last poet-word that darkness chid,
Thou hast been sending up creation’s hill,
To lift thy souls aloft in faithful Godhead free.
I think my thought, and fancy I think thee.—
Lord, wake me up; rend swift my coffin-planks;
I pray thee, let me live—alive and free.
My soul will break forth in melodious thanks,
Aware at last what thou wouldst have it be,
When thy life shall be light in me, and when
My life to thine is answer and amen.
How oft I say the same things in these lines!
Even as a man, buried in during dark,
Turns ever where the edge of twilight shines,
Prays ever towards the vague eternal mark;
Or as the sleeper, having dreamed he drinks,
Back straightway into thirstful dreaming sinks,
So turns my will to thee, for thee still longs, still pines.
The mortal man, all careful, wise, and troubled,
The eternal child in the nursery doth keep.
To-morrow on to-day the man heaps doubled;
The child laughs, hopeful, even in his sleep.
The man rebukes the child for foolish trust;
The child replies, “Thy care is for poor dust;
Be still, and let me wake that thou mayst sleep.”
Till I am one, with oneness manifold,
I must breed contradiction, strife, and doubt;
Things tread Thy court—look real—take proving hold—
My Christ is not yet grown to cast them out;
Alas! to me, false-judging ‘twixt the twain,
The Unseen oft fancy seems, while, all about,
The Seen doth lord it with a mighty train.
But when the Will hath learned obedience royal,
He straight will set the child upon the throne;
To whom the seen things all, grown instant loyal,
Will gather to his feet, in homage prone—
The child their master they have ever known;
Then shall the visible fabric plainly lean
On a Reality that never can be seen.
Thy ways are wonderful, maker of men!
Thou gavest me a child, and I have fed
And clothed and loved her, many a growing year;
Lo! now a friend of months draws gently near,
And claims her future—all beyond his ken—
There he hath never loved her nor hath led:
She weeps and moans, but turns, and leaves her home so dear.
She leaves, but not forsakes. Oft in the night,
Oft at mid-day when all is still around,
Sudden will rise, in dim pathetic light,
Some childish memory of household bliss,
Or sorrow by love’s service robed and crowned;
Rich in his love, she yet will sometimes miss
The mother’s folding arms, the mother’s sealing kiss.
Then first, I think, our eldest-born, although
Loving, devoted, tender, watchful, dear,
The innermost of home-bred love shall know!
Yea, when at last the janitor draws near,
A still, pale joy will through the darkness go,
At thought of lying in those arms again,
Which once were heaven enough for any pain.
By love doth love grow mighty in its love:
Once thou shalt love us, child, as we love thee.
Father of loves, is it not thy decree
That, by our long, far-wandering remove
From thee, our life, our home, our being blest,
We learn at last to love thee true and best,
And rush with all our loves back to thy infinite rest?
© George MacDonald