October

by George MacDonald

1.

REMEMBER, Lord, thou hast not made me good.
Or if thou didst, it was so long ago
I have forgotten–and never understood,
I humbly think. At best it was a crude,
A rough-hewn goodness, that did need this woe,
This sin, these harms of all kinds fierce and rude,
To shape it out, making it live and grow.

2.

But thou art making me, I thank thee, sire.
What thou hast done and doest thou know’st well,
And I will help thee:–gently in thy fire
I will lie burning; on thy potter’s-wheel
I will whirl patient, though my brain should reel;
Thy grace shall be enough the grief to quell,
And growing strength perfect through weakness dire.

3.

I have not knowledge, wisdom, insight, thought,
Nor understanding, fit to justify
Thee in thy work, O Perfect. Thou hast brought
Me up to this–and, lo! what thou hast wrought,
I cannot call it good. But I can cry–
“O enemy, the maker hath not done;
One day thou shalt behold, and from the sight wilt run.”

4.

The faith I will, aside is easily bent;
But of thy love, my God, one glimpse alone
Can make me absolutely confident–
With faith, hope, joy, in love responsive blent.
My soul then, in the vision mighty grown,
Its father and its fate securely known,
Falls on thy bosom with exultant moan.

5.

Thou workest perfectly. And if it seem
Some things are not so well, ’tis but because
They are too loving-deep, too lofty-wise,
For me, poor child, to understand their laws:
My highest wisdom half is but a dream;
My love runs helpless like a falling stream:
Thy good embraces ill, and lo! its illness dies!

6.

From sleep I wake, and wake to think of thee.
But wherefore not with sudden glorious glee?
Why burst not gracious on me heaven and earth
In all the splendour of a new-day-birth?
Why hangs a cloud betwixt my lord and me?
The moment that my eyes the morning greet,
My soul should panting rush to clasp thy father-feet.

7.

Is it because it is not thou I see,
But only my poor, blotted fancy of thee?
Oh! never till thyself reveal thy face,
Shall I be flooded with life’s vital grace.
Oh make my mirror-heart thy shining-place,
And then my soul, awaking with the morn,
Shall be a waking joy, eternally new-born.

8.

Lord, in my silver is much metal base,
Else should my being by this time have shown
Thee thy own self therein. Therefore do I
Wake in the furnace. I know thou sittest by,
Refining–look, keep looking in to try
Thy silver; master, look and see thy face,
Else here I lie for ever, blank as any stone.

9.

But when in the dim silver thou dost look,
I do behold thy face, though blurred and faint.
Oh joy! no flaw in me thy grace will brook,
But still refine: slow shall the silver pass
From bright to brighter, till, sans spot or taint,
Love, well content, shall see no speck of brass,
And I his perfect face shall hold as in a glass.

10.

With every morn my life afresh must break
The crust of self, gathered about me fresh;
That thy wind-spirit may rush in and shake
The darkness out of me, and rend the mesh
The spider-devils spin out of the flesh–
Eager to net the soul before it wake,
That it may slumberous lie, and listen to the snake.

11.

‘Tis that I am not good–that is enough;
I pry no farther–that is not the way.
Here, O my potter, is thy making stuff!
Set thy wheel going; let it whir and play.
The chips in me, the stones, the straws, the sand,
Cast them out with fine separating hand,
And make a vessel of thy yielding clay.

12.

What if it take a thousand years to make me,
So me he leave not, angry, on the floor!–
Nay, thou art never angry!–that would break me!
Would I tried never thy dear patience sore,
But were as good as thou couldst well expect me,
Whilst thou dost make, I mar, and thou correct me!
Then were I now content, waiting for something more.

13.

Only, my God, see thou that I content thee–
Oh, take thy own content upon me, God!
Ah, never, never, sure, wilt thou repent thee,
That thou hast called thy Adam from the clod!
Yet must I mourn that thou shouldst ever find me
One moment sluggish, needing more of the rod
Than thou didst think when thy desire designed me.

14.

My God, it troubles me I am not better.
More help, I pray, still more. Thy perfect debtor
I shall be when thy perfect child I am grown.
My Father, help me–am I not thine own?
Lo, other lords have had dominion o’er me,
But now thy will alone I set before me:
Thy own heart’s life–Lord, thou wilt not abhor me!

15.

In youth, when once again I had set out
To find thee, Lord, my life, my liberty,
A window now and then, clouds all about,
Would open into heaven: my heart forlorn
First all would tremble with a solemn glee,
Then, whelmed in peace, rest like a man outworn,
That sees the dawn slow part the closed lids of the morn.

16.

Now I grow old, and the soft-gathered years
Have calmed, yea dulled the heart’s swift fluttering beat;
But a quiet hope that keeps its household seat
Is better than recurrent glories fleet.
To know thee, Lord, is worth a many tears;
And when this mildew, age, has dried away,
My heart will beat again as young and strong and gay.

17.

Stronger and gayer tenfold!–but, O friends,
Not for itself, nor any hoarded bliss.
I see but vaguely whither my being tends,
All vaguely spy a glory shadow-blent,
Vaguely desire the “individual kiss;”
But when I think of God, a large content
Fills the dull air of my gray cloudy tent.

18.

Father of me, thou art my bliss secure.
Make of me, maker, whatsoe’er thou wilt.
Let fancy’s wings hang moulting, hope grow poor,
And doubt steam up from where a joy was spilt–
I lose no time to reason it plain and clear,
But fly to thee, my life’s perfection dear:–
Not what I think, but what thou art, makes sure.

19.

This utterance of spirit through still thought,
This forming of heart-stuff in moulds of brain,
Is helpful to the soul by which ’tis wrought,
The shape reacting on the heart again;
But when I am quite old, and words are slow,
Like dying things that keep their holes for woe,
And memory’s withering tendrils clasp with effort vain?

20.

Thou, then as now, no less wilt be my life,
And I shall know it better than before,
Praying and trusting, hoping, claiming more.
From effort vain, sick foil, and bootless strife,
I shall, with childness fresh, look up to thee;
Thou, seeing thy child with age encumbered sore,
Wilt round him bend thine arm more carefully.

21.

And when grim Death doth take me by the throat,
Thou wilt have pity on thy handiwork;
Thou wilt not let him on my suffering gloat,
But draw my soul out–gladder than man or boy,
When thy saved creatures from the narrow ark
Rushed out, and leaped and laughed and cried for joy,
And the great rainbow strode across the dark.

22.

Against my fears, my doubts, my ignorance,
I trust in thee, O father of my Lord!
The world went on in this same broken dance,
When, worn and mocked, he trusted and adored:
I too will trust, and gather my poor best
To face the truth-faced false. So in his nest
I shall awake at length, a little scarred and scored.

23.

Things cannot look all right so long as I
Am not all right who see–therefore not right
Can see. The lamp within sends out the light
Which shows the things; and if its rays go wry,
Or are not white, they must part show a lie.
The man, half-cured, did men not trees conclude,
Because he moving saw what else had seemed a wood.

24.

Give me, take from me, as thou wilt. I learn–
Slowly and stubbornly I learn to yield
With a strange hopefulness. As from the field
Of hard-fought battle won, the victor chief
Turns thankfully, although his heart do yearn,
So from my old things to thy new I turn,
With sad, thee-trusting heart, and not in grief.

25.

If with my father I did wander free,
Floating o’er hill and field where’er we would,
And, lighting on the sward before the door,
Strange faces through the window-panes should see,
And strange feet standing where the loved had stood,
The dear old place theirs all, as ours before–
Should I be sorrowful, father, having thee?

26.

So, Lord, if thou tak’st from me all the rest,
Thyself with each resumption drawing nigher,
It shall but hurt me as the thorn of the briar,
When I reach to the pale flower in its breast.
To have thee, Lord, is to have all thy best,
Holding it by its very life divine–
To let my friend’s hand go, and take his heart in mine.

27.

Take from me leisure, all familiar places;
Take all the lovely things of earth and air
Take from me books; take all my precious faces;
Take words melodious, and their songful linking;
Take scents, and sounds, and all thy outsides fair;
Draw nearer, taking, and, to my sober thinking,
Thou bring’st them nearer all, and ready to my prayer.

28.

No place on earth henceforth I shall count strange,
For every place belongeth to my Christ.
I will go calm where’er thou bid’st me range;
Whoe’er my neighbour, thou art still my nighest.
Oh my heart’s life, my owner, will of my being!
Into my soul thou every moment diest,
In thee my life thus evermore decreeing.

29.

What though things change and pass, nor come again!
Thou, the life-heart of all things, changest never.
The sun shines on; the fair clouds turn to rain,
And glad the earth with many a spring and river.
The hearts that answer change with chill and shiver,
That mourn the past, sad-sick, with hopeless pain,
They know not thee, our changeless heart and brain.

30.

My halting words will some day turn to song–
Some far-off day, in holy other times!
The melody now prisoned in my rimes
Will one day break aloft, and from the throng
Of wrestling thoughts and words spring up the air;
As from the flower its colour’s sweet despair
Issues in odour, and the sky’s low levels climbs.

31.

My surgent thought shoots lark-like up to thee.
Thou like the heaven art all about the lark.
Whatever I surmise or know in me,
Idea, or but symbol on the dark,
Is living, working, thought-creating power
In thee, the timeless father of the hour.
I am thy book, thy song–thy child would be.

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4 Responses to October

  1. Tom says:

    Beautiful. And holy cow, what a picture!

    Like

  2. Tom says:

    Reblogged this on An Open Orthodoxy and commented:
    MacDonald’s poem moves me to tears and transformation. This kind of absolutely honesty confession goes straight to every honest heart which cannot but join in confessing. Every truth becomes every honest heart’s truth. Great find Fr Aidan!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. danaames says:

    Yes, so much beauty. I don’t read poetry patiently, but this certainly held my attention. Thank you, Fr A.

    Dana

    Liked by 1 person

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