George MacDonald

(10 December 1824 – 18 September 1905 / Huntly, Aberdeenshire, Scotland)

My Room - Poem by George MacDonald

To G.E.M.


'Tis a little room, my friend-
Baby walks from end to end;
All the things look sadly real
This hot noontide unideal;
Vaporous heat from cope to basement
All you see outside the casement,
Save one house all mud-becrusted,
And a street all drought-bedusted!
There behold its happiest vision,
Trickling water-cart's derision!
Shut we out the staring space,
Draw the curtains in its face!

Close the eyelids of the room,
Fill it with a scarlet gloom:
Lo, the walls with warm flush dyed!
Lo, the ceiling glorified,
As when, lost in tenderest pinks,
White rose on the red rose thinks!
But beneath, a hue right rosy,
Red as a geranium-posy,
Stains the air with power estranging,
Known with unknown clouding, changing.
See in ruddy atmosphere
Commonplaceness disappear!
Look around on either hand-
Are we not in fairyland?

On that couch, inwrapt in mist
Of vaporized amethyst,
Lie, as in a rose's heart:
Secret things I would impart;
Any time you would believe them-
Easier, though, you will receive them
Bathed in glowing mystery
Of the red light shadowy;
For this ruby-hearted hue,
Sanguine core of all the true,
Which for love the heart would plunder
Is the very hue of wonder;
This dissolving dreamy red
Is the self-same radiance shed
From the heart of poet young,
Glowing poppy sunlight-stung:
If in light you make a schism
'Tis the deepest in the prism.

This poor-seeming room, in fact
Is of marvels all compact,
So disguised by common daylight
By its disenchanting gray light,
Only eyes that see by shining,
Inside pierce to its live lining.
Loftiest observatory
Ne'er unveiled such hidden glory;
Never sage's furnace-kitchen
Magic wonders was so rich in;
Never book of wizard old
Clasped such in its iron hold.

See that case against the wall,
Darkly-dull-purpureal!-
A piano to the prosy,
But to us in twilight rosy-
What?-A cave where Nereids lie,
Naiads, Dryads, Oreads sigh,
Dreaming of the time when they
Danced in forest and in bay.
In that chest before your eyes
Nature self-enchanted lies;-
Lofty days of summer splendour;
Low dim eves of opal tender;
Airy hunts of cloud and wind;
Brooding storm-below, behind;
Awful hills and midnight woods;
Sunny rains in solitudes;
Babbling streams in forests hoar;
Seven-hued icebergs; oceans frore.-
Yes; did I not say
enchanted
,
That is, hid away till wanted?
Do you hear a low-voiced singing?
'Tis the sorceress's, flinging
Spells around her baby's riot,
Binding her in moveless quiet:-
She at will can disenchant them,
And to prayer believing grant them.

You believe me: soon will night
Free her hands for fair delight;
Then invoke her-she will come.
Fold your arms, be blind and dumb.
She will bring a book of spells
Writ like crabbed oracles;
Like Sabrina's will her hands
Thaw the power of charmed bands.
First will ransomed music rush
Round thee in a glorious gush;
Next, upon its waves will sally,
Like a stream-god down a valley,
Nature's self, the formless former,
Nature's self, the peaceful stormer;
She will enter, captive take thee,
And both one and many make thee,
One by softest power to still thee,
Many by the thoughts that fill thee.-
Let me guess three guesses where
She her prisoner will bear!

On a mountain-top you stand
Gazing o'er a sunny land;
Shining streams, like silver veins,
Rise in dells and meet in plains;
Up yon brook a hollow lies
Dumb as love that fears surprise;
Moorland tracts of broken ground
O'er it rise and close it round:
He who climbs from bosky dale
Hears the foggy breezes wail.
Yes, thou know'st the nest of love,
Know'st the waste around, above!
In thy soul or in thy past,
Straight it melts into the vast,
Quickly vanishes away
In a gloom of darkening gray.

Sinks the sadness into rest,
Ripple like on water's breast:
Mother's bosom rests the daughter-
Grief the ripple, love the water;
And thy brain like wind-harp lies
Breathed upon from distant skies,
Till, soft-gathering, visions new
Grow like vapours in the blue:
White forms, flushing hyacinthine,
Move in motions labyrinthine;
With an airy wishful gait
On the counter-motion wait;
Sweet restraint and action free
Show the law of liberty;
Master of the revel still
The obedient, perfect will;
Hating smallest thing awry,
Breathing, breeding harmony;
While the god-like graceful feet,
For such mazy marvelling meet,
Press from air a shining sound,
Rippling after, lingering round:
Hair afloat and arms aloft
Fill the chord of movement soft.

Gone the measure polyhedral!
Towers aloft a fair cathedral!
Every arch-like praying arms
Upward flung in love's alarms,
Knit by clasped hands o'erhead-
Heaves to heaven a weight of dread;
In thee, like an angel-crowd,
Grows the music, praying loud,
Swells thy spirit with devotion
As a strong wind swells the ocean,
Sweeps the visioned pile away,
Leaves thy heart alone to pray.

As the prayer grows dim and dies
Like a sunset from the skies,
Glides another change of mood
O'er thy inner solitude:
Girt with Music's magic zone,
Lo, thyself magician grown!
Open-eyed thou walk'st through earth
Brooding on the aeonian birth
Of a thousand wonder-things
In divine dusk of their springs:
Half thou seest whence they flow,
Half thou seest whither go-
Nature's consciousness, whereby
On herself she turns her eye,
Hoping for all men and thee
Perfected, pure harmony.

But when, sinking slow, the sun
Leaves the glowing curtain dun,
I, of prophet-insight reft,
Shall be dull and dreamless left;
I must hasten proof on proof,
Weaving in the warp my woof!

What are those upon the wall,
Ranged in rows symmetrical?
Through the wall of things external
Posterns they to the supernal;
Through Earth's battlemented height
Loopholes to the Infinite;
Through locked gates of place and time,
Wickets to the eternal prime
Lying round the noisy day
Full of silences alway.

That, my friend? Now, it is curious
You should hit upon the spurious!
'Tis a door to nowhere, that;
Never soul went in thereat;
Lies behind, a limy wall
Hung with cobwebs, that is all.

Do not open that one yet,
Wait until the sun is set.
If you careless lift its latch
Glimpse of nothing will you catch;
Mere negation, blank of hue,
Out of it will stare at you;
Wait, I say, the coming night,
Fittest time for second sight,
Then the wide eyes of the mind
See far down the Spirit's wind.
You may have to strain and pull,
Force and lift with cunning tool,
Ere the rugged, ill-joined door
Yield the sight it stands before:
When at last, with grating sweep,
Wide it swings-behold, the deep!

Thou art standing on the verge
Where material things emerge;
Hoary silence, lightning fleet,
Shooteth hellward at thy feet!
Fear not thou whose life is truth,
Gazing will renew thy youth;
But where sin of soul or flesh
Held a man in spider-mesh,
It would drag him through that door,
Give him up to loreless lore,
Ages to be blown and hurled
Up and down a deedless world.

Ah, your eyes ask how I brook
Doors that are not, doors to look!
That is whither I was tending,
And it brings me to good ending.

Baby is the cause of this;
Odd it seems, but so it is;-
Baby, with her pretty prate
Molten, half articulate,
Full of hints, suggestions, catches,
Broken verse, and music snatches!
She, like seraph gone astray,
Must be shown the homeward way;
Plant of heaven, she, rooted lowly,
Must put forth a blossom holy,
Must, through culture high and steady,
Slow unfold a gracious lady;
She must therefore live in wonder,
See nought common up or under;
She the moon and stars and sea,
Worm and butterfly and bee,
Yea, the sparkle in a stone,
Must with marvel look upon;
She must love, in heaven's own blueness,
Both the colour and the newness;
Must each day from darkness break,
Often often come awake,
Never with her childhood part,
Change the brain, but keep the heart.

So, from lips and hands and looks,
She must learn to honour books,
Turn the leaves with careful fingers,
Never lean where long she lingers;
But when she is old enough
She must learn the lesson rough
That to seem is not to be,
As to know is not to see;
That to man or book,
appearing

Gives no title to revering;
That a pump is not a well,
Nor a priest an oracle:
This to leave safe in her mind,
I will take her and go find
Certain no-books, dreary apes,
Tell her they are mere mock-shapes
No more to be honoured by her
But be laid upon the fire;
Book-appearance must not hinder
Their consuming to a cinder.

Would you see the small immortal
One short pace within Time's portal?
I will fetch her.-Is she white?
Solemn? true? a light in light?
See! is not her lily-skin
White as whitest ermelin
Washed in palest thinnest rose?
Very thought of God she goes,
Ne'er to wander, in her dance,
Out of his love-radiance!

But, my friend, I've rattled plenty
To suffice for mornings twenty!
I should never stop of course,
Therefore stop I will perforce.-
If I led them up, choragic,
To reveal their nature magic,
Twenty things, past contradiction,
Yet would prove I spoke no fiction
Of the room's belongings cryptic
Read by light apocalyptic:
There is that strange thing, glass-masked,
With continual questions tasked,
Ticking with untiring rock:
It is called an eight-day clock,
But to me the thing appears
Busy winding up the years,
Drawing on with coiling chain
The epiphany again.


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Poem Submitted: Friday, April 9, 2010



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