Selected Poems

George MacDonald

Index of Poems (on this page)


The Holy Thing

The Old Garden

The Thankless Lady

BABY    Return to the index

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 anyone 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, my dear ?
God thought about you, and so I am here.

THE HOLY THING    Return to the index

THEY all were looking for a king
   To slay their foes and lift them high:
Thou cam'st, a little baby thing
   That made a woman cry.

O Son of Man, to right my lot
   Naught but Thy presence can avail;
Yet on the road Thy wheels are not,
   Nor on the sea Thy sail!

My how or when Thou wilt not heed,
   But come down Thine own secret stair,
That Thou mayst answer all my need-
   Yea, every bygone prayer.

THE OLD GARDEN    Return to the index


I STOOD in an ancient garden
   With high red walls around ;
Over them grey and green lichens
   In shadowy arabesque wound.

The topmost climbing blossoms
   On fields kine-haunted looked out ;
But within were shelter and shadow,
   With daintiest odours about.

There were alleys and lurking arbours,
   Deep glooms into which to dive.
The lawns were as soft as fleeces,
   Of daisies I counted but five.

The sun-dial was so aged
   It had gathered a thoughtful grace ;
'Twas the round-about of the shadow
   That so had furrowed its face.

The flowers were all of the oldest
   That ever in garden sprung ;
Red, and blood-red, and dark purple
   The rose-lamps flaming hung.

Along the borders fring├ęd
   With broad thick edges of box
Stood foxgloves and gorgeous poppies
   And great-eyed hollyhocks.

There were junipers trimmed into castles,
   And ash-trees bowed into tents
For the garden, though ancient and pensive,
   Still wore quaint ornaments.

It was all so stately fantastic
   Its old wind hardly would stir ;
Young Spring, when she merrily entered,
   Scarce felt it a place for her.


I stood in the summer morning
   Under a cavernous yew ;
The sun was gently climbing,
   And the scents rose after the dew.

I saw the wise old mansion,
   Like a cow in the noon-day heat,
Stand in a lake of shadows
   That rippled about its feet.

Its windows were oriel and latticed,
   Lowly and wide and fair ;
And its chimneys like clustered pillars
   Stood up in the thin blue air.

White doves, like the thoughts of a lady,
   Haunted it all about ;
With a train of green and blue comets
   The peacock went marching stout.

The birds in the trees were singing
   A song as old as the world,
Of love and green leaves and sunshine,
   And winter folded and furled.

They sang that never was sadness
   But it melted and passed away ;
They sang that never was darkness
   But in came the conquering day.

And I knew that a maiden somewhere,
   In a low oak-panelled room,
In a nimbus of shining garments,
   An aureole of white-browed bloom,

Looked out on the garden dreamy,
   And knew not it was old ;
Looked past the gray and the sombre,
   Saw but the green and the gold.


I stood in the gathering twilight,
   In a gently blowing wind;
Then the house looked half uneasy,
   Like one that was left behind.

The roses had lost their redness,
   And cold the grass had grown ;
At roost were the pigeons and peacock,
   The sun-dial seemed a head-stone.

The world by the gathering twilight
   In a gauzy dusk was clad ;
Something went into my spirit
   And made me a little sad.

Grew and gathered the twilight,
   It filled my heart and brain ;
The sadness grew more than sadness,
   It turned to a gentle pain.

Browned and brooded the twilight,
   Pervaded, absorbed the calm,
Till it seemed for some human sorrows
   There could not be any balm.


Then I knew that, up a staircase
   Which untrod will yet creak and shake
Deep in a distant chamber
   A ghost was coming awake--

In the growing darkness growing,
   Growing till her eyes appear
Like spots of a deeper twilight,
   But more transparent clear:

Thin as hot air up-trembling,
   Thin as sun-molten crape,
An ethereal shadow of something
   Is taking a certain shape ;

A shape whose hands hang listless,
   Let hang its disordered hair;
A shape whose bosom is heaving
   But draws not in the air.

And I know, what time the moonlight
   On her nest of shadows will sit,
Out on the dim lawn gliding
   That shadowy shadow will flit.


The moon is dreaming upward
   From a sea of cloud and gleam ;
She looks as if she had seen me
   Never but in a dream.

Down the stair I know she is coming,
   Bare-footed, lifting her train ;
It creaks not-she hears it creaking
   Where once there was a brain.

Out at yon side-door she's coming,
   With a timid glance right and left ;
Her look is hopeless yet eager,
   The look of a heart bereft.

Across the lawn she is flitting,
   Her thin gown feels the wind ;
Are her white feet bending the grasses ?
   Her hair is lifted behind!


Shall I stay to look on her nearer ?
   Would she start and vanish away ?
Oh, no, she will never see me,
   Stand I near as I may!

It is not this wind she is feeling,
   Not this cool grass below ;
'Tis the wind and the grass of an evening
   A hundred years ago.

She sees no roses darkling,
   No stately hollyhocks dim ;
She is only thinking and dreaming
   The garden, the night, and him,

The unlit windows behind her,
   The timeless dial-stone,
The trees, and the moon, and the shadows
   A hundred years agone !

'Tis a night for a ghostly lover
   To haunt the best-loved spot :
Is he come in his dreams to this garden ?
   I gaze, but I see him not.


I will not look on her nearer,
   My heart would be torn in twain ;
From my eyes the garden would vanish
   In the falling of their rain.

I will not look on a sorrow
   That darkens into despair,
On the surge of a heart that cannot
   Yet cannot cease to bear.

My soul to hers would be calling :
   She would hear no word it said !
If I cried aloud in the stillness
   She would never turn her head!

She is dreaming the sky above her,
   She is dreaming the earth below :--
This night she lost her lover
   A hundred years ago.

THE THANKLESS LADY    Return to the index

IT is May, and the moon leans down at night
   Over a blossomy land ;
Leans from her window a lady white,
   With her cheek upon her hand.

"Oh, why in the blue so misty, moon ?
   Why so dull in the sky ?
Thou look'st like one that is ready to swoon
   Because her tear-well is dry.

"Enough, enough of longing and wail !
   Oh, bird, I pray thee, be glad !
Sing to me once, dear nightingale,
   The old song, merry mad.

"Hold, hold with thy blossoming, colourless, cold,
   Apple-tree white as woe !
Blossom yet once with the blossom of old,
   Let the roses shine through the snow !"

The moon and the blossoms they gloomily gleam,
   The bird will not be glad :
The dead never speak when the mournful dream,
   They are too weak and sad.

Listened she listless till night grew late,
   Bound by a weary spell ;
Then clanked the latch of the garden-gate
   And a wondrous thing befell :

Out burst the gladness, up dawned the love,
   In the song, in the waiting show ;
Grew silver the moon in the sky above,
   Blushed rosy the blossom below.

But the merry bird, nor the silvery moon,
   Nor the blossoms that flushed the night
Had one poor thanks for the granted boon :
   The lady forgot them quite !

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