The Golden Key

Home to the George MacDonald Society

Home to the George MacDonald Society



Alone I lie, buried amid
 The long luxurious grass;
The bats flit round me, born and hid
 In twilight’s wavering mass.

The fir-top floats, an airy aisle,
 High oe’r the mossy ground;
Harmonious silence breathes the while
 In scent instead of sound.

The flaming rose glooms swarthy red;
 The borage gleams more blue;<
Dim-starred with white, a flowery bed
 Glimmers the rich dusk through.

Hid in the summer grass I lie,
 Lost in the great blue cave;<
My body gazes at the sky,
and measures out its grave.

Songs of the Summer Nights,  III ; Poetical Works, Vol 1



....The demand marks the commonness, narrowness, low-leveled satisfaction of the age. It loves its own --- not that which might be, and ought to be its own --- not its better self, infinitely higher than its present, for the sake of whose approach it exists. I do not think that the age is worse in this respect than those which have preceded it, but that vulgarity and a certain vile contentment swelling to self-admiration have become more vocal than thitherto; ...

 Sir Gibbie



 ... For it must be remembered that a little conceit is no more to be endured than a great one, but must be swept utterly away.  Sky and wind and water and birds and trees said to him, 'Forget thyself, and we will think of thee.  Sing no more to thyself thy foolish songs of decay, and we will all sing to thee of love and hope and faith and resurrection.'  Earth and air had grown full of hints and sparkles and vital motions, as if between them and his soul an abiding community of fundamental existence had manifested itself. ...

Thomas Wingfold, Curate





For to the untruthful mind the false can seem the true

Thomas Wingfold, Curate



The one secret of life and development, is not to devise and plan, but to fall in with the forces at work —  to do every moment's duty aright —  that being the part in the process allotted to us; and let come —  not what will, for there is no such thing —  but what the eternal Thought wills for each of us, has intended for each of us from the first. If men would but believe that they are in process of creation, and consent to be made —  let the maker handle them as the potter his clay, yielding themselves in respondent motion and submissive hopeful action with the turning of his wheel, they would ere long find themselves able to welcome every pressure of that hand upon them, even when it was felt in pain, and sometimes not only to believe but to recognize the divine end in view, the bringing of a son into glory; whereas, behaving like children who struggle and scream while their mother washes and dresses them, they find they have to be washed and dressed, notwithstanding, and with the more discomfort they may even have to find themselves set half naked and but half dried in a corner, to come to their right minds, and ask to be finished.

 Sir Gibbie

 Jeannette, Betty


If a man makes literature a profession, a means of getting his bread without any other motive, if he writes what he thinks the people like to read, he is miserable.  He should not write unless something presses upon him that he is to give to the world.  The preacher who preaches for bread is most miserable, but the literary man with like motives comes next.

from a Burns lecture reprinted in 'Wingfold'

 Barbara Amell


I will call no one Master but Christ —  and from him I learn that his quarrel with us is that we will not do what we know, will not come to him that we may have life.  How endlessly more powerful with men would be expostulation grounded, not on what they have done, but on what they will not do!

“The Voice of Job” , Unspoken Sermons, Second Series



 Summers, winters, days and nights,
Moons, and clouds, they comes and go;
Joys and sorrows, pains, delights,
Hope and fear, and yes and no.

All is well: come , girls and boys,
Not a weary mile is vain!
Hark - dim laughter’s radiant noise!
See the windows through the rain!

From “Traveler’s Song”   - collected Poems II



 But we must give him time, Wife; as God has borne with us, we must believe that he bears with others, and so learn to wait in hopeful patience until they too see as we see

Vicars' Daughter



With all sorts of doubts I am familiar, and the result of them is, has been, and will be, a widening of my heart and soul and mind to greater glories of the truth ... ... ...

I cannot say I never doubt, nor until I hold the very heart of good as my very own in Him, can I wish not to doubt.  For doubt is the hammer that breaks the windows clouded with human fancies, and lets in the pure light.

From letter to an unknown lady - “An Expression of Character” Sadler, ed.




Thoroughly respectable, and a little devout, Mr. Galbraith was a good deal more of a Scotchman than a Christian; growth was a doctrine unembodied in his creed; he turned from everything new, no matter how harmonious with the old, in freezing disapprobation; he recognized no element in God or nature which could not be reasoned about after the forms of the Scotch philosophy. In religion he regarded everything not only as settled, but as understood; but seemed aware of no call in relation to truth but to bark at any one who showed the least anxiety to discover it.  What truth he held himself, he held as a sack holds corn — not even as a worm holds earth.

Sir Gibbie



The true name is one which expresses the character, the nature, the being, the meaning of the person who bears it.

It is the man's own symbol, --- his soul's picture, in a word, --- the sign which belongs to him and to no one else. Who can give a man this, his own name? God alone. For no one but God sees what the man is, or even, seeing what he is, could express in a name--- word the sum and harmony of what he sees.

“The New Name” - Unspoken Sermons , First Series




And here I may remark in regard to one of the vexed questions of the day --- the rights of women --- that what women demand it is not for men to withhold. It is not their business to lay down the law for women. That women must lay down for themselves. I confess that, although I must herein seem to many of my readers old-fashioned and conservative, I should not like to see any woman I cared for either in parliament, or in an anatomical class-room; but on the other hand I feel that women must be left free to settle that matter. If it is not good, good women will find it out and recoil from it. If it is good, then God give them good speed.

The Seaboard Parish



Having now for many years cared only for the will of God, he was full of joy.  For the will of the Father is the root of all his children's gladness, of all their laughter and merriment.  The child that loves the will of the Father, is at the heart of things; his will is 'with' the motion of the eternal wheels; the eyes of all those wheels are opened upon him, and he knows whence he came.  Happy and fearless and hopeful, he knows himself the child of him from whom he came, and his peace and joy break out in light.  He rises and shines.  Bliss creative and energetic there is none other, on earth or in heaven, than the will of the Father.

There and Back, chapter 56



Greatorex had been indulging his intellect at the expense of his heart.  A man may have light in the brain and darkness in the heart.

Gifts of the Child Christ 



But as the king, after taking his tea and toast, lay and looked about him, the dancing shadows in his room seemed to him odder and more inexplicable than ever.  The whole chamber was full of mystery.  So it generally was, but now it was more mysterious than ever.  After all that he had seen in the Shadow-church, his own room and its shadows were yet more wonderful and unintelligible than those.

This made it the more likely that he had seen a true vision; for, instead of making common things look common place, as a false vision would have done, it made common things disclose the wonderful that was in them.

The same applied to all true art...

from 'The Shadows'  as first published in Adela Cathcart



As no scripture is of private interpretation, so is there no feeling in a human heart which exists in that heart alone -- which is not, in some form or degree, in every human heart.

"Abba, Father!", Unspoken Sermons



He showed her things of the mountain, things in the sky, things in the pools and streams wherever they went.  He did better than tell her about them, he made her see them, and then the things themselves told her.

Sir Gibbie



". . . you will be dead so long as you refuse to die." 

Adam to Vane in Lilith



Besides these books, there was nothing in her scheme of the universe but fashion, dress, calls, the park, other --- peopledom, concerts, plays, church-going-whatever could show itself on the frosted glass of her camera obscura- make an interest of motion and colour in her darkened chamber.  Without these, her bosom's mistress would have found life unendurable, for not yet had she ascended her throne, but lay on the floor of her nursery, surrounded with toys that imitated life.  

Gifts of the Child Christ



For every human being is like a facet cut in the great diamond to which I may dare liken the father of him who likens his kingdom to a pearl. Every man, woman, child --‑ for the incomplete also is his, and in its very incompleteness reveals him as a progressive worker in his creation --‑ is a revealer of God. I have my message of my great Lord, you have yours. Your dog, your horse tells you about him who cares for all his creatures. None of them came from his hands. Perhaps the precious things of the earth, the coal and the diamonds, the iron and clay and gold, may be said to have come from his hands; but the live things come from his heart --‑ from near the same region whence we ourselves came.

from “The Inheritance”  - Unspoken Sermons , Third Series



The true teacher brings from his treasure things old and things new;  at one time tells, at another explains; and ever and anon lets his own well of water flow to everlasting life.

Weighed and Wanting



He was always ready to criticize, and it was so much the easier for him that he had not the least bent toward self-criticism.

Weighed and Wanting, Chapter Three, 'The Magic Lantern.'



All day long he sat silent in his cabin; nor could any effort of the captain, or others on board, induce him to go on deck till night came on, when, under the starlight he ventured the open air.  The sky soothed him then, he knew not how.  For the face of nature is the face of God, and must bear expressions that can influence,  though unconsciously  to them, the most ignorant and hopeless of His children.

"The Broken Swords" found in The Gray Wolf and other Fantasy Stories



"To Any One"

Go not forth to call Dame Sorrow
From the dim fields of Tomorrow;
Let her roam there all unheeded,
She will come when she is needed;
Then, when she draws near thy door,
She will find God there before.

Poetical Works, Vol. 2



There they remained, the one reading, the other sleeping, while the hours of the warm summer afternoon slipped away, ripples on the ocean of the lovely, changeless eternity, the consciousness of God.              

Heather & Snow, ch. 4



The universe would be to me no more than a pasteboard scene, all surface and no deepness, on the stage, if I did not hope in God.  I will not say believe, for that is a big word, and it means so much more than my low beginnings of confidence. But a little faith may wake a great big hope, and I look for great things from him whose perfection breathed me out that I might be a perfect thing one day. The more we trust, the more reasonable we find it to trust.

From a letter to Lady Mount-Temple, 1888  - An Expression of Character



You take it for granted that you know your own heart because you call it yours, but I say that your heart is a far deeper thing than you know or are capable of knowing.  It very nature is hid from you.  I use but a poor figure when I say that the roots of your heart go down beyond your knowledge,” whole eternities beyond it” into the heart of God.  If you have never yet made one discovery in your heart, your testimony concerning it is not worth a tuft of flue; and if you have made discoveries in it, does not the fact reveal that it is but little known to you, and that there must be discoveries innumerable yet to be made in it? 

Excerpt from"Weighed and Wanting", Chapter Five,  'Truly the Light is Sweet.'



I knew now, that it is by loving, and not by being loved, that one can come nearest the soul of another; yea, that, where two love, it is the loving of each other, and not the being beloved by each other, that originates and perfects and assures their blessedness. I knew that love gives to him that loveth, power over any soul beloved, even if that soul know him not, bringing him inwardly close to that spirit; a power that cannot be but for good; for in proportion as selfishness intrudes, the love ceases, and the power that springs therefrom dies. Yet all love will, one day, meet with its return. All true love will, one day, behold its own image in the eyes of the beloved, and be humbly glad."




Andrew Comin staid yet a week -- slowly, gently fading out into life -- darkening into eternal day -- forgetting into knowledge itself.  Donal was by his side when he went, but little was done or said;  he crept into the open air in his sleep, to wake from the dreams of life and the dreams of death and the dreams of sleep all at once, and see them mingling together behind him like a broken wave -- blending into one vanishing dream of a troubled, yet, oh, how precious night past and gone !

Donal Grant

 Irene Macdonald born - 1857




If I knew of a theory in which was never an uncompleted arch or turret, in whose circling wall was never a ragged breach, that theory i should know but to avoid such gaps are the eternal windows through which the dawn shall look in. A complete theory is a vault of stone around the theorist --- whose very being yet depends on room to grow.

Mr. Graham the schoolteacher in MALCOLM