The Golden Key

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Home to the George MacDonald Society



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.

Diary of an Old Soul

Jim C

Bob T - for St. Theresa of the Child Jesus whose theology of childhood so resembles MacDonald’s


So, like the corn moon-ripened last,
 Would I, weary and gray,
On golden memories ripen fast,
   And ripening pass away.

In an old night so let me die;
   A slow wind out of doors;
A waning moon low in the sky;
  A vapour on the moors;

A fire just dying in the gloom;
  Earth haunted all with dreams;
A sound of waters in the room;
  A mirrors moony gleams;

And near me, in the sinking night,
   More thoughts than move in me ---
Forgiving wrong, and loving right,
  And waiting till I see.

“Songs of the Autumn Nights”  - part two.
Poetical Works, Volume One



Side by side rest the aged fool and the young maiden; for the bell called them, and they obeyed; and surely they found the fire burning bright, and heard friendly voices, and felt sweet lips on theirs, in the home to which they went. Surely both intellect and love were waiting them there.

Still the old bell hangs in the old gable; and whenever another is borne to the old churchyard, it keeps calling to those who are left behind, with the same sad, but friendly and unchanging voice ---"Come hame! come hame! come hame!"

“The Wow of Riven”



We bore him through the golden land,
   One early harvest morn;
The corn stood ripe on either hand ---
   He knew all about the corn.

How shall the harvest gathered be
  Without him standing by?
Without him walking on the lea,
  The sky is scarce a sky.

The years glad work is almost done;
  The land is rich in fruit;
Yellow it floats in air and sun ---
  Earth holds it by the root.

Why should earth hold it for a day
  When harvest-time is come?
Death is triumphant oer decay,
  And leads the ripened home.

“Songs of the Autumn Days” - part one
Poetical works, Volume One



The demand for mercy is far from being for the sake only of the man who needs his neighbour's mercy; it is greatly more for the sake of the man who must show the mercy.  It is a small thing to a man whether or not his neighbour be merciful to him;  it is life or death to him whether or not he be merciful to his neighbour.  .  .  The reward of the merciful is, that by their mercy they are rendered capable of receiving the mercy of God --- yea God himself, who is Mercy.

“The Hope of the Gospel”



The childlike, the essential, the divine notion of serving, with their everyday will and being, the will of the living one, who lived for them that they might live, as once he had died for them that they might die, ripened in them to a Christianity that saw God everywhere, saw that everything had to be done as God would have it done, and that nothing but injustice had to be forsaken to please him. They were under no influence of what has been so well called 'otherworldliness'; for they saw this world as much God's as that, saw that its work has to be done divinely, that it is the beginning of the world to come. It was to them all one world, with God in it, all in all;  therefore the best work for the other world, was the work of this world.

 The Elect Lady



One great help to the understanding of things is to brood over them as a hen broods over her eggs: words are thought-eggs, and their chickens are truths...

Donal Grant



Now [one of the brothers] learned what law and order and truth are, what consent and harmony mean; how the individual may find his own end in a higher end, where law and freedom mean the same thing, and the purest certainty exists without the slightest constraint.

“The Castle; A Parable” as found  in Adela Cathcart



Little ones, no ill can chance;
Fear ye not, but sing and dance;
Though the high-heaved heaven should fall
God is plenty for us all
    God is Love and Strength!

From  “Love is Strength”, Poetical Works, Volume Two



[Peter Simon, Cosmo’s teacher, comes, and speaks with him] ..."the only thing worth a man's care is the will of God, and that will is the same in this world as in the next...let us make the best we can of this life, that we may become able to make the best of the next also."

"And how make the best of this?" asked Cosmo.

"By walking in the fore-front with the will of God --- not letting yourself  be but dragged behind him in the sweep of his garment that makes the storm..  To walk with God is to go hand in hand with him, like a boy with his father, desiring and doing his pleasure  --- falling in with his design in the making of you, a design that cannot be effected without you.  As to other worlds, present sorrows, vanished joys, coming fears, all is well;  for the design of the making, loving, pitiful, glorious God is ever moving towards divine completion, that is, a never ending end.  Yea, even if his infinite be awful to me, yet will I face it, for it is his.  Let your prayer, my son, be like this:

'Maker of me, go on making me, and let me help thee.  Come, O Father!  here I am;  let us go on..  I know that my words are those of a child, but it is thy child who prays to thee.  It is thy dark I walk in;  it is thy hand I hold.' "

Castle Warlock    



I waited for the Master
    In the darkness dumb;
Light came fast and faster ---
    My light did not come!

I waited all the daylight,
    All through noon's hot flame
In the evening's gray light,
    Lo, the Master came!

"Waiting" - Poetical Works, Volume One



There was a wind on the hillside which blew  like the very embodiment of living gladness.  It blew into Diamond's heart, and made him so happy that he was forced to sit down and cry.

At The Back of the North Wind


(for Isaac Young)


"I should be ill," she continued, "if I did not live on the borders of the fairies' country, and now and then eat of their food. And I see by your eyes that you are not quite free of the same need; though, from your education and the activity of your mind, you have felt it less than I."




“O God, thou art too good to me!  It is more than my heart can bear!  To make men and women, and give them to each other, and not be one moment jealous of the love wherewith they love one another, is to be a God indeed!"

So said Donal --- and spoke the high truth.  But alas for the love wherewith men and women love each other!  There were small room for God to be jealous of *that*!  It is the little love with which they love each other, the great love with which they love themselves, that hurts the heart of their father...




To hold fast upon God with one hand, and open wide the other to your neighbor --- that is religion.

Paul Faber



To trust in spite of the look of being forgotten;  to keep crying out into the vast whence comes no voice, and where seems no hearing; to struggle after light, where is no glimmer to guide in the direction of it;  at every turn to find a doorless wall, yet ever seek a door;  to stare at the machinery of the world pauseless grinding on as if self-moved, caring for no life, shifting no hair's breadth for all the entreaty, and yet believe that God is awake and utterly loving;  to desire nothing but what comes meant for us from his hand; to wait patiently, willing to die of hunger, fearing only lest faith should fail --- such is the victory that overcomes the world;  such is very faith.

Castle Warlock



My own conviction is, that the poetry is far the deepest in us, and that the prose is only broken-down poetry; and likewise that to this our lives correspond. The poetic region is the true one, and just, therefore, the incredible one to the lower order of mind; for although every mind is capable of the truth, or rather capable of becoming capable of the truth, there may lie ages between its capacity and the truth. As you will hear some people read poetry so that no mortal could tell it was poetry, so do some people read their own lives and those of others.

Annals of A Quiet Neighborhood



Lord, I'll clim' to thee, an' gaither o' the healin' 'at grows for the nations i' thy gairden..

Donal Grant



James Blatherwick was of such whose sluggish natures require, for the melting of their stubbornness, and their remoulding into forms of strength and beauty, such a concentration of the love of God that it becomes a consuming fire.

Salted by Fire




I wonder how  many Christians there are who so thoroughly believe God made them that they can laugh in God's name; who understand that God invented laughter and gave it to His children....The Lord of gladness delights in the laughter of a merry heart.

The Marquis of Lossie




And until we understand the Gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ our brother-king --- until we understand Him, until we have His Spirit, promised so freely to them that ask it --- all the Epistles, the words of men who were full of Him, and wrote out of that fulness, who loved Him so utterly that by that very love they were lifted into the air of pure reason and right, and would die for Him, and did die for Him, without two thoughts about it, in the very simplicity of no choice --- the Letters, I say, of such men are to us a sealed book. Until we love the Lord so as to do what He tells us, we have no right to have an opinion about what one of those men meant; for all they wrote is about things beyond us.

Annals Of A Quiet Neighborhood




 We are rich or poor according to what we are, not what we have.

David Elginbrod



 Is love a beautiful thing, dearest?  You and I love, but who created love?  Let us ask him to purify our love to make it stronger and more real and more self-denying.  I want to love you for ever --- so that, though there is not marrying or giving in marriage in heaven, we may see each other there as the best beloved.  Oh, Louisa, is it not true that our life here is a growing unto life, and our death a being born --- our true birth?  If there is anything beautiful in this our dreamy life, shall it not shine forth in glory in the bright waking consciousness of heaven?  And in our life together, my dear dear Louisa, if it please God that we should pass any  part of our life together here, shall it not still shine when the cloud is over my head?  I may see the light shining from your face, and when darkness is around you, you may see the light of mine, and thus we shall take courage. 

But we can only expect to have this light within us and on our faces --- we can only expect to be a blessing to each other --- by 'doing' that which is right ...

(excerpt from a 'secret' betrothal letter from GMD to Louisa Powell written from his study in Highbury College, Oct. 23rd, 1848)

George Macdonald and His Wife, by Greville MacDonald




He who would sing but hath not song
Must speak the right, denounce the wrong,
Must humbly front the indignant throng,
Must yield his back to Satire's thong
Nor shield his face from liar's prong,
Must say and do and be the truth,
And fearless wait for what ensueth,
Wait, wait, with patience sweet and strong,
Until God's glory fill the earth;
Then shall he sing who had no song,
He laugh who had no mirth!


To righteousness and love belong
The dance, the jubilance, the song,
When the great Right hath quelled the wrong,
And Truth hath stilled the lying tongue!
Then men must sing because of song,
And laugh because of mirth!
And this shall be their anthem strong ---
Hallow! the glad God fills the earth
And Love sits down by every hearth!

excerpts from “How shall he sing who hath no song?”
- Poetical Works, Volume One



[Thomas Wingfold is sitting with a friend who is dying]

... Wingfold would hardly ever look at him ; he would not disturb him with more of his presence than was unavoidable.  For every individuality, he argued, has a peculiar flavour to every other, and only Jesus is the pure simple humanity that every one can love, out and out, at once.  In these mental meanderings, he avoided nothing, took notice of every difficulty, whether able to discuss it fully or not, broke out in words of delight when his spirit moved, nor hid his disappointment when he failed in getting at what might seem good enough to be the heart of the thing.  It was like hatching a sermon in the sun instead of in the oven.

Thomas Wingfold, Curate



[Mr. Polwarth is talking with Leopold]

"I don't think it is wrong to wish anything you can tell to him about and submit to his will.  St. Paul says, 'In every thing let your requests be made known to God.'"

"I sometimes feel as if I would not ask him for anything, but just let him give me what he likes.”

"We must not want to be better than is required of us, for that is at once to grow worse."

"I don't understand you."

"Not to ask may seem to you a more submissive way, but I don't think it is so childlike.  It seems to me far better to say, 'O Lord, I should like this or that, but I would rather not have it if thou dost not like it also.'   Such prayer brings us into conscious and immediate relations with God.  Remember, our thoughts are then passing to him, sent by our will into his mind.  Our Lord taught us to pray always and not get tired of it.  God, however poor creatures we may be, would have us talk to him, for then he can speak to us better than when we turn no face to him."

Thomas Wingfold, Curate



"Alister, if we were right with God, we could see the earth vanish and never heave a sigh; God, of whom it was but a shimmering revelation, would still be ours."

- Ian Macruadh, What's Mine's Mine  

Ronald MD born (1860)

Acacia Miller


Now I come to it. God, knowing our needs, built our house for our needs --- not as  one man may build for another, but as no man can build for himself.  For our comfort, education, training, he has put into form for us all the otherwise hidden thoughts and feelings of our heart. Even when he speaks of the hidden things of the Spirit of God, he uses the forms or pictures of Nature. The world is, as it were, the human, unseen world turned inside out that we may see it. On the walls of the house that he has built for us, God has hung up the pictures --- ever living, ever changing pictures --- of all that passes in our souls.

Seaboard Parish



[Alister and Ian have stayed the night in their hillside cave]

In the morning they fell asleep, and it was daylight, late in the winter, when Alister rose.  He roused the fire, asleep through the night, and prepared their breakfast of porridge and butter, tea, oat-cake, and mutton-ham.  When it was nearly ready, he woke Ian, and when they had eaten, they read together a portion of the Bible, that they might not forget, and start the life of the day without trust in the life-causing God. 

"All that is not rooted in him," Ian would say, "all hope or joy that does not turn its face upward, is an idolatry.  Our prayers must rise that our thoughts may follow them." 

 What's Mine's Mine  



 "Does the morning or the evening light suit such a place better, Malcolm?"

The pupil thought for a while.

"The evening light, sir," he answered at length, "for you see the sun's dying like, and death's like falling asleep, and the grave's the bed and the sod the bedclothes, and there's a long night ahead.”

"Are you sure of that, Malcolm?"

"It's the way most folk sees it, sir."

"Come here, Malcolm," said Mr. Graham, and took him by the arm and led him toward the east end of the yard. "Read that," he said, pointing to a flat gravestone covered with moss, but the inscription nevertheless stood out clearly,He is not here; he is risen.

While Malcolm gazed, trying to think what his master would have him think, Mr. Graham resumed,"If he is risen --- if the sun is up, Malcolm --- then the morning and not the evening is the season for the place of the tombs; the morning when the shadows are shortening and separating, not the evening when they are growing all into one. I used to love the churchyard best in the evening, when the past was more to me than the future. But now I visit it almost every bright summer morning and only occasionally at night."

"But, sir, isn't death a dreadful thing?" asked Malcolm.

"That depends on whether a man regards it as his fate or as the will of a perfect God. Its obscurity is its dread. But if God be light, then death itself must be full of splendor --- a splendor probably too keen for our eyes to receive."




"What can come of it?" I said to myself. "These are too wretched for any world, and this cannot be hell, for the Little Ones are in it, and the sleepers too! What can it all mean? Can things ever come right for skeletons?"

"There are words too big for you and me; all is one of them, and ever is another," said a voice near me which I knew.


Lip Yeow