The Golden Key

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When cold winds range my winter-night,
Be thou my summer-door;
Keep for me all my young delight,
Till I am old no more.

From “Songs of the Autumn Nights” - part four - Poetical Works, Volume One



Oh how easily God can send his wind through the heart of our griefs! Fancy the sorrows flying before it --- “Yellow and black and pale and hectic red”.

From a letter written this day in 1877, to Mrs. William Cowper-Temple – An Expression of Character, ed. Sadler



Then, of a sudden, but not once troubling my conscious bliss, all the wrongs I had ever done, from far beyond my earthly memory down to the present moment, were with me. Fully in every wrong lived the conscious I, confessing, adjuring, lamenting the dead, making atonement with each person I had injured, hurt, or offended. Every human soul to which I had caused a troubled thought, was now grown unspeakable dear to me, and I humbled myself before it, agonizing to cast from between us the clinging offense. ... with bitter shame I confessed to my father that I had told him two lies, and long forgotten them now for long had remembered them, and kept them in memory to crush at last at his feet.




A mere truism, is it? Yes it is, and more is the pity; for what is a truism, as most men count truisms? What is it but a truth that ought to have been buried long ago in the lives of men --- to send up forever corn of true deeds and the wine of loving kindness --- but, instead of being buried in friendly soil, is allowed to lie about, kicked hither and thither in the dry and empty garret of their brains, till they are sick of the sight and sound of it and, to be rid of the thought of it, declare it to be no living truth but a lifeless truism? Yet in their brain that truism must rattle until they shift to its rightful quarters in their heart, where it will rattle no longer but take root and be a strength and loveliness.

Thomas Wingfold, Curate



This is your birthday, dearest. I hope you are full of hope in it. Though the outer decay, the inner, the thing that trusts in the perfect creative life, grows stronger --- does it not? God will be better to us than we think, however expectant we may be ... Dearest, my love to you on this your birthday --- a good day for me. I thank God for you.

From a letter written to his wife on November 5, 1891 - An Expression of Character, ed. Sadler

Louisa’s birthday, 1822



High love takes form in lowly thing;
He knows the offering such;
To them 'tis little that they bring,
To him 'tis very much.

From "The Women Who Ministered unto Him" Poetical Works, Volume One

Winifred MacDonald born (1858)



The more evident tendency of art for some time has been to an infinite degeneracy. The cry of “Art for art’s sake,” as a protest against the pursuit of art for the sake of money or fame, one can recognize in its half wisdom, knowing the right cry to be “Art for truth’s sake!” But when certain writers tell us that the true aim of the author of fiction is to give the people what they want, namely, a reflection, as in a mirror, of themselves --- a mirror not such as will show them to themselves as they are, but as they seem to each other, some of us feel that we stand on the verge of an abyss of falsehood. The people --- in whose favor they seem to live and move and have their being --- desire, they say, no admixture of further object, nothing to indicate they ought not to be what they are, or show them what they ought to be. They acknowledge no relation with the ideal, only that which is --- themselves, namely, and what they think and do. Such writers do not understand that nothing does or can exist except the ideal; nor is their art-philosophy other than “procuress to the lords of hell.” Whoever has an ideal and is making no struggle towards it, is sinking into the outer darkness. The ideal is the end, and must be the object of life. Attained, or but truly conceived, we must think of it as indispensable.

From MacDonald's 1888 preface to the English translation of the novel Ein Kamph ums Recht (For the Right) by Karl Emil Franzos



O night, send up the harvest moon
To walk about the fields,
And make of midnight magic noon
On lonely tarns and wealds.

In golden ranks, with golden crowns
All in the yellow land,
Old solemn kings in rustling gowns,
The shocks moon-charmed stand.

Excerpt from"Songs of the Autumn Nights." Poetical Works, Volume One



To Gibbie, however, bare-legged, bare-footed, almost bare-bodied as he was, sun or shadow made small difference, except as one of the musical intervals of life that make the melody of existence. His bare feet knew the difference on the flags, and his heart recognized unconsciously the secret as it were of a meaning and a symbol, in the change from the one to the other, but he was almost as happy in the dull as in the bright day. Hardy through hardship, he knew nothing better than a constant good-humoured sparring with nature and circumstance for the privilege of being, enjoyed what came to him thoroughly, never mourned over what he had not, and, like the animals, was at peace. For the bliss of the animals lies in this, that, on their lower level, they shadow the bliss of those --- few at any moment on the earth --- who do not "look before and after, and pine for what is not," but live in the holy carelessness of the eternal now. Gibbie by no means belonged to the higher order, was as yet, indeed, not much better than a very blessed little animal.

Sir Gibbie




Come through the gloom of clouded skies,
The slow dim rain and fog athwart;
Through east winds keen with wrong and lies
Come and lift up my hopeless heart.

Come through the sickness and the pain,
The sore unrest that tosses still;
Through arching dark that hides the gain
Come and arouse my fainting will.

Come through the prate of foolish words,
The science with no God behind;
Through all the pangs of untuned chords
Speak wisdom to my shaken mind.

Through all the fears that spirits bow
Of what hath been, or may befall,
Come down and talk with me, for thou
Canst tell me all about them all.

Hear, hear my sad lone heart entreat,
Heart of all joy, below, above!
Come near and let me kiss thy feet,
And name the names of those I love!

"A Winter Prayer” Poetical Works, Volume Two.



It seems to me, too, that in thinking of the miseries and wretchedness in the world we seldom think of the other side. We hear of an event in association with some certain individual, and we say, "How dreadful! How miserable!". But we do not see into the region of actual suffering or conflict... We do not see the heart where the shock falls. We neither see the proud bracing of energies to meet the ruin that threatens, nor the gracious faint in which the weak escape from writhing. We do not see the abatement of pain which is Paradise to the tortured; we do not see the gentle upholding in sorrow that comes even from the ministrations of nature --- not to speak of human nature --- to delicate souls. In a word, we do not see, and the sufferer himself does not understand, how God is present every moment, comforting, upholding, heeding that the pain shall not be more than can be borne, making the thing possible and not hideous. I say nothing of the peaceable fruits that are to spring therefrom; and who shall dare to say where they shall not follow upon such tearing up of the soil?

Guild Court



Were that Will visible in his suffering, his will could bow with tearful gladness under the shelter of its grandeur. But now his will is left alone to drink the cup of The Will in torture. In the sickness of this agony, the Will of Jesus arises perfect at last; and of itself, unsupported now, declares --- a naked consciousness of misery hung in the waste darkness of the universe --- declares for God, in defiance of pain, of death, of apathy, of self, of negation, of the blackness within and around it; calls aloud upon the vanished God.

This is the Faith of the Son of God. God withdrew, as it were, that the perfect Will of the Son might arise and go forth to find the Will of the Father.

"The Eloi", Unspoken Sermons, Series One




[Wilfrid , now an old man, looks back over his life)

..whatever has been His will is well --- grandly well --- well even for that in me which feared, and in those very respects in which it feared that it might not be well. The whole being of me past and present shall say, It is infinitely well, and I would not have it otherwise. ... Lord of me, Father of Jesus Christ, will this suffice? Is my faith enough yet?... I have passed already through so many valleys of death itself ... that I cannot greatly fear that which holds but the shadow of deat ... for what men call death, is but its shadow. Death never comes near us; it lies behind the back of God; he is between it and us...When it comes, death will prove as natural as birth.

Wilfred Cumbermede



Seeing God, Job forgets all he wanted to say,
all he thought he would say if he could but see Him.

“The Voice of Job” - Unspoken Sermons, Series Two



Let us remember, however, that not evil only will be unveiled; that many a masking misconception will uncover a face radiant with the loveliness of the truth. And whatever disappointment may fall, there is consolation for every heart in the one sufficing joy --- that it stands on the border of the kingdom, about to enter into ever fuller, ever-growing possession of the inheritance of the saints in light.

“The Final Unmasking”- Unspoken Sermons, Series Three



The shadows of the evening that precedes a lovelier morning are drawing down around us both. But our God is in the shadow as in the shine, and all is and will be well. Have we not seen His glory in the face of Jesus? and do we not know him a little? . . . This life is a lovely school time, but I never was content with it. I look for better --- oh, so far better! I think we do not yet know the joy of mere existence. To exist is to be a child of God; and to know it, to feel it, is to rejoice evermore. May the loving Father be near you and may you know it, and be perfectly at peace all the way into the home country, and to the palace home of the living one --- the Life of our life.

Next month I shall be 70, and I am humbler a good deal than when I was 29. To be rid of self is to have the heart bare to God and to the neighbour --- to have all life ours, and possess all things. I see in my mind's eye, the little children clambering up to sit on the throne with Jesus. My God, art Thou not as good as we are capable of imagining Thee? Shall we dream a better goodness than Thou hast ever thought of? Be Thyself, and all is well with us.

An Expression of Character, ed. Sadler



[Wingfold is speaking with Helen who questions her faith deeply in sight of a family concern for which she is trying to pray]

"Perhaps Jesus has begun to give you help, though you do not know it yet," he said. "His help may be on the way to you, or even with you, only you do not recognize it for what it is. I have known that kind of thing. Tell me some fact or some feeling I can lay hold of. Possibly there is something you ought to do and are not doing, and that is why you cannot rest. I think Jesus would give no rest except in the way of learning of him.”

Thomas Wingfold, Curate



... The father, leading on
Across the floor, heaped high with store of grain
Opened a door. An unexpected light
Flashed on him cheerful from a fire and lamp,
That burned alone, as in a fairy-tale.
Behold! a little room, a curtained bed,
An easy chair, bookshelves, and writing-desk;
An old print of a deep Virgilian wood,
And one of choosing Hercules! The youth<
Gazed and spoke not. The old paternal love
Had sought and found an incarnation new!
For, honouring in his son the simple needs
Which his own bounty had begot in him,
He gave him thus a lonely thinking space,
A silent refuge. With a quiet good night,
He left him dumb with love. Faintly beneath,
The horses stamped, and drew the lengthening chain.

excerpt from “ A Hidden Life” Poetical Works, Volume One.



... But every ocean hath its isles, each woe
Its scattered comfortings; and this was one
That often came to her --- that she, wave-caught,
Must, in the wash of ever-shifting waters,
In some good hour sure-fixed of pitiful fate,
All-conscious still of love, despite the sea,
Float over some stray bone, some particle,
Which far-diffused sense would know as his.
Heart glad she would sit down, and watch the tide
Slow-growing --- till it reached at length her feet,
When at its first cold touch, up she would spring,
And, ghastful, flee, with white-rimmed sightless eye.
But still, wher'er she fled, the sea-voice followed;
Whisperings innumerable of water-drops<
Would grow together to a giant cry ...

from ”A Story of the Sea-Shore”, Poetical Works, Volume One




Lord of my life! if I am blind,
I reck not --- thou canst see;
I well may wait my summer mind,
When I am sure of thee!

from “Songs of the Autumn Nights”, Poetical Works, Volume One



I told my people that God had created all our worships, reverences, tendernesses, loves. That they had come out of His heart, and He had made them in us because they were in Him first. That otherwise He would not have cared to make them. That all that we could imagine of the wise, the lovely, the beautiful, was in Him, only infinitely more of them than we could not merely imagine, but understand, even if He did all He could to explain them to us, to make us understand them.

Annals of a Quiet Neighborhood



May you have as many happy birthdays in this world as will make you ready for a happier series of them afterwards, the first of which birthdays will be the one we call the day of death down here. But there is a better grander birthday than that, which we may have every day --- every hour that we turn away from ourselves to the living love that makes our love, and so are born again. And I think all these last birthdays will be summed up in one transcending birthday, far off it may be, but surely to come, the moment when we know in ourselves that we are one with God, are living by his life, and having neither thought nor wish but his --- that is desire nothing but what is perfectly lovely, and love everything in which there is anything to love.

From a birthday letter written to his daughter Lilia in 1872 An Expression of Character ed. Sadler

1891 - Lilia’s death

Ron Reed


"The Father o' lichts is your father an' mine --- The Father o' a' o' 's," said Malcolm ...

"Eh! gien that war true!" said the laird .... They walked on in silence for a minute. All at once the laird threw up his hands, and fell flat on his face on the sand ... he was praying... mumuring over and over, all but inaudibly, "Father o' lichts ! Father o' lichts !"

It seemed as if no other word dared mingle itself with that cry ... It was a solemn time --- the full tide lapping up on the long yellow sand from the wide sea darkening out to the dim horizon; the gentle wind blowing through the molten darkness; overhead, the great vault without arch or keystone, of dim liquid blue, and sown with worlds so far removed they could only shine; and on the shore, the centre of all the cosmic order, a misshapen heap of man, a tumulus in which lay buried a live and lovely soul!




What is salvation? To be delivered from everything mean, low, despicable, selfish, cringing, fearing in my whole nature, that I may stand humble yet bold and free before the Universe of God, because God knows me and I know God. That is salvation, and nothing else will do for man or woman.

From "The Story of Zacchaeus", George MacDonald in the Pulpit.




O lapsing heart! thy feeble strain
Sends up the blood so spare,
That my poor withering autumn brain
Sees autumn everywhere!

From “Songs of the Autumn Nights”, Poetical Works, Volume One



It seems to me that in morals too the main thing is to avoid doing wrong; for then the active spirit of life in us will drive us on to the right. But on such a momentous question I would not be dogmatic. Only as far as regards the feelings I would say it is of no use to try to make ourselves feel thus and thus. Let us fight with our wrong feelings; let us polish away the rough ugly distortions of feeling. Then the real and the good will come of themselves. Or rather, to keep to my figure, they will then show themselves of themselves as the natural home-produce, the indwelling fact of our deepest --- that is, our divine nature.

From “On Polish”, Dish of Orts.



... Your letter says of my books just what I try to go upon --- to make them true to the real and not the spoilt humanity. Why should I spend my labour on what one can have too much of without any labour? I will try to show what might be, may be, must be, shall --- and something of the struggle to gain it.

From a letter to William Cowper-Temple , 1979 an Expression of Character - ed. Sadler



"Oh yes, I do, well enough," answered Diamond; "but I never just quite liked that rhyme."

"Why not, child?"

"Because it seems to say one's as good as another, or two new ones are better than one that's lost. I've been thinking about it a great deal, and it seems to me that although any one sixpence is as good as any other sixpence, not twenty lambs would do instead of one sheep whose face you knew. Somehow, when once you've looked into anybody's eyes, right deep down into them, I mean, nobody will do for that one any more. Nobody, ever so beautiful or so good, will make up for that one going out of sight."

At the Back of the North Wind



The good for which we are born into this world is, that we may learn to love ... There are people --- oh, such silly people they are! --- though they may sometimes be pleasing --- who are always wanting people to love them. They think so much of themselves, that they want to think more; and to know that people love them makes them able to think more of themselves. They even think themselves loving because they are fond of being loved!

Such lovers are only selfish in a deeper way, and are more to blame than other selfish people; for, loving to be loved, they ought the better to know what an evil thing it is not to love; what a mean thing to accept what they are not willing to give. Even to love only those that love us, is, as the Lord has taught us, but a pinched and sneaking way of loving.

A Rough Shaking


When the storm was proudest,
And the wind was loudest,
I heard the hollow caverns drinking down below;
When the stars were bright,
And the ground was white,
I heard the grasses springing underneath the snow.

Robert Falconer