The Golden Key

Home to the George MacDonald Society

Home to the George MacDonald Society



Back shining from the pane, the fire
Seems outside in the snow:
So love set free from love’s desire
Lights grief of long ago.

The dark is thinned with snowsheen fine
The earth bedecked with moon;
Out on the worlds we surely shine
More radiant than in June!

Songs of the Winter Nights; I - Poetical Works, Volume One



"Happy children," say I, "who could blunder into the very heart of the will of God concerning them, and do the thing at once that the Lord taught them, using the common sense which God had given and the fairy tale nourished!" The Lord of the promise is the Lord of all true parables and all good fairy tales.

The Elect Lady



My whole frame quivered with joy, surprise, and the sensation of the unforeseen. Like a living soul, like an incarnation of Nature, the song entered my prison-house. Each tone folded its wings, and laid itself, like a caressing bird, upon my heart. It bathed me like a sea; inwrapt me like an odorous vapour; entered my soul like a long draught of clear spring-water; shone upon me like essential sunlight; soothed me like a mother's voice and hand.




But I hold that whatever mental food you take should be just a little too strong for you. That implies trouble, necessitates growth, and involves delight.

Seaboard Parish



A perfect faith would lift us absolutely above fear. It is in the cracks, crannies, and gulfy faults of our belief, the gaps that are not faith, that the snow of apprehension settles, and the ice of unkindness forms.

Sir Gibbie



Evil may come upon us from other causes than doing the will of God; but from whatever cause it comes, the thing we have to see to is, that through it all we do the will of God!

The Elect Lady



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.




In some families the games of the children mainly consist in the construction of dwellings, of this kind or that --- castle, or ship, or cave, or nest in the treetop --- according to the material attainable. It is an outcome of the aboriginal necessity for shelter, this instinct of burrowing: Welbeck Abbey is the development of a weem or Picts' house. Steenie had very early shown it, probably from a vague consciousness of weakness, and Kirsty came heartily to his aid in following it, with the reaction of waking in herself a luxurious idea of sheltered safety. Northern children cherish in their imaginations the sense of protection more, I fancy, than others. This is partly owing to the severity of their climate, the snow and wind, the rain and sleet, the hail and darkness they encounter. I doubt whether an English child can ever have such a sense of protection as a Scots bairn in bed on a winter night, his mother in the nursery, and the wind howling like a pack of wolves about the house.

Heather and Snow



The frost weaves ferns and sultry palms
Across my clouded pane;
Weaves melodies of ancient psalms
All through my passive brain.

Quiet ecstasy fills heart and head:
My father is in the room;
The very curtains of my bed
Are from Love’s sheltering loom!

The lovely vision melts away;
I am a child no more;
Work rises from the floor of play;
Duty is at the door.

But if I face with courage stout
The labour and the din,
Thou, Lord, will let my mind go out
My heart with thee stay in.

“Songs of winter Nights” II - Poetical Works, Volume One.



I’m a puir man I grant,
But I am well neiboured;
And nane may me daunt
Though a puir man, I grant;
For I shall not want —
The Lord is my Shepherd!
I’m a puir man I grant,
But I am weel neiboured!

“Triolet”, Poetical works, Volume Two

George MacDonald’s birthday



I am well aware that such tales are not of much account, at present; and greatly would I regret that they should ever become the fashion; of which, however, there is no danger. But, seeing so much of our life must be spent in dreaming, may there not be a still nook, shadowy, but not miasmatic, in some lowly region of literature, where, in the pauses of labour, a man may sit down, and dream such a day-dream as I now offer to your acceptance, and that of those who will judge the work, in part at least, by its purely literary claims? If I confined my pen to such results, you, at least, would have a right to blame me. But you, for one, will, I am sure, justify an author in dreaming sometimes.

Dedication at the beginning of The Portent



"What are you about, Dawtie?" he said at length. "You are after some mischief, you are so quiet!"

"I was telling God how good you would be if he could get you to give up your odds and ends, and take him instead."



The simplest woman who tries not to judge her neighbor, or not to be anxious for the morrow, will better know what is best to know, than the best-read bishop without that one simple outgoing of his highest nature in the effort to do the will of Him who thus spoke.

Annals of a Quiet Neighborhood



Nor once dropped from its nest a fledgling bird,
Never old sorrow in new heart has stirred;
But a love-pull it was upon the chain<
That drags the children to the Father again.

From “Christmas, 1879", a gift sent to the Cowper Temples. An Expression of Character, ed. Sadler



The sun shines, the wind blows soft, the summer is in the land; but your summer sun and your winter fire is gone, and the world is waste to you. So let it be. Your life is hid with Christ in God, at the heart of all summers --- so “comfort thyself” that this world will look by and by a tearful dream fading away in the light of the morning.

From a condolence letter to a friend on the death of her husband, 1872. An Expression of Character, ed. Sadler



He was one of those who, regarding what a thing is, and not comparing it with other things, descry the thought of God in it, and love it; for to love what is beautiful is as natural as to love our mothers.

A Rough Shaking



Give me a slow, steady boy, who knows when he does not know a thing! To know that you do not know, is to be a small prophet. Such a boy has a glimmer of the something he does not know. Or at least of the place where it is; while the boy who easily grasps the words that stand for a thing, is apt to think he knows the thing itself when he sees but the wrapper of it --- thinks he knows the church when he has caught sight of the weather-cock.

A Rough Shaking



Too eager I must not be to understand.
How should the work the master goes about
Fit the vague sketch my compasses have planned?
I am his house --- for him to go in and out.
He builds me now --- and if I cannot see
At any time what he is doing with me,
'Tis that he makes the house for me too grand.

Diary of an Old Soul




But the flowers! ah, the flowers! she was friends with them from the very first. What wonderful creatures they were! --- and so kind and beautiful --- always sending out such colors and such scents --- red scent, and white scent, and yellow scent --- for the other creatures! The one that was invisible and everywhere took such a quantity of their scents, and carried it away! Yet they did not seem to mind. It was their talk, to show they were alive, and not painted like those on the walls of her rooms, and on the carpets.

“Day Boy and Night Girl”



The winter is the childhood of the year. Into this childhood of the year came the child Jesus; and into this childhood of the year must we all descend. It is as if God spoke to each of us according to our need. My son, my daughter, you are growing old and cunning; you must grow a child again, with my son, this blessed birth-time. You are growing old and careful; you must become a child. You are growing old and distrustful; you must become a child. You are growing old and petty, and weak and foolish; you must become a child --- my child, like the baby there, that strong sunrise of faith and hope and love, lying in his mother's arms in the stable.

Adela Cathcart



What the preacher said ... was carried home in her mind by Phosy; some of his sayings about the birth of Jesus into the world, into the family, into the individual human bosom, she had got it into her head that Christmas Day was not a birthday like that she had herself last year, but that, in some wonderful way, to her requiring no explanation, the baby Jesus was born every Christmas Day afresh. What became of him afterwards, she did not know, and indeed she had never yet thought to ask how it was that he could come to every house in London as well as Number 1, Wimborne Square. Little of a home as another might think it, that house was yet to her the centre of all houses..

“The Gifts of the Child Christ”



On Christmas Eve the church bells were ringing through the murky air of London, whose streets lay flaring and steaming below. The brightest of their constellations were the butchers' shops, with their show of prize beef; around them, the eddies of human tides were most confused and knotted. But the toy-shops were brilliant also. To Phosy they would have been the treasure-caves of the Christ-child --- all mysteries, all with insides to them --- boxes, and desks, and windmills, and dove-cotes, and hens with chickens, and who could tell what all? In every one of those shops her eyes would have searched for the Christ-child, the giver of all their wealth. For to her, he was everywhere that night --- ubiquitous as the luminous mist that brooded all over London.

“The Gifts of the Child Christ”



It was the morning of Christmas Day, and little Phosy knew it in every cranny of her soul. She was not of those who had been up all night, and now she was awake, early and wide, and the moment she awoke she was speculating. He was coming to-day --- how would he come? Where should she find the baby Jesus? And when would he come? In the morning, or the afternoon, or in the evening? Would everybody be gathered to meet him, or would he show himself to one after another, each alone? ... She crept out of the room and down the stair. ... She would search everywhere, and if she did not find him, would then sit down in the hall and wait for him..

“Gifts of the Child Christ”



Cold my heart, and poor, and low,
Like thy stable in the rock;
Do not let it orphan go,
It is of thy parent stock!
Come thou in, and it will grow
High and wide, a fane divine;
Like the ruby it will glow,
Like the diamond shine!

"Christmas Prayer" , Poetical Works



He who by a mother's love
Made the wandering world his own,
Every year comes from above,
Comes the parted to atone,
Binding Earth to the Father's throne.

Nay, thou comest every day!
No, thou never didst depart!
Never hour has been away!
Always with us, Lord thou art,
Binding, binding heart to heart!"

"Christmas Meditation", Poetical Works



Star high,
Baby low
'Twixt the two
Wise men go;
Find the baby,
Grasp the star---
Heirs of all things
Near and Far!

"Christmas Day and Every Day.", Poetical Works



Mary, to thee the heart was given
For infant hand to hold,
And clasp thus, an eternal heaven,
The great earth in its fold.

He seized the world with tender might
By making thee his own;
Thee lowly queen, whose heavenly height
Was to thyself unknown.

He came, all helpless, to thy power,
For warmth, and love, and birth;
In thy embraces, every hour,
He grew into the earth.

“The Mother Mary”, Poetical Works



What a thing it is to have one to speak and think about and try to find out and understand, who is always and altogether and perfectly good! Such a centre that is for all our thoughts and words and actions and imaginations!

It is, indeed, blessed to be human beings, with Jesus Christ for the centre of humanity.

The Seaboard Parish



This is the sweetness of an April day;
The softness of the spring is on the face
Of the old year. She has no natural grace,
But something comes to her from far away
Out of the Past, and on her old decay<
The beauty of her childhood you can trace ---
And yet she moveth with a stormy pace,
And goeth quickly. --- Stay, old year, oh, stay!

From “On a December Day”, Poetical Works, Vol. II



A man may dream all night that he is awake, and when he does wake, be not the less sure that he is awake in that he thought so all the night when he was not; but he will find himself no more able to prove it than he would have been then, only able to talk better about it. The differing consciousness of the two conditions can not be 'produced' in evidence, or embodied in forms of the understanding. But my main point is this, that not to be intellectually certain of a truth, does not prevent the heart that loves and obeys that truth from getting its truth-good, from drawing life from it holy 'factness,' present in the love of it.

Paul Faber, Surgeon



This infant world has taken long to make,
Nor hast Thou done with it, but mak'st it yet,
And wilt be working on when death has set
A new mound in some churchyard for my sake.
On flow the centuries without a break;
Uprise the mountains, ages without let;
The lichens suck; the hard rock's breast they fret;
Years more than past, the young earth yet will take.
But in the dumbness of the rolling time,
No veil of silence shall encompass me ---
Thou wilt not once forget and let me be;
Rather wouldst thou some old chaotic prime
Invade, and, moved by tenderness sublime,
Unfold a world, that I, thy child, might see.

From “A Memorial of Africa” - Poetical Works, Volume One