A Book Of Strife In The Form Of The Diary Of An Old Soul - February

George MacDonald

I TO myself have neither power nor worth,
Patience nor love, nor anything right good;
My soul is a poor land, plenteous in dearth-
Here blades of grass, there a small herb for food-
A nothing that would be something if it could;
But if obedience, Lord, in me do grow,
I shall one day be better than I know.
The worst power of an evil mood is this-
It makes the bastard self seem in the right,
Self, self the end, the goal of human bliss.
But if the Christ-self in us be the might
Of saving God, why should I spend my force
With a dark thing to reason of the light-
Not push it rough aside, and hold obedient course?
Back still it comes to this: there was a man
Who said, "I am the truth, the life, the way:"-
Shall I pass on, or shall I stop and hear?-
"Come to the Father but by me none can:"
What then is this?-am I not also one
Of those who live in fatherless dismay?
I stand, I look, I listen, I draw near.
My Lord, I find that nothing else will do,
But follow where thou goest, sit at thy feet,
And where I have thee not, still run to meet.
Roses are scentless, hopeless are the morns,
Rest is but weakness, laughter crackling thorns,
If thou, the Truth, do not make them the true:
Thou art my life, O Christ, and nothing else will do.
Thou art here-in heaven, I know, but not from here-
Although thy separate self do not appear;
If I could part the light from out the day,
There I should have thee! But thou art too near:
How find thee walking, when thou art the way?
Oh, present Christ! make my eyes keen as stings,
To see thee at their heart, the glory even of things.
That thou art nowhere to be found, agree
Wise men, whose eyes are but for surfaces;
Men with eyes opened by the second birth,
To whom the seen, husk of the unseen is,
Descry thee soul of everything on earth.
Who know thy ends, thy means and motions see:
Eyes made for glory soon discover thee.
Thou near then, I draw nearer-to thy feet,
And sitting in thy shadow, look out on the shine;
Ready at thy first word to leave my seat-
Not thee: thou goest too. From every clod
Into thy footprint flows the indwelling wine;
And in my daily bread, keen-eyed I greet
Its being's heart, the very body of God.
Thou wilt interpret life to me, and men,
Art, nature, yea, my own soul's mysteries-
Bringing, truth out, clear-joyous, to my ken,
Fair as the morn trampling the dull night. Then
The lone hill-side shall hear exultant cries;
The joyous see me joy, the weeping weep;
The watching smile, as Death breathes on me his cold sleep.
I search my heart-I search, and find no faith.
Hidden He may be in its many folds-
I see him not revealed in all the world
Duty's firm shape thins to a misty wraith.
No good seems likely. To and fro I am hurled.
I have no stay. Only obedience holds:-
I haste, I rise, I do the thing he saith.
Thou wouldst not have thy man crushed back to clay;
It must be, God, thou hast a strength to give
To him that fain would do what thou dost say;
Else how shall any soul repentant live,
Old griefs and new fears hurrying on dismay?
Let pain be what thou wilt, kind and degree,
Only in pain calm thou my heart with thee.
I will not shift my ground like Moab's king,
But from this spot whereon I stand, I pray-
From this same barren rock to thee I say,
"Lord, in my commonness, in this very thing
That haunts my soul with folly-through the clay
Of this my pitcher, see the lamp's dim flake;
And hear the blow that would the pitcher break."
Be thou the well by which I lie and rest;
Be thou my tree of life, my garden ground;
Be thou my home, my fire, my chamber blest,
My book of wisdom, loved of all the best;
Oh, be my friend, each day still newer found,
As the eternal days and nights go round!
Nay, nay-thou art my God, in whom all loves are bound!
Two things at once, thou know'st I cannot think.
When busy with the work thou givest me,
I cannot consciously think then of thee.
Then why, when next thou lookest o'er the brink
Of my horizon, should my spirit shrink,
Reproached and fearful, nor to greet thee run?
Can I be two when I am only one.
My soul must unawares have sunk awry.
Some care, poor eagerness, ambition of work,
Some old offence that unforgiving did lurk,
Or some self-gratulation, soft and sly-
Something not thy sweet will, not the good part,
While the home-guard looked out, stirred up the old murk,
And so I gloomed away from thee, my Heart.
Therefore I make provision, ere I begin
To do the thing thou givest me to do,
Praying,-Lord, wake me oftener, lest I sin.
Amidst my work, open thine eyes on me,
That I may wake and laugh, and know and see
Then with healed heart afresh catch up the clue,
And singing drop into my work anew.
If I should slow diverge, and listless stray
Into some thought, feeling, or dream unright,
O Watcher, my backsliding soul affray;
Let me not perish of the ghastly blight.
Be thou, O Life eternal, in me light;
Then merest approach of selfish or impure
Shall start me up alive, awake, secure.
Lord, I have fallen again-a human clod!
Selfish I was, and heedless to offend;
Stood on my rights. Thy own child would not send
Away his shreds of nothing for the whole God!
Wretched, to thee who savest, low I bend:
Give me the power to let my rag-rights go
In the great wind that from thy gulf doth blow.
Keep me from wrath, let it seem ever so right:
My wrath will never work thy righteousness.
Up, up the hill, to the whiter than snow-shine,
Help me to climb, and dwell in pardon's light.
I must be pure as thou, or ever less
Than thy design of me-therefore incline
My heart to take men's wrongs as thou tak'st mine.
Lord, in thy spirit's hurricane, I pray,
Strip my soul naked-dress it then thy way.
Change for me all my rags to cloth of gold.
Who would not poverty for riches yield?
A hovel sell to buy a treasure-field?
Who would a mess of porridge careful hold
Against the universe's birthright old?
Help me to yield my will, in labour even,
Nor toil on toil, greedy of doing, heap-
Fretting I cannot more than me is given;
That with the finest clay my wheel runs slow,
Nor lets the lovely thing the shapely grow;
That memory what thought gives it cannot keep,
And nightly rimes ere morn like cistus-petals go.
'Tis-shall thy will be done for me?-or mine,
And I be made a thing not after thine-
My own, and dear in paltriest details?
Shall I be born of God, or of mere man?
Be made like Christ, or on some other plan?-
I let all run:-set thou and trim my sails;
Home then my course, let blow whatever gales.
With thee on board, each sailor is a king
Nor I mere captain of my vessel then,
But heir of earth and heaven, eternal child;
Daring all truth, nor fearing anything;
Mighty in love, the servant of all men;
Resenting nothing, taking rage and blare
Into the Godlike silence of a loving care.
I cannot see, my God, a reason why
From morn to night I go not gladsome free;
For, if thou art what my soul thinketh thee,
There is no burden but should lightly lie,
No duty but a joy at heart must be:
Love's perfect will can be nor sore nor small,
For God is light-in him no darkness is at all.
'Tis something thus to think, and half to trust-
But, ah! my very heart, God-born, should lie
Spread to the light, clean, clear of mire and rust,
And like a sponge drink the divine sunbeams.
What resolution then, strong, swift, and high!
What pure devotion, or to live or die!
And in my sleep, what true, what perfect dreams!
There is a misty twilight of the soul,
A sickly eclipse, low brooding o'er a man,
When the poor brain is as an empty bowl,
And the thought-spirit, weariful and wan,
Turning from that which yet it loves the best,
Sinks moveless, with life-poverty opprest:-
Watch then, O Lord, thy feebly glimmering coal.
I cannot think; in me is but a void;
I have felt much, and want to feel no more;
My soul is hungry for some poorer fare-
Some earthly nectar, gold not unalloyed:-
The little child that's happy to the core,
Will leave his mother's lap, run down the stair,
Play with the servants-is his mother annoyed?
I would not have it so. Weary and worn,
Why not to thee run straight, and be at rest?
Motherward, with toy new, or garment torn,
The child that late forsook her changeless breast,
Runs to home's heart, the heaven that's heavenliest:
In joy or sorrow, feebleness or might,
Peace or commotion, be thou, Father, my delight.
The thing I would say, still comes forth with doubt
And difference:-is it that thou shap'st my ends?
Or is it only the necessity
Of stubborn words, that shift sluggish about,
Warping my thought as it the sentence bends?-
Have thou a part in it, O Lord, and I
Shall say a truth, if not the thing I try.
Gather my broken fragments to a whole,
As these four quarters make a shining day.
Into thy basket, for my golden bowl,
Take up the things that I have cast away
In vice or indolence or unwise play.
Let mine be a merry, all-receiving heart,
But make it a whole, with light in every part.

Last updated January 14, 2019