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Alfred H. Miles, ed. The Sacred Poets of the Nineteenth Century. 1907.

By Critical and Biographical Essay by Alfred H. Miles

George MacDonald (1824–1905)

GEORGE MACDONALD was born at Huntley, Aberdeenshire, on the 10th of December, 1824, and was educated at the parish school of Huntley and King’s College, Aberdeen. His general poetry is represented in Volume V. of this work, where he is treated as one of the general poets. Much of his verse, however, is devoted to religious subjects, and it is impossible to omit a selection of it from a volume dealing specifically with sacred and didactic poetry. The reader is referred to Volume V. for a critical article on George MacDonald’s poetry from the pen of Dr. Japp, and it will be found that the leading characteristics of the poet’s verse as there indicated become intensified when he is dealing with exclusively religious subjects. These are a combination of simplicity and mysticism which finds some parallel in the poetry of Blake—the outlook of a natural and childlike eye, suggesting an infinitude of parallels and parables to the seer’s vision. Besides this, there is in Dr. MacDonald’s poetry the beating of an intensely human heart, which finds in human relationships and experiences innumerable illustrations and interpretations of the nature and discipline of the Divine Father.

These characteristics are happily illustrated by two single stanza poems included with others under the title of “Motes in the Sun.” What could be more Blake-like in its opening lines, and what more MacDonald-like in its close and in the whole as a union of the natural and the spiritual, than the lines entitled “Waiting”?

  • Lie, little cow, and chew thy cud,
  • The farmer soon will shift thy tether;
  • Chirp, linnet, on the frozen mud,
  • Sun and song will come together;
  • Wait, soul, for God, and thou shalt bud,
  • He waits thy waiting with his weather.
  • The Divine love as interpreted by the intensely human heart of the poet has many illustrations throughout his works, of which the lines entitled “Forgiveness” may be given here:—

  • God gives His child upon his slate a sum—
  • To find eternity in hours and years;
  • With both sides covered, back the child doth come,
  • His dim eyes swollen with shed and unshed tears;
  • God smiles, wipes clean the upper side and nether,
  • And says, “Now, dear, we’ll do the sum together!”
  • So much of Dr. MacDonald’s poetry would be proper to this volume that selection is difficult. “The Disciple,” “The Gospel Women,” and “Parables” might all be quoted from; but we have confined our selection to “Organ Songs,” “Violin Songs,” “A Book of Sonnets,” and “A Book of Dreams.”