I am particularly grateful for deep, thought-provoking poetry: George MacDonald's writings in particular. Many of his poems have become very precious to me, expressing the cries of my heart far more eloquently than otherwise possible.
I cannot recommend George MacDonald's Diary of an Old Soul highly enough; this little poetry book is such a treasure! A paper copy is the best, of course, but you can download the e-text here (I downloaded it free from a digital archives type site, but lost that link so re-uploaded it myself).
On this page I'll include some of my all-time favorite George MacDonald poetry. Many more can be found online here. I also highly recommend what I have read of MacDonald's other writing; he has penned a number of insightful novels and other books. Though I wouldn't agree with him on every point, they are very worth reading.
A fellow bibliophile,
Lord, I have laid my heart upon Thine altar,
But I cannot get the wood to burn;
It is hardly flames ere it begins to falter,
And to the dark return.
Old sap, or night-fallen dew has dampened the fuel;
In vain my breath would flame provoke.
Yet, see! At every poor attempt's renewal,
To Thee ascends the smoke.
'Tis all I have -- smoke, failure, foiled endeavor,
Coldness and doubt and palsied lack;
Such as I have, I send Thee, perfect Giver --
Send Thou Thy lighting back!
The love of thee will set all notions right.
Right save by love no thought can be or may;
Only love's knowledge is the primal light.
Questions keep camp along love's shining coast--
Challenge my love and would my entrance stay:
Across the buzzing, doubting, challenging host,
I rush to thee, and cling, and cry--Thou know'st.
Oh, let me live in thy realities,
Nor substitute my notions for thy facts,
Notion with notion making leagues and pacts;
They are to truth but as dream-deeds to acts,
And questioned, make me doubt of everything.--
"O Lord, my God," my heart gets up and cries,
"Come thy own self, and with thee my faith bring."
O master, my desires to work, to know,
To be aware that I do live and grow--
All restless wish for anything not thee,
I yield, and on thy altar offer me.
Let me no more from out thy presence go,
But keep me waiting watchful for thy will--
Even while I do it, waiting watchful still.
My God, it troubles me I am not better.
More help, I pray, still more. Thy perfect debtor
I shall be when thy perfect child I am grown.
My Father, help me--am I not thine own?
Lo, other lords have had dominion o'er me,
But now thy will alone I set before me:
Thy own heart's life--Lord, thou wilt not abhor me!
Father of me, thou art my bliss secure.
Make of me, maker, whatsoe'er thou wilt.
Let fancy's wings hang moulting, hope grow poor,
And doubt steam up from where a joy was spilt--
I lose no time to reason it plain and clear,
But fly to thee, my life's perfection dear:--
Not what I think, but what thou art, makes sure.
Give me, take from me, as thou wilt. I learn--
Slowly and stubbornly I learn to yield
With a strange hopefulness. As from the field
Of hard-fought battle won, the victor chief
Turns thankfully, although his heart do yearn,
So from my old things to thy new I turn,
With sad, thee-trusting heart, and not in grief.
So, Lord, if thou tak'st from me all the rest,
Thyself with each resumption drawing nigher,
It shall but hurt me as the thorn of the briar,
When I reach to the pale flower in its breast.
To have thee, Lord, is to have all thy best,
Holding it by its very life divine--
To let my friend's hand go, and take his heart in mine.
Take from me leisure, all familiar places;
Take all the lovely things of earth and air
Take from me books; take all my precious faces;
Take words melodious, and their songful linking;
Take scents, and sounds, and all thy outsides fair;
Draw nearer, taking, and, to my sober thinking,
Thou bring'st them nearer all, and ready to my prayer.
Thou art of this world, Christ. Thou know'st it all;
Thou know'st our evens, our morns, our red and gray;
How moons, and hearts, and seasons rise and fall;
How we grow weary plodding on the way;
Of future joy how present pain bereaves,
Rounding us with a dark of mere decay,
Tossed with a drift Of summer-fallen leaves.
Thou knowest all our weeping, fainting, striving;
Thou know'st how very hard it is to be;
How hard to rouse faint will not yet reviving;
To do the pure thing, trusting all to thee;
To hold thou art there, for all no face we see;
How hard to think, through cold and dark and dearth,
That thou art nearer now than when eye-seen on earth.
Have pity on us for the look of things,
When blank denial stares us in the face.
Although the serpent mask have lied before,
It fascinates the bird that darkling sings,
And numbs the little prayer-bird's beating wings.
For how believe thee somewhere in blank space,
If through the darkness come no knocking to our door?
If we might sit until the darkness go,
Possess our souls in patience perhaps we might;
But there is always something to be done,
And no heart left to do it. To and fro
The dull thought surges, as the driven waves fight
In gulfy channels. Oh! victorious one,
Give strength to rise, go out, and meet thee in the night.
"Wake, thou that sleepest; rise up from the dead,
And Christ will give thee light." I do not know
What sleep is, what is death, or what is light;
But I am waked enough to feel a woe,
To rise and leave death. Stumbling through the night,
To my dim lattice, O calling Christ! I go,
And out into the dark look for thy star-crowned head.
Father, I cry to thee for bread
With hungred longing, eager prayer;
Thou hear'st, and givest me instead
More hunger and a half-despair.
0 Lord, how long? My days decline,
My youth is lapped in memories old;
I need not bread alone, but wine--
See, cup and hand to thee I hold!
And yet thou givest: thanks, O Lord,
That still my heart with hunger faints!
The day will come when at thy board
I sit, forgetting all my plaints.
If rain must come and winds must blow,
And I pore long o'er dim-seen chart,
Yet, Lord, let not the hunger go,
And keep the faintness at my heart.
O Father, I am in the dark,
My soul is heavy-bowed:
I send my prayer up like a lark,
Up through my vapoury shroud,
To find thee,
And remind thee
I am thy child, and thou my father,
Though round me death itself should gather.
Lay thy loved hand upon my head,
Let thy heart beat in mine;
One thought from thee, when all seems dead,
Will make the darkness shine
And throughout me!
And should again the dull night gather,
I'll cry again, Thou art my father.
Hope and Patience
An unborn bird lies crumpled and curled,
A-dreaming of the world.
Round it, for castle-wall, a shell
Is guarding it well.
Hope is the bird with its dim sensations;
The shell that keeps it alive is Patience.
Trust him in the common light;
Trust him in the awesome night;
Trust him when the earth doth quake:
Trust him when thy heart doth ache;
Trust him when thy brain doth reel
And thy friend turns on his heel;
Trust him when the way is rough,
Cry not yet, It is enough!
But obey with true endeavour,
Else the salt hath lost his savour.
Love Is Strength
Love alone is great in might,
Makes the heavy burden light,
Smooths rough ways to weary feet,
Makes the bitter morsel sweet:
Love alone is strength!
Might that is not born of Love
Is not Might born from above,
Has its birthplace down below
Where they neither reap nor sow:
Love alone is strength!
Love is stronger than all force,
Is its own eternal source;
Might is always in decay,
Love grows fresher every day:
Love alone is strength!
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!
To give a thing and take again
Is counted meanness among men;
To take away what once is given
Cannot then be the way of heaven!
But human hearts are crumbly stuff,
And never, never love enough,
Therefore God takes and, with a smile,
Puts our best things away a while.
Thereon some weep, some rave, some scorn,
Some wish they never had been born;
Some humble grow at last and still,
And then God gives them what they will.
God; Not Gift
Gray clouds my heaven have covered o'er;
My sea ebbs fast, no more to flow;
Ghastly and dry, my desert shore
Parched, bare, unsightly things doth show.
'Tis thou, Lord, cloudest up my sky;
Stillest the heart-throb of my sea;
Tellest the sad wind not to sigh,
Yea, life itself to wait for thee!
Lord, here I am, empty enough!
My music but a soundless moan!
Blind hope, of all my household stuff,
Leaves me, blind hope, not quite alone!
Shall hope too go, that I may trust
Purely in thee, and spite of all?
Then turn my very heart to dust--
On thee, on thee, I yet will call.
List! list! his wind among the pines
Hark! hark! that rushing is his sea's!
O Father, these are but thy signs!--
For thee I hunger, not for these!
Not joy itself, though pure and high--
No gift will do instead of thee!
Let but my spirit know thee nigh,
And all the world may sleep for me!