Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908). A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895. 1895.

George Macdonald 1824–1905



THOU art the joy of age:

Thy sun is dear when long the shadow falls.

Forth to its friendliness the old man crawls,

And, like the bird hung out in his poor cage

To gather song from radiance, in his chair

Sits by the door; and sitteth there

His soul within him, like a child that lies

Half dreaming, with half-open eyes,

At close of a long afternoon in summer—

High ruins round him, ancient ruins, where

The raven is almost the only comer;

Half dreams, half broods, in wonderment

At thy celestial descent,

Through rifted loops alighting on the gold

That waves its bloom in many an airy rent:

So dreams the old man’s soul, that is not old,

But sleepy ’mid the ruins that enfold.

What soul-like changes, evanescent moods,

Upon the face of the still passive earth,

Its hills, and fields, and woods,

Thou with thy seasons and thy hours art ever calling forth!

Even like a lord of music bent

Over his instrument,

Who gives to tears and smiles an equal birth!

When clear as holiness the morning ray

Casts the rock’s dewy darkness at its feet,

Mottling with shadows all the mountain gray;

When, at the hour of sovereign noon,

Infinite silent cataracts sheet

Shadowless through the air of thunder-breeding June;

And when a yellower glory slanting passes

’Twixt longer shadows o’er the meadow grasses;

When now the moon lifts up her shining shield,

High on the peak of a cloud-hill reveal’d;

Now crescent, low, wandering sun-dazed away,

Unconscious of her own star-mingled ray,

Her still face seeming more to think than see,

Makes the pale world lie dreaming dreams of thee!

No mood of mind, no melody of soul,

But lies within thy silent soft control.

Of operative single power,

And simple unity the one emblem,

Yet all the colors that our passionate eyes devour,

In rainbow, moonbow, or in opal gem,

Are the melodious descant of divided thee.

Lo thee in yellow sands! lo thee

In the blue air and sea!

In the green corn, with scarlet poppies lit,

Thy half souls parted, patient thou dost sit.

Lo thee in speechless glories of the west!

Lo thee in dewdrop’s tiny breast!

Thee on the vast white cloud that floats away,

Bearing upon its skirt a brown moon-ray!

Regent of color, thou dost fling

Thy overflowing skill on everything!

The thousand hues and shades upon the flowers

Are all the pastime of thy leisure hours;

And all the jewelled ores in mines that hidden be

Are dead till touch’d by thee.