~~~Diamond listening to the voice of North Wind from his hayloft bedroom
Do you ever wish for a lullaby? George MacDonald’s sonnet for today reminds me of a lullaby. It instills trust, not fear.
He begins with “O Father, thou art my eternity.” In his sonnets, MacDonald doesn’t often call God Father. Even here he reverts later to his more often used “Lord.” But not until he sets the stage with “O Father….”
I own an edited volume of MacDonald’s letters. The first letter in the volume was written in 1833, the year after MacDonald’s mother died. He was 8 years old. His letter begins “My dear Papa,” and ends with “I remain, my dear Papa, your affectionate son George Macdonald.”
He writes from Portsoy, Scotland, where he’s staying with his younger brother at an aunt’s home. He wants his Papa to come and stay with them until they return to Huntly. He doesn’t like drinking the water here, so refuses to drink it. He also says, “I am sorry that my writing is so bad but my pen is very bad.”
There’s something simple and straightforward in his letter that reflects child-like trust in Papa. He tells him about his visit, including the state of his health (not good) for the last few days, and finding the carcass of a whale that had washed up onto the shore.
These and other bits of information add up to this: he misses his Papa and longs to see him. Something of that spirit pervades this simple, straightforward sonnet written to his other Father.
O Father, thou art my eternity.
Not on the clasp of consciousness—on thee
My life depends; and I can well afford
All to forget, so thou remember, Lord.
In thee I rest; in sleep thou dost me fold;
In thee I labour; still in thee, grow old;
And dying, shall I not in thee, my Life, be bold?
George MacDonald, Diary of an Old Soul
Augsburg Fortress Press 1994
Here, as in his phantasy tales, MacDonald challenges himself and us to think about reality from the outside in.
For example, when North Wind comes to visit Diamond the first time, Diamond is trying to sleep in the drafty loft of a stable house where he and his parents live. There are cracks in the timber walls, and holes through which icy North Wind blows in the winter.
The holes are covered with pieces of brown paper. Sometimes they come loose and must be replaced. Over several days, North Wind keeps blowing the paper from one of these holes. Diamond is at his wit’s end. It’s cold and he doesn’t want to get up and cover the hole yet again.
One night he hears a soft voice just beyond the paper-covered hole. He puts his ear to the hole. Sure enough, North Wind is trying to get his attention. She wants him to remove the paper from the hole so she can see out her window!
Her window? How could that be? Isn’t this Diamond’s hayloft bedroom? And his little window?
As it turns out, it is not! This is North Wind’s window which she herself made, and from which she looks out of her great house into Diamond’s house. Which, by the way, is actually contained within Her World. She isn’t an intruder at all.
Getting this basic fact clear takes a while. It isn’t easy for Diamond to grasp North Wind’s strange perspective.
MacDonald’s sonnet above, like others, conveys his God-centered perspective. We exist within and as part of God’s reality. Created, pursued, challenged and watched over from cradle to grave and beyond.
Remembered by God, we can work and rest peacefully in every stage of life, death and beyond. Though it may seem God is absent, God will not forget us, even if we forget ourselves.
© Elouise Renich Fraser, 13 February 2016
Wood Carving by Arthur Hughes, included as an illustration in MacDonald’s At the Back of the North Wind. Illustration found at etc.usf.edu.