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The Power of George MacDonald

George MacDonald (1824 – 1905) a Scottish author, poet and Christian minister, was a pioneering figure in the field of fantasy literature. As well as being a mentor of Lewis Carroll, MacDonald’s writings have been cited as a major influence by such master authors as W. H. Auden, C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, Walter de la Mare, E. Nesbit, and Madeleine L'Engle.

C. S. Lewis famously wrote that he regarded MacDonald as his 'master': 'Picking up a copy of Phantastes one day at a train-station bookstall, I began to read. A few hours later', said Lewis, 'I knew that I had crossed a great frontier.' G. K. Chesterton said that MacDonald’s The Princess and the Goblin had 'made a difference to my whole existence'.

In addition to his fairy tales, MacDonald wrote several works on Christian apologetics. The following few quotes give you an idea of his writings:

'Foolish is the man, and there are many such men, who would rid himself or his fellows of discomfort by setting the world right, by waging war on the evils around him, while he neglects that integral part of the world where lies his business, his first business, namely, his own character and conduct.'

'The best thing you can do for your fellow, next to rousing his conscience, is — not to give him things to think about, but to wake things up that are in him; or say, to make him think things for himself.'

'Then I remembered that night is the fairies’ day, and the moon their sun; and I thought - Everything sleeps and dreams now: when the night comes, it will be different.'

'I knew now, that it is by loving, and not by being loved, that one can come nearest the soul of another; yea, that, where two love, it is the loving of each other, and not the being loved by each other, that originates and perfects and assures their blessedness. I knew that love gives to him that loveth, power over any soul beloved...'

'My soul was like a summer evening, after a heavy fall of rain, when the drops are yet glistening on the trees in the last rays of the down-going sun, and the wind of the twilight has begun to blow.'

'The love of our neighbour is the only door out of the dungeon of self, where we mope and mow, striking sparks, and rubbing phosphorescences out of the walls, and blowing our own breath in our own nostrils, instead of issuing to the fair sunlight of God, the sweet winds of the universe.'

'I might here find the magic word of power to banish the demon and set me free, so that I should no longer be a man beside myself.'

'I do not write for children, but for the childlike, whether of five, or fifty, or seventy-five.'

'It was evening. The sun was below the horizon; but his rosy beams yet illuminated a feathery cloud, that floated high above the world. I arose, I reached the cloud; and, throwing myself upon it, floated with it in sight of the sinking sun. He sank, and the cloud grew gray; but the grayness touched not my heart. It carried its rose-hue within; for now I could love without needing to be loved again.'

'And Summer, dear Summer, hath years of June,

With large white clouds, and cool showers at noon;

And a beauty that grows to a weight like grief,

Till a burst of tears is the heart’s relief.'

'Sweet sounds can go where kisses may not enter.'

'Hundreds of hopeless waves rushed constantly shorewards, falling exhausted upon a beach of great loose stones, that seemed to stretch miles and miles in both directions. There was nothing for the eye but mingling shades of gray; nothing for the ear but the rush of the coming, the roar of the breaking, and the moan of the retreating wave.'

'Ere long, I learned that it was not myself, but only my shadow, that I had lost. I learned that it is better, a thousand-fold, for a proud man to fall and be humbled, than to hold up his head in his pride and fancied innocence. I learned that he that will be a hero, will barely be a man; that he that will be nothing but a doer of his work, is sure of his manhood.'

'From Eden’s bowers the full-fed rivers flow,

To guide the outcasts to the land of woe:

Our Earth one little toiling streamlet yields.

To guide the wanderers to the happy fields.'

'Or, if needing years to wake thee

From thy slumbrous solitudes,

Come, sleep-walking, and betake thee

To the friendly, sleeping woods.

Sweeter dreams are in the forest,

Round thee storms would never rave;

And when need of rest is sorest,

Glide thou then into thy cave.'

'Twilight-kind, oppressing the heart as with a condensed atmosphere of dreamy undefined love and longing.'

'It is not the hysterical alone for whom the great dash of cold water is good.

All who dream life, instead of living it, require some similar shock.'

'Ah, let a man beware, when his wishes, fulfilled, rain down upon him, and his happiness is unbounded.'

'Thy beauty filleth the very air,

Never saw I a woman so fair.'


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