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Posts Tagged ‘George MacDonald’

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Perhaps the best thing for the princess would have been to fall in love. But how a princess who had no gravity could fall into anything is a difficulty–perhaps THE difficulty. As for her own feelings on the subject, she did not even know that there was such a beehive of honey and stings to be fallen into. But now I come to mention another curious fact about her.

The palace was built on the shores of the loveliest lake in the world, and the princess loved this lake more than father or mother. The root of this preference no doubt, although the princess did not recognise it as such, was, that the moment she got into it, she recovered the natural right of which she had been so wickedly deprived–namely, gravity.

Whether this was owing to the fact that water had been employed as the means of conveying the injury, I do not know. But it is certain that she could swim and dive like the duck that her old nurse said she was.

~ George MacDonald
from Ch. 8 “Try a Drop of Water”
of The Light Princess

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The Prince’s Song

“As a world that has no well,
Darting bright in forest dell;
As a world without the gleam
Of the downward-going stream;
As a world without the glance
Of the ocean’s fair expanse;
As a world where never rain
Glittered on the sunny plain;
Such, my heart, thy world would be,
if no love did flow in thee.

As a world without the sound
Of the rivulets underground;
Or the bubbling of the spring
Out of darkness wandering;
Or the mighty rush and flowing
Of the river’s downward going;
Or the music-showers that drop
On the outspread beech’s top;
Or the ocean’s mighty voice,
When his lifted waves rejoice;
Such, my soul, thy world would be,
if no love did sing in thee.

Lady, keep thy world’s delight;
Keep the waters in thy sight.
Love hath made me strong to go,
For thy sake, to realms below,
Where the water’s shine and hum
Through the darkness never come;
Let, I pray, one thought of me Spring,
a little well, in thee;
Lest thy loveless soul be found
Like a dry and thirsty ground.”

George MacDonald
from Ch. 14 “This is Very Kind of You”
of The Light Princess

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Illustrations by Dorothy Lathrop

p.s. Read the whole story:
GeorgeMacDonald-TheLightPrincess

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…as T.S. Eliot puts it:

Who then devised the torment? Love.

Love is the unfamiliar Name

behind the hands that wove

the intolerable shirt of flame

which human power cannot remove.

We only live, only suspire,

consumed either by fire or fire.

It takes great faith to open oneself to this purifying fire, to believe that it is the power of love. The extraordinary thing is that it is often imagined as a fire of roses. Eliot concludes Little Gidding, from which I have just quoted, with these lines:

When the tongues of flame are in-folded

into the crowned knot of fire

and the fire and the rose are one.

In The Princess and the Goblin, George MacDonald describes the fire of roses into which the princess must plunge her hands to be burned and purified. And Dante uses this metaphor in The Divine Comedy. Where did the fire of roses originate? I supsect it goes back beyond human memory.

Dare we open ourselves to this purifying fire … ?

Madeleine L’Engle
Walking on Water:
Reflections on Faith and Art
(1980, rpt. 2001)

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