Unearthing the Hidden Sage

a photo of George MacDonald

Let me introduce through the aging pages of literature, and poetic fantasy to one of the hidden sages of our time, George MacDonald (1824-1905). This is another man that no matter what we believe personally, we can learn to glean from for wisdom and richness of language and life. George was a Scottish native (HuntlyAberdeenshire, Scotland) and lived in England throughout his life.  “It was C. S. Lewis who 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.’ ” Here is a man who was a father,  who lived from the heart and spirit of God. This man’s works like Diary of an Old Soul, Phantasees, Sir Gibbie, and At the Back of the North Wind create a open door for readers to walk in through to explore the treasures of the imagination. He is considered the father of fantasy and his words will take you into the childlikeness that sees into the heavenly realm as only the imagination can. These aging writings connect us to the human condition with joy, and compassion, and inspire us to laugh, cry and smile from a depth of being that we have yet to experience.

Let’s pop the cork off these treasured writings and drink in wisdom, and the richness of a man who lived so deeply connected to the fullness of life.

Treasures from Sir Gibbie (Sir Gibbie is an 1879 novel. It is notable for its Doric dialogue, and shares the story of one remarkable young man who was born into rags but lived from the riches of life):

“Between the gables of two houses, a ray fell upon the pavement and the gutter. It lay there a very type of purity, so pure that, rest where it might, it destroyed every shadow of defilement that sought to mingle with it. […] The sunbeams he (Gibbie) sought came down through the smoky air like a Jacob’s ladder, and he stood at the foot of it like  a little prodigal angel that wanted to go home again, but feared it was too much inclined for him to manage the ascent in the present condition of his wings.”

“The floor was of flags, fresh sanded; the counter was of deal, scrubbed as white almost as flour; on the shelves where heaped the loaves of  the morning’s baking, along with a large store of scones and rolls and baps–the last, tje best  bread in the world–bisquits hard and soft, and those brown discs of delicate flaky pie-crust known as buns. And the smell that came through the very glass, it seemed to the child (Gibbie), was as that of the tree of life in the Paradise of which he had never heard.”

“There is at least one powerful bond, thought it may not always awake sympathy, between mudlark and monarch–that of hunger. No one has yet written the poetry of hunger–has built up in verse its stairs of grand ascent–from such hunger as Gibbie’s for a penny-loaf-up–no, no not to an alderman’s fest; that is the way down the mouldy cellar-stair-but up the white marble scale to the hunger after righteousness whose very longings are bliss.”

“The sun was hot for an hour or two in the middle of the day, but even then in the shadow dwelt a cold breathe–of the winter, or of death–of something that humanity felt unfriendly. To Gibbie, however, bare-legged, bare-footed, almost bare-bodied as he was, sun or shadow made small difference, except as one of the musical intervals of life that make the melody of existence…Hardy through hardship, he knew nothing better than a constant good-humored sparring with nature and circumstance for the privilege of being, enjoyed what came to him thoroughly, never mourned over what he had not, and, like the animals, was at peace. For the bliss of the animals lies in this, that, on their lower level, they shadow the bliss of those–few at any moment on the earth–who do not “look before and after, and pine for what is not,” but live in the holy carelessness of the eternal now.”

“Even the poet, greatly wise in virtue of his sympathy, will scarcely understand a given human condition so well as the man whose vital tentacles have been in contact with it for years.”

George MacdonaldHere are links to  free online readings of Sir Gibbie and Diary of an Old Soul and Phantasees although I recommend getting your hands on the old copies of these books, pure ecstasy holding them, reading them, and drinking them in! (Read more on George and his novel Sir Gibbie in the comment section below).

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3 Responses to “Unearthing the Hidden Sage”
  1. Here’s bit from wikipedia:

    George Mac­Don­ald (10 Decem­ber 1824 – 18 Sep­tem­ber 1905) was a Scot­tish author, poet, and Chris­t­ian minister.

    Known par­tic­u­larly for his poignant fairy tales and fan­tasy nov­els, George Mac­Don­ald inspired many authors, such as W. H. Auden, J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, E. Nes­bit and Madeleine L’Engle.[1] … G. K. Chester­ton cited The Princess and the Gob­lin as a book that had “made a dif­fer­ence to my whole existence.”

    Eliz­a­beth Yates wrote of Sir Gib­bie, “It moved me the way books did when, as a child, the great gates of lit­er­a­ture began to open and first encoun­ters with noble thoughts and utter­ances were unspeak­ably thrilling.“[2]

    Mac­Don­ald also served as a men­tor to Lewis Car­roll (the pen-name of Rev. Charles Lutwidge Dodg­son); it was MacDonald’s advice, and the enthu­si­as­tic recep­tion of Alice by MacDonald’s many sons and daugh­ters, that con­vinced Car­roll to sub­mit Alice for publication.

    Even Mark Twain, who ini­tially dis­liked Mac­Don­ald, became friends with him, and there is some evi­dence that Twain was influ­enced by MacDonald.[3]

  2. A bit on the novel Sir Gib­bie: “Scot­tish author George Mac­Don­ald wrote Sir Gib­bie in 1879, and though the novel is less well-known than his pop­u­lar fan­tasy sto­ries Lil­lith and Phan­tases, it is cited as his best work by many fans. Mac­Don­ald was an inspi­ra­tion for writer of children’s fic­tion such as C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkein, Made­line L’Engle, Lewis Car­roll, and even Mark Twain. Lovers of Nar­nia and Alice will appre­ci­ate the gen­uine char­ac­ters and moral lessons of Sir Gib­bie, a com­pelling story of an impov­er­ished, mute boy in Scot­land. Raised by an abu­sive and alco­holic father, Gib­bie is a kind-hearted young­ster handed a tough lot. He copes beau­ti­fully, though, with help from his friend Janet, and in the end per­forms an act of gen­uine for­give­ness. Sir Gib­bie will expose chil­dren (and par­ents) to the cru­elty of the world while simul­ta­ne­ously pre­sent­ing them with a role model of mercy and grace. This pow­er­ful book is con­sid­ered by many a great lit­er­ary tri­umph and a pow­er­ful exam­ple of a heroic char­ac­ter who is truly good.” Writ­ten by Abby Zwart CCEL Staff Writer.

  3. what Sages are you gleaning from?

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