Christine Norvell recently wrote an essay about one of George MacDonald’s novels that I’ve not read, Sir Gibbie:
Sometimes you read a book that causes you to marvel at the possibility of goodness in our human frame. As I reread George MacDonald’s Sir Gibbie (1879), I was filled with questions, the same questions I’m sure that prompted C.S. Lewis to call the novel a fantasy. In his Preface to George MacDonald: An Anthology, Lewis termed MacDonald’s novels “a rich crop,” yet at the same time writes that “none is very good.” He felt “they are best when they depart most from the canons of novel writing… to come nearer to fantasy, as in the whole character of the hero in Sir Gibbie.”
I think this book would make a nice gift for young readers, especially the recent translation from the Scots by David Jack. I love that the original dialogue is given in double column format with the English translation to the side. (You can read about it here)
And you may enjoy hearing David Jack’s “Scottish burr” as he reads one of MacDonald’s poems, “Godly Ballant IV”.
The Lord is my Shepherd in nocht am I wantin’
In the haugh’s green girse does He mak me lie doon
While mony puir straiglers are bleatin’ and pantin’
By saft-flowin’ burnies He leads me at noon.
When aince I had strayed far awa in the bracken,
And daidled till gloamin’ cam ower a’ the hills,
Nae dribble o’ water my sair drooth to slacken,
And dark grow’d the nicht wi’ its haars and its chills.
Awa frae the fauld, strayin’ fit-sair and weary,
I thocht I had naethin’ tae dae but tae dee.
He socht me and fand me in mountain hechts dreary,
He gangs by fell paths which He kens best for me.
And noo, for His name’s sake, I’m dune wi’ a’ fearin’
Though cloods may aft gaither and soughin’ win’s blaw.
“Hoo this?” or “Hoo that?” — oh, prevent me frae spearin’
His will is aye best, and I daurna say “Na”.
The valley o’ death winna fleg me to thread it,
Through awfu’ the darkness, I weel can foresee.
Wi’ His rod and His staff He wull help me to tread it,
Then wull its shadows, sae gruesome, a’ flee.
Forfochen in presence o’ foes that surround me,
My Shepherd a table wi’ denties has spread.
The Thyme and the Myrtle blaw fragrant aroond me,
He brims a fu’ cup and poors oil on my head.
Surely guidness an’ mercy, despite a’ my roamin’
Wull gang wi’ me doon tae the brink o’ the river.
Ayont it nae mair o’ the eerie an’ gloamin’
I wull bide in the Hame o’ my Faither for ever.
Just like a morning
In May like this
See the heather on the hill
There’s a place way up
Where the world
Keeps standing still…
“Steal My Heart Away,” Van Morrison
I still hope to see Scotland someday, preferably when the heather is in bloom.