I know George MacDonald as the author of various fantasy novels but didn’t realize that he also wrote poetry. Here’s a lovely sonnet about looking for God after suffering a crisis of faith. The poet doesn’t find his “friend” when he searches in the wilderness or in cities, in cathedrals or in charnel houses, in literature or the arts or learned books. Rather, he finds God when he has given up all hope, chancing upon Him the way one stumbles upon the song of a lark.
In a vision that owes a lot to George Herbert, the speaker finds God at the height of his crisis, “when I missed him most.” God, he discovers, is to be found in the frozen heart and in the dark soul.
Lost and Found
By George MacDonald
I missed him when the sun began to bend;
I found him not when I had lost his rim;
With many tears I went in search of him,
Climbing high mountains which did still ascend,
And gave me echoes when I called my friend;
Through cities vast and charnel houses grim,
And high cathedrals where the light was dim,
Through books and arts and works without an end,
But found him not–the friend whom I had lost.
And yet I found him–as I found the lark,
A sound in fields I heard but could not mark;
I found him nearest when I missed him most;
I found him in my heart, a life in frost,
A light I knew not till my soul was dark.