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Tuesday, May 23, 2006

George MacDonald and Don Miller

I have been reading The Back of the North Wind, by George MacDonald, to my kids lately. While the main character, Diamond, is in the land at the back of the north wind; MacDonald starts to interrupt the story with song/poetry to describe what the river that flows there, sings.

I have been reading, for myself, Searching for God Knows What, by Don Miller. He has been talking about a dynamic he learned while taking a class from Dr. John Sailhamer. Dr. Sailhamer showed the class how Moses used poetry in his writing. He would be writing narrative and then suddenly break into poetry. Dr. Sailhamer said that "the way Moses wrote wasn't unlike the way people who write musicals stop the story every once in a while to break into song." Don Miller explains that poetry is used as a literary tool to help express the "emotions and situations and tensions that a human being feels in his life but can't explain."

I thought of George MacDonald. And then I remembered how the poetry he wrote in the story helped me to feel his meaning even though the words of poetry were like "nonsense" if my mind tried to understand them.

This is what George MacDonald writes through the voice of his narrator about these songs...

"Here Diamond became aware that his mother had stopped reading.
'Why don't you go on, mother dear?' he asked.
'It's such nonsense!' said his mother. 'I believe it would go on for ever.'
'That's just what it did,' said Diamond.
'What did?' she asked.
'Why, the river. That's almost the very tune it used to sing.'
His mother was frightened, for she thought the fever was coming on again. So she did not contradict him.
'Who made that poem?' asked Diamond.
'I don't know,' she answered. 'Some silly woman for her children, I suppose - and then thought it good enough to print.'
'She must have been at the back of the north wind some time or other, anyhow,' said Diamond. 'She couldn't have got a hold of it anywhere else. That's just how it went.' And he began to chant bits of it here and there; but his mother said nothing for fear of making him worse; and she was very glad indeed when she saw her brother-in-law jogging along in his little cart. They lifted Diamond in, and got up themselves, and away they went, 'home again, home again, home again,' as Diamond sang. But he soon grew quiet, and before they reached Sandwich he was fast asleep and dreaming of the country at the back of the north wind."

Diamond goes on to sing the song to help and comfort babies and people and help sustain their hope as things get harder in the story. It makes me think of how incredibly old Moses' words are and how his "song" is still reverberating and repeating to help sustain our hope to this day...

May we all listen and sing and fall fast asleep and dream of the country at the back of the north wind.


At 11:43 AM, Blogger julie said...

i find that so often, it is the non-sensical that speaks to my heart. analyzing kills the heart in so many things. routine needs to be broken on occasion. we need to remember to get off the road and wander along through the woods and prairies, seeing what we may, listening as we go.


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