I sit o’ercanopied with Beauty’s tent,
Through which flies many a golden-winged dove,
Well watched of Fancy’s tender eyes up bent;
A hundred Powers wait on me, ministering;
A thousand treasures Art and Knowledge bring;
Will, Conscience, Reason tower the rest above;
But in the midst, alone, I gladness am and love.
‘Tis but a vision, Lord; I do not mean
That thus I am, or have one moment been—
‘Tis but a picture hung upon my wall,
To measure dull contentment therewithal,
And know behind the human how I fall—
A vision true, of what one day shall be,
When thou has had the very will with me.
–George MacDonald, Diary of an Old Soul
Okay, I admit I had to read both those poems several times before I even glimpsed what MacDonald was saying. Even now, having read them a dozen times or more, I feel like I’m still just glimpsing their meaning. But I keep rereading them because they paint a picture for me of what Charlotte Mason, my other 19th century sage, teaches.
Mason says that every person is born with vast though unrealized possibilities inherent within her. Our sacred duty is to actualize those capacities for greatness with which we have been born. God requires that we develop and use the gifts He has given, not for our own sakes but for the sake of the world He loves.
Many before me have realized their gifts and given them to the world, MacDonald and Mason among them. And so, “I sit o’ercanopied with Beauty’s tent.”
I am surrounded by beauty and riches. More: I am beauty and riches: “I gladness am and love.” Or I could be, were I not too often satisfied to be dull and apathetic and self-serving.
But why? Why choose dullness when I could be vibrant and passionate and loving? I think it’s largely because my vision is dulled. I see too much on the surface, accept the way things seem as the way things are and ever will be, world without end.
And that is why I am reading these poems again and again. They remind me that life is more than I think it is, deeper, truer, more beautiful, vaster, and more rife with possibility.
I want eyes to see beyond the surface. I want to see to the heart within, the possibility within, the gift within, so that I might realize those gifts and possibilities. Not for their own sake, nor for mine, but for the sake of the world.
I want MacDonald’s vision of wonder.
A Vision true of what one day shall be,
When thou hast had thy very will with me.
Florilegium comes from two Latin words, meaning flower (flor) and gather (legere). Legere is closely related to the Latin word for reading (lectio). So a florilegium is literally a gathering of the flowers of reading: a collation of the best words, the best books.
I hope you’ll come by every Friday to gaze on some beautiful heart-mind-and-soul flowers. (And stop in at Susan’s, too, for another bouquet).