(1908 - 2003)
Famous poets and poems
Nunca, nunca mais
Este momento, nunca mais
Esta lenta ondulação
Pela lisura da água,
Nunca mais estas
Nuvens brancas e cinzentas
Em céu exacto, cristalino,
Azul como o grito da andorinha
Agudo no ar leve,
Sal do oceano
E das flores doçura.
As longas histórias
De formas recorrentes
Que se encontram num ponto
E separam num momento,
As ondas velozes
Do vento e da água
E o ritmo mais lento
Da erosão da rocha
E do afundar da terra.
Em poceiras férteis
O ciclo de vida
Da alga castanha
De conchas diversas,
Cada qual com o seu próprio
Arco ou espiral
Tecido a partir de um ponto
Em tom ou meio tom
de uma oitava formal.
Aqui se elevam
As gaivotas brancas,
No ar sobre as ilhas,
Os barcos e a erva salgada,
Ganso e pato,
Maçarico e corvo marinho.
Cada qual um diferente
Modelo de êxtase
Repetindo-se em nódulos
Numa corrente transbordante,
A espécie perpétua,
Pela vontade de júbilo
Em ovos postos em segurança
Sobre escarpas perigosas.
O sol que nasce
Sobre uma terra
Põe-se sobre outra,
Depressa as flores
Crescem e minguam,
Alta e amarela, a íris
Desdobra a corola
Quando as primaveras murcham,
De fetos e mosquitos
Dançam por uma hora
No ar do entardecer,
A mariposa castanha
Emerge da sua ninfa
E os ossos da calhandra
Desmembram-se na erva.
O sol que hoje nasceu
Do mar de manhã
Pois a luz emitida
Que ilumina as folhas
E resplandece a água
Viajará esta noite
Na sua longa jornada
Para fora do universo,
Nunca mais este sol,
Este mundo, e nunca
Mais este observador.
Tradução de João Ferreira Duarte, em "LEITURAS poemas do inglês", Relógio de Água, 1993.
Never, never again
This moment, never
These slow ripples
Across smooth water,
Never again these
Clouds white and grey
In sky sharp crystalline
Blue as the tern's cry
Still in light air
Salt from the Ocean
Sweet from flowers.
The long histories
Of forms recurrent
That meet at a point
And part in a moment,
The rapid waves
Of wind and water
And slower rhythm
Of rock weathering
And land sinking.
In teeming pools
The life cycle
Of brown weed
Of diverse shells
Each with its variant
Arc or spiral
Spun from a point
In tone and semitone
Of formal octave.
Here come soaring
In air over islands
Sea pinks and salt grass,
Gannet and eider,
Curlew and cormorant
Each a differing
Pattern of ecstasy
Recurring at nodes
In an on-flowing current,
The perpetual species,
By the will of joy
In eggs lodged safe
On perilous ledges.
The sun that rises
Upon one earth
Sets on another,
Swiftly the flowers
Are waxing and waning,
The tall yellow iris
Unfold its corolla
As primroses wither,
Scrolls of fern
Unroll and midges
Dance for an hour
In the evening air,
The brown moth
From its pupa emerges
And the lark’s bones
Fall apart in the grass.
The sun that rose
From the sea this morning
Will never return,
For the broadcast light
That brightens the leaves
And glances on water
Will travel tonight
On its long journey
Out of the universe,
Never this sun,
This world, and never
Again this watcher.
Então o céu falou-me numa linguagem clara,
familiar como o coração, mais clara do que o amor mais próximo.
O céu disse à minha alma: «Tens o que desejas!
Sabe agora que nasces juntamente com estas
nuvens, ventos, e estrelas, e mares sempre em movimento,
e habitantes das florestas. Esta é a tua natureza.
Levanta outra vez o teu coração, sem medo,
dorme no túmulo ou respira o ar da vida,
com a flor e o tigre este mundo partilharás.
Then the sky spoke to me
in language clear,
ESE verde jardín, esas rosas
terrores de tormenta,
terrores de fuegos,
terrores de mares.
Cada hoja de hierba
revela y vela
terrores de fuego,
terrores de agua,
terrores de sueño,
terrores de rosas.
Traducción de Clara Janés
THIS green garden, these roses,
Terrors of storm,
Terrors of fires,
Terrors of seas.
Each blade of grass
Reveals and veils
Terrors of fire,
Terrors of waters,
Terrors of dream,
Terrors of roses.
Purifica mi pena,
Lluvia que lloras,
Sobre países donde se ignora
De qué corazón corren las lágrimas del mundo.
Mi pena, rayos radiantes
De la luz del sol que se aleja para siempre
De aquí y ahora, donde yazgo.
La pena del corazón en el polvo, en la tumba
Y el surco donde se siembra el trigo
Fin y principio.
Purificadora yo clamo
Con el soplo de los vivos,
Tan alto como la desesperación, o bajo
Como un suspiro, voz
Del aire, de los vientos
Que para siempre suena
En la euritmia de los astros.
Traducción de Clara Janés
Purity my sorrow,
Clouds that blow
Away over countries where none know
From whose heart world’s tears flow.
My sorrow, bright beams
Of the sun’s light that travels for ever away
From here and now, where I lie.
Heart’s sorrow in the dust, in the grave
And furrow where the corn is sown,
End and beginning.
Purifier I cry
With the breath of the living,
Loud as despair, or low
As a sigh, voice
Of the air, of the winds
That sound for ever in the harmony of the stars.
Traducción de José F. Arroyo
flower, the leaf, the meadow and the tree
the swift, the martin and the wren,
doves, the rainbow, echo, and the wind,
know he spoke the word that sings its way
engraved in the bone, that burns within
living I shall never hear again,
Dentro de la flor
yace una semilla
Dentro del anillo
yace una O
En el pájaro late
Oh, amor, mi amor,
florece un mundo
A Spell For Creation
my way, devious in its weaving
Suivant le fil de mon chemin, tissant son tracé tortueux
In a dream,
Yet by that
unknown knower I am known
En rêve, une
ce connaisseur inconnu je suis connue
loin du chemin,
vous vous êtes rapproché, récemment,
Ou est-ce moi,
Tardivement, qui reviens,
Approchant de la fin de mon temps ?
J'ai vécu toute une vie
Mes travaux et mes jours avec amis et étrangers,
Maintenant ces liens
Qu'eux et moi avons tissés
Ne me retiennent plus, seule,
Devoirs, achevés ou inachevés, oubliés.
Avec quelle facilité le temps d'une vie se dissipe
Et je reste libre,
Maintenant, de nouveau, comme alors.
Compagnon invisible, éternellement jeune,
Où tu veux, au-delà des souvenirs,
Au-delà des jours passés et des maisons disparues,
Visages rappelés et oubliés.
Ici n'est pas ma demeure, ni moi ceci.
Les 3 derniers poèmes du livre La Présence, Poèmes, Édition bilingue. Traduit de l’anglais par Philippe Giraudon. Verdier, 2003, 160 pages ISBN : 2-86432-387-7
LIGHT OVER WATER
Myriad instantaneous alighting
raindrops on a stream
Old, I know
had meant to write a different poem,
I think, it will soon be time
Published: 16 October 2012
Poem of the Week: “The Virgin”
by Kathleen Raine; introduced by Andrew McCulloch
Kathleen Raine (1912–2003), along with her contemporaries Anne Ridler and E. J. Scovell, was one of a trio of essentially sacramental poets who began to publish during the war. It is not hard to see why, under the circumstances, their verse – often strongly reminiscent of seventeenth-century devotional poets such as Thomas Traherne and George Herbert – was so popular. A review of Raine’s debut collection Stone and Flower (1943) found “a livingness, in which the seen and the unseen embrace, that is like a spring of refreshment in a parched time”. But Raine’s spiritual outlook was one with her view of poetry. For her, poetry and religion were the same thing, a point she makes in her collection of critical essays Defending Ancient Springs (1968) where she argues that the symbolic tradition, which began in the Middle Ages and was given “a new lease of literary life by Blake and Yeats”, was the only way out of what she saw as an increasingly profane, positivist world. In Four Quartets, T. S. Eliot put the world of imagination at “the point of intersection of the timeless with time”: for Raine it lay outside history altogether.
Her scientific training, however – she read Natural Sciences at Cambridge – also gave her a very precise understanding of our position in the universe. Her poetry may acknowledge both the visions of Blake and the emotional logic of Donne but, as a review of her Collected Poems (1956) put it, we see her own Platonic reflections always “in the sombre waters of the temporal world”. In “The Virgin”, for example, Raine weaves together in lines of flawless beauty the seen and the unseen, time and timelessness. In its gently gliding vowels, its maternal, reverent whispers, its exquisitely controlled rhythms swelling with love and sadness, a lullaby becomes a prayer; human love becomes divine.
The mother-virgin’s eyes are myrtle-leaves, With all its noon and evening shades.The garden has gathered in her peace
In her walks of thought, the doves Let fall their petals on untrodden grass.And sparrows feed; the trees
In her untroubled rest He may sleep safe among the evergreens, May look into her deep regardAnd see in mirrored skies his mirrored face.
It scarcely seems that he has come Into another mode of being. Her mind’s unopened book of hours Does not disturb eternity with time, And in the maiden’s lap, how guess The king betrayed under the olive-trees?The midnight of unanswered prayer,
And yet, she knows: the book is closed Because she wills it so. But holds the present, future and the past Outside the enfolding mantle of love’s Now.She knows, unread, all that is written there,
KATHLEEN RAINE (1951)
Singular poet who stood as a witness to spiritual values in an age that rejected them
Tuesday July 8, 2003
Kathleen Raine, who has died aged 95, was a poet who believed in the sacred nature of all life, all true art and wisdom, and her own calling. She knew as a small child that poetry was her vocation.
William Blake was her master, and she shared his belief that "one power alone makes a poet - imagination, the divine vision". As WB Yeats, her other great exemplar, put it, "poetry and religion are the same thing". To this vision she committed not only her poetry and erudition, but her whole life. She stood as a witness to spiritual values in a society that rejected them.
By the end, she inspired many kindred thinkers, including the Prince of Wales, whom she met through her friend Laurens van der Post. "I thought, that poor young man - anything I can do for him, I will do, because he is very lonely," she said of their first contact. In his turn, Prince Charles gave her vital support through his patronage of the Temenos Academy of Integral Studies, which she founded in London in 1990 as a new "school of wisdom".
Although Kathleen had a Christian upbringing and became a Roman Catholic in the 1940s - a decision she later admitted was a mistake - her spirit was more at home in the eastern traditions and the world view of Plato, Plotinus and the 18th-century English Platonist Thomas Taylor, on all of whom she produced scholarly studies. She drew Jungian psychology into her poetic vision of the divinity manifest in nature and the cosmos, and the "perennial wisdom" and spiritual symbols common to all religions, peoples and times.
These enthusiasms did not make her popular in her own culture, whose scorn she robustly reciprocated. She minded that Roy Fuller was preferred to herself as Edmund Blunden's successor for the Oxford poetry chair in 1968. In 1991, she declined the Royal Society of Literature's companionship of literature when she realised it had already been given to Anthony Burgess and Iris Murdoch, whom she dismissed as journalists.
But she received the Queen's gold medal for poetry in 1992, by which time she had won warm recognition in France, the United States and India. Three years ago came the CBE and the Commandeur de L'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.
As a young poet, she longed to be published by TS Eliot at Faber, but in vain. Decades later, the daughter of her beloved Yeats told her that "Tom" had first told "WBY" (as Anne Yeats called her father) to read Kathleen Raine's poems. When she no longer bothered about such things, "I received Eliot's posthumous acceptance, with Yeats's also." It was the Sri Lankan, Tambimutto, who published her first book of poems, Stone And Flower, in 1943, with illustrations by Barbara Hepworth; he never ceased to see greatness in her work.
Kathleen's life had its pleasures, but much pain. She was beautiful and intelligent, and knew the passions of the heart and body as well as the immortal longings of the soul. At Cambridge, a group of young men hung around simply to catch sight of her. There were love affairs, marriages, partings.
After her greatest love - for the naturalist Gavin Maxwell, author of Ring Of Bright Water - proved disastrous, she renounced personal emotions, and judged her own part in these dramas with ruthless severity. Threads of sorrow, regret and loneliness run through her four volumes of autobiography, as well as through her poetry. Among the unpublished poems she chose for her last collection of poems (in 2000) were the lines: "Being what I am/ What could I do but wrong?"
She was an adored only child; a photograph of her at eight shows a ravishing girl with grave eyes and long, light brown hair. Her Scottish mother, Jessie, sang her the border ballads and wrote down her poems before she could hold a pencil herself. Her father, George, a miner's son, went to Durham University, and became an English teacher and Methodist lay preacher.
Though she was born in London, during the first world war she lived in Bavington, a Northumbrian hamlet, where she was "Kathie", a country child. For the rest of her life, this became her touchstone of wild beauty, simplicity and innocence; everywhere she went, she sought what she had known and lost there.
The family was close and happy, proudly nurturing Kathie's exceptional gifts - until a former pupil of her father's fell in love with her, aged 14. When her father found out, he forbade the relationship. Not long afterwards, when the family were in France visiting a friend of her father's, a man of learning and culture, he, too, fell in love with her. Again, her father intervened.
It took Kathleen much of her life to forgive her parents for these traumas. When she did, realising the depth of their love for her - and hers for them - it was even harder for her to bear the memory of her own cruelty towards them, a rejection at the same pitch of harshness with which, she felt, they had devastated her youth. "I set out in a dream/ To go away -/ Away is hard to go, but no one/ Asked me to stay/ And there is no destination for away," she wrote.
With a scholarship to Girton College, Cambridge, from Ilford county high school, she read natural sciences and psychology, rather than the English literature she already knew well. William Empson published her poems in the magazine Experiment. Later, she suspected it was because he had found her pretty.
Later, in old age, she admitted her shame to have fallen for the nihilism, atheism and cleverness of Cambridge. But her father's "blasting of first love", she wrote, had "cut something from my soul". With her first paradise of Northumberland lost, she saw Ilford, where her family settled, lose its idyllic countryside to the suburbia she loathed.
After Cambridge, Kathleen married: because, as she admitted in her autobiography, she had no idea what else to do. The marriage - to Hugh Sykes Davies - failed; she eloped with Charles Madge (obituary, January 24 1996), who conceived Mass Observation, and with whom she had a son, James, and daughter, Anna. But she left this marriage, too, caught in a sensual passion for a man who did not care for her.
The love of her life was the homosexual Gavin Maxwell. She believed they shared all she held dearest in life. His grandfather was the Duke of Northumberland; her grandmother had sat behind his in Kielder Kirk, "admiring her coils of shining hair". He and Kathleen were at one in their love for that place, for his hut at Sandaig on the west Highland coast, and for Mijbil, the otter he had brought from the Euphrates. But the relationship was doomed.
Once, at his request, they shared a bed, without sexual contact. "Every night of my life, since then, I have spent alone," she wrote in The Lion's Mouth (1977), her third volume of autobiography. In it, she tells their story with surgical honesty, not avoiding what she came to see as her most terrible act, the words she spoke in her despair by the rowan tree on Sandaig that had symbolised for her the eternal quality of their bond: "Let Gavin suffer in this place, as I am suffering now."
Maxwell's beloved Mij was killed, for which Kathleen blamed her negligence; his house on Sandaig burned down. He endured other losses and failures, and died prematurely of cancer in 1969.
The agony that Kathleen Raine underwent thereafter, expressed in her poetry and prose, seems never wholly to have expiated her guilt for a curse that so rebounded on herself. As a woman, she reviled herself as loveless and destructive of other lives; as a poet, she castigated herself for not writing more, or better - for neglecting her daimon, as she called her gift and source. "Sin of omission: as women/ Withhold love, so I poetry," as one poem begins.
Yet she kept faith with her vocation, producing more than a dozen books of poetry in six decades. She visited India for the first time in her 70s, and felt she had come home. She grew closer to her children, whose lives she thought she had ruined, her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. All but one grandchild survive her.
In 1980, her life took a new turning. With a group of like-minded artists and writers, she launched Temenos - "a review devoted to the arts of the imagination" - with its first issue offering contributions from fellow poets David Gascoyne, Peter Redgrove and Vernon Watkins, and the visionary artist Cecil Collins, as well as herself. The editors of Temenos (the word means the sacred area around a temple) declared that "the intimate link between the arts and the sacred" had fired imaginative creation in almost all human societies, except our own. Temenos aimed to challenge this "deviation" in the arts of its time.
It did so at an unpropitious moment, the start of the 1980s, a decade that epitomised all that Temenos opposed - secularism, materialism, a popularised culture and press, and Margaret Thatcher's denial of the very existence of "society". Yet in the 1990s a tide turned. At the Temenos Academy, Kathleen presided over discussions and lectures by scientists, ecologists and economists, as well as scholars, writers and artists from both east and west.
When asked how she wished people to remember her, Kathleen Raine said she would rather they didn't. Or that Blake's words be said of her: "That in time of trouble, I kept the divine vision". Better to be a sprat in that "true ocean", she believed, than a big fish in a literary rock pool.
Kathleen Jessie Raine, poet, born June 14 1908; died July 6 2003
Kathleen Raine, the poet and scholar who died on Sunday aged 95, was one of the last writers whose philosophy had been forged in the cauldron of the late 1920s and early 1930s; but unlike such politicised contemporaries as Wystan Auden and Stephen Spender, she wrote in the romantic, visionary tradition of John Clare, Blake and Yeats, which valued above all things nature and the power of the imagination.
She had high-minded tastes, among them for such disciplines as neo-Platonism and Jungian psychology, and lamented what she described as the materialistic sensibility of the modern public. "For most people today," she said in 1992, "to say one has seen sublime or beautiful things is seen as some sort of hypocritical self-aggrandisement, even though it is only in moments when we transcend ourselves that we can know anything of value."
This remark was characteristic of the theme to which she returned again and again in her poetry, and which she outlined in her first volume of autobiography, Farewell Happy Fields (1973).
For Kathleen Raine, mankind is born out of immortality into a world of pain; for a few years in childhood we retain the key to a "lost Eden", but soon the world closes in, exiling us from Paradise, as we become forgetful of that pre-natal bliss. Her verse, inspired by "visions of a land I have glimpsed but never really known", was a striving for escape from the "sick soul of the age".
Kathleen Raine passed much of her life in hand-wringing dismay at the febrility of the world in which she had to live. This could be a comforting position, not least as a means of explaining away personal disappointments, including her failure to gain the Oxford Chair of Poetry in 1968. The post went to Roy Fuller, whom Raine held in hearty contempt - "he's no poet".
Her triumphs, however, were many. In 1972 she won the W H Smith literary award for The Lost Country, a collection of impressively grave, stately verse which sought to unravel her dreams and the "spiritual mysteries" present in a pre-Beveridge world of big houses and undeveloped landscapes. In 1984 she was tipped to become Poet Laureate, and in 1992 was awarded the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry. She was also much feted in France.
But Kathleen Raine remained defiantly unmoved by peer flattery. In 1991 she refused an offer from the Royal Society of Literature (of which she was a Fellow) of appointment as one of its 10 Companions of Literature. "I looked at the others who hold this rather trivial and fairly meaningless honour - Iris Murdoch, Anthony Burgess and the like - and I thought, but these are journalists."
Such hubris was typical of Kathleen Raine, who was a curious mixture of courtesy, arrogance, modesty and naivety. "I regard myself as a minimal poet," she once remarked, "but though I am a sprat I swim in the ocean. Most writers are fishes in rock-pools." Her status as a sprat, it seemed, was partly the fault of her sex. "If women had had it in their nature," she memorably declared, "nothing would have stopped them from writing the works of Plato, or Dante, or Shakespeare. . . These things are sex-linked, they are characteristics like beards, and they belong to men."
Thus, for her part, she found poetry incompatible with the demands of marriage and motherhood. "I have not fulfilled the true tasks of a woman," she would say, "either as a daughter, a spouse or a mother, and that is the price of being Kathleen Raine."
Kathleen Jessie Raine was born at Ilford on June 14 1908. An only child, her father was a schoolmaster and Methodist lay preacher, and it was her mother who encouraged her taste for poetry.
She grew up in Ilford, then an Essex town gradually being encroached upon by suburbia, but spent part of her early childhood with an aunt at Bavington, Northumberland. There she fell under nature's spell, and as a small girl would sit on a favourite rock, watching the moors "in a kind of religious ecstasy". By contrast with Bavington - "a place of perfect happiness" - Ilford encapsulated all that was drab and artificial.
She was educated at Highlands Elementary School and, in 1926, won a scholarship to read Natural Sciences at Girton College, Cambridge. Despite her interest in science, she had already decided that her vocation was that of the poet, and at the university she joyfully threw off the shackles of her puritanical childhood.
Hers was the Cambridge of Rosamond Lehmann's Dusty Answer, published the year she went up and the emotional entanglements of which, she tactlessly told Girton's Mistress, gave a true picture of College life.
Among her contemporaries were Steven Runciman and Anthony Blunt, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Malcolm Lowry, William Empson and Jacob Bronowski. Kathleen Raine was accounted a great beauty, and though a failed early love affair would ultimately reveal that she had little capacity for sustaining relationships, she embraced the opportunities Cambridge afforded for making friends of both sexes.
By the time she came to leave, though, having taken a Third in Psychology, Cambridge had become a disappointment. She found depressing the prevailing emphasis on rational thought rather than on feeling. For her, cerebralism denied "the sacred springs of life, which are the imagination and the heart".
Thus, while her friends became involved in the struggles and philosophies of the Left, she turned instead to the mystical, exploring Celtic culture, astronomy and magic. "I wanted," she said, "to get away from the Sherlock Holmes misconception that everything has a rational explanation."
She despaired of the prospect of a return to Ilford, and having been turned down by Virginia Woolf for a job at the Hogarth Press, after Cambridge she hastily married Hugh Sykes Davies, a cousin of Herbert Read. Then, just as quickly, she eloped with Charles Madge, the poet and later co-founder of Mass-Observation.
They had a son and a daughter, but before long Kathleen Raine had left Madge too, unable to reconcile herself to motherhood. The marriage was later dissolved.
During the war, helped by her friends Janet Adam Smith (then assistant editor of The Listener) and the poet Michael Roberts, she went to live at Martindale, near Penrith, where she began to write and became friends with Winifred Nicholson. In 1941 she became a Roman Catholic.
Having left her children with friends in the North, she then returned to London in the middle of the war, and through Sonia Brownell (who lived in the adjoining room in her boarding house) had a number of articles accepted by Horizon.
She soon came to know the extraordinary James Meary Tambimuttu, the bohemian Ceylonese publisher known by his friends as Tambi, by his foes as Tuttifrutti. In 1943 his imprint Poetry London published her first volume of verse, Stone and Flower, and in 1945 her second, Living in Time. These, and The Pythoness (1949), were widely praised; Yeats, on Eliot's advice, read and admired the poems.
By now Kathleen Raine had established herself in Paultons Square, off the King's Road in Chelsea. There in 1949, through Tambimuttu, she met the man who was to be the love of her life, Gavin Maxwell.
Although later celebrated as the author of Ring of Bright Water, in 1949 Maxwell was a struggling painter and failed shark farmer. Although he was essentially homosexual, Kathleen Raine formed an instant and intense affinity with someone for whom, like her, nature had a mystical importance. She gave herself utterly to him; the bond was strengthened still further when she discovered that Maxwell's grandfather was the Duke of Northumberland and owned the waters where she had fished as a child.
Moreover, like her mother's family, Maxwell was Scottish. "Gavin was native of my paradise," she wrote. "He belonged to my own people in the country lost before I was born."
Despite a series of tempestuous rows, their relationship (passionate, though never physically consummated) lasted for seven years, and the landscape around Maxwell's house at Sandaig, on the coast of Wester Ross, inspired many of Kathleen Raine's poems. From one, The Marriage of Psyche (1952), was taken the title of Maxwell's best-known book - "He has married me with a ring, a ring of bright water/ whose ripples travel from the heart of the sea . . . "
Their relationship burnt itself out, however. Banished from the house during a raging storm in 1956, a weeping Kathleen Raine cursed Maxwell under a rowan tree: "Let Gavin suffer in this place as I am suffering now." Within the next few years his pet otter was killed by a workman, his house was destroyed by fire, and he himself was diagnosed with terminal cancer.
Kathleen Raine, meanwhile, retreated into scholarship. For five years, from 1954, she was a Research Fellow at Girton, concentrating her studies on Yeats, Coleridge, Hopkins and, in particular, Blake. Learned, original books, exploring Blake's dependence on neo-Platonism, now streamed from her pen: Blake and Tradition (her Andrew Mellon lectures at Washington University, published in two volumes in 1968-69); William Blake (1970); From Blake to a Vision (1979); and Blake and the New Age (1979).
Eventually, too, her poetic inspiration returned, witnessed by such volumes of verse as The Oval Portrait (1977), The Oracle in the Heart (1979) and Living With Mystery (1992).
She never really recovered from her break-up with Maxwell, though, and latterly, dogged by bouts of depression and self-loathing, was prone to declare that her life had been useless. It was not until her ninth decade, when the Prince of Wales invited her to set up the Temenos Academy, devoted to "the Arts of the Imagination", that she regained something of the happiness of her earliest years.
The Prince recognised Kathleen Raine as a soul mate after reading copies of her journal Temenos, and urged her to take rooms in his Institute of Architecture in Regent's Park to establish a school based, in Raine's words, "on truth, beauty and goodness". For her part she felt protective of the Prince: "When I saw him, I thought that poor young man, anything I can do for him I will, because he is very lonely."
She also had a romantic belief in the authority of royalty: "Nobody pays any attention to what I say, but if the heir to the throne is behind me, people will have to listen."
Kathleen Raine was always ready to help younger poets, although she could be austere and never minced her words. When she won the W H Smith prize, she was presented by the firm's chairman, Sir Charles Troughton, with a new and much-praised anthology of English verse.
"I'm sure you think highly of this," said Troughton as he handed her the book. "I don't think highly of it at all," bridled Kathleen Raine. "The compiler has been lazy, slovenly and a copyist. Still, it was a nice thought on your part."
Besides Farewell Happy Fields, she published two other daunting autobiographies, The Land Unknown (1975) and The Lion's Mouth (1977).
She was appointed CBE in 2000, and in the same year France appointed her a Commander of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.
In the last poem of The Lost Country, published in 1971, Kathleen Raine described how some years ago an unknown voice had told her in a dream: "You have only 100 months to live." She took this tip seriously, and seemed almost irritated when she survived her designated appointment with Death.
Collected Poems by Kathleen Raine
By Philip Larkin
Thursday August 16, 1956
For nearly twenty years Miss Kathleen Raine has sought to express in her poetry abstract themes fundamental to man and his position in the universe -the unity of creation, the conflict of spirit and selfhood - and the publication of her Collected Poems demonstrates how far the height and intensity of this purpose set her apart from her contemporaries. I can think of few recent poems as free from jargon, vulgarity, and smartness as those in this book. Her work lacks every quality traditionally associated with the title "poetess": there is no domesticity, no cosiness, and "love poems of a personal nature," the introduction tells us, "have also gone." What remains is the vatic and the universal. The visible world exists, but only as
being that I cannot know
In other form than stars and stones and trees.
And everything she considers is pressed into its place in the eternal pattern:
sweet-eyed, unregarding beasts
Waking and sleeping wear the natural grace
The innocent order of the stars and tides
An impulse in the bloodstream circulates.
There is no doubt that the quality of these preoccupations and the pure underivative language in which they are expressed have resulted in some very fine poems ("Shells," "The Invisible Spectrum," "Air") which prove Miss Raine to be one of the most serious living English poets - serious, that is, in the sense of utter devotion to her vision.
But I think it
is arguable that she has not so far written the poems she will be known by.
Perhaps the poetry of abstract vision carries a high failure-rate simply because
the reader can come so little of the way to meet it: certainly I find Miss
Raine's impact greatest when she writes most simply (as in the haunting group of
"spells," whose rhythms recall old Celtic folk-poetry), and it may be that the
way forward for a talent of this order lies, paradoxically, in a cruder, more
strongly marked mode of expression. But this collection makes it clear that the
distance Miss Raine has already travelled is sufficient to earn the honour and
gratitude of her age.
Spirituality & Health
Book Review by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
The Collected Poems of Kathleen Raine
Counterpoint 03/01 Hardcover $30.00
Kathleen Raine is a poet and a scholar. She has written extensively on William Blake and W. B. Yeats. A great believer in the importance of the imagination, Raine founded the Temenos Academy where the emphasis is upon pioneering an education grounded in perennial wisdom.
The author chose these poems during her 92nd year. She drew upon eleven published collections of her poetry, from the first volume in 1943 until the most recent in 1992, and from other unpublished and uncollected works. Known for her mystical poetry, Raine probes the enchantments of the physical universe and the beauty of the soul. She believes that poetry and religion mine the same territory and that long looking is integral to both.
Raine's visionary poetry contains many Christian images and themes. Check out "See, See Christ's Blood Streams in the Firmament," "Four Poems of Mary Magdalene," "Word Made Flesh," and "After Hearing a Recording of Music by Hildegard of Bingen." In all of these, the touch is light rather than ponderous.
Raine has a lovely reverence for the natural world and all its startling beauties. She also has a deep respect for the spirit world as demonstrated in "The Company" where she communes with "Living presences, invisible essences, / Each centered in its own peculiar secret joy."
Two of my favorites are "Harvest of Learning" and "Soliloquies." In the first Raines celebrates all she has assimilated through nature and book knowledge and in the second, the poet marvels at the intertwining of light and shadow in a wide world of wonders. There are many other delights to be found on these pages including winsome poems about birds, love, dreams, old age, and death.