Cover image for The collected poems of Kathleen Raine.
The collected poems of Kathleen Raine.
Raine, Kathleen, 1908-2003.
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
Poems. Selections
Publication Information:
Washington, D.C. : Counterpoint, [2001]

Physical Description:
xvi, 368 pages ; 24 cm
Subject Term:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PR6035.A37 A6 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Since her first collection of poems published in 1943, Kathleen Raine has been writing a kind of mystical nature poetry all her own, a poetry immersed in the quiet air of solitude and imagination. Vita Sackville-West, writing in the Observer, spoke of her "curious purity": "Her poems are like drops of water, clear, self-contained, and sometimes iridescent with the elusive colors of mysticism". Collected Poems is the lifework of a visionary, a celebration of the miracles of nature and man's place among them. Now in her ninety-second year she has chosen this work from eleven published collections and from other uncollected and unpublished sources. The earliest poems were written in the mid-thirties, the latest in the late nineties.

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

Born in 1908, this serious and energetic British poet made her name in the Forties with ambitiously mystical verse much indebted to Dylan Thomas, William Blake and to South Asian religion. Since then, she has become known as a critic of Blake and of Yeats, and as the editor of her own Temenos Press. Now 92 years old, Raine (not to be confused with the better-known Craig Raine) has continued to publish one or two substantial volumes each decade, tirelessly devoted to more or less pantheistic or ecstatic mystical doctrines. Raine's early work and her late work, too can sound like a Blake pastiche, or like literal translations from the Sanskrit: "The center of the mandala is possibility/ Of incarnation " Nevertheless, her range and her craft expanded over the years. The '60s saw her take an interest in free verse and in natural landscapes, especially those of Italy and Scotland. On a Deserted Shore (1973) comprises 130 short numbered lyrics like this one: "Since smoke rose from your pyre/ All clouds are dear; but how/ Among those vague bright forms/ Yours shall I know?" These poems and others of the '70s and '80s come close to the mysticism of Yeats. While this book's inclusivity makes for off-putting repetition and far too many moments of bathos, Raine's work remains a sustained and honorable effort, and will certainly appeal to readers who seek seriousness of purpose in using poetry as a means of spiritual enlightenment. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



Chapter One LYRIC A bird sings on a matin tree `Once such a bird was I.' The sky's gaze says `Remember your mother.' Seas, trees and voices cry `Nature is your nature.' I reply `I am what is not what it was.' Seas, trees, and bird, alas! Sea, tree, and bird was I. 'SEE, SEE CHRIST'S BLOOD STREAMS           IN THE FIRMAMENT' This planetary blood Streams crucifixion In the space of bounded life's Attraction and repulsion Widening on the rude Improvisation that the senses build Staking extremities To mark the victories              Whose The streaming blood-bright Iron-torrent of the wounds              surpasses As the cloudy mansions Melt into clouds themselves              extensions Beyond the fought-on Woman-wept victory-vaunted              dimensions. INVOCATION There is a poem on the way, There is a poem all round me, The poem is in the near future, The poem is in the upper air Above the foggy atmosphere It hovers, a spirit That I would make incarnate. Let my body sweat Let snakes torment my breast My eyes be blind, ears deaf, hands distraught Mouth parched, uterus cut out, Belly slashed, back lashed, Tongue slivered into thongs of leather Rain stones inserted in my breasts, Head severed, If only the lips may speak, If only the god will come. PASSION Full of desire I lay, the sky wounding me, Each cloud a ship without me sailing, each tree Possessing what my soul lacked, tranquillity. Waiting for the longed-for voice to speak Through the mute telephone, my body grew weak With the well-known and mortal death, heartbreak. The language I knew best, my human speech Forsook my fingers, and out of reach Were Homer's ghosts, the savage conches of the beach. Then the sky spoke to me in language clear, Familiar as the heart, than love more near. The sky said to my soul, `You have what you desire. `Know now that you are born along with these Clouds, winds, and stars, and ever-moving seas And forest dwellers. This your nature is. Lift up your heart again without fear, Sleep in the tomb, or breathe the living air, This world you with the flower and with the tiger share.' Then I saw every visible substance turn Into immortal, every cell new born Burned with the holy fire of passion. This world I saw as on her judgment day When the war ends, and the sky rolls away, And all is light, love and eternity. FAR-DARTING APOLLO I saw the sun step like a gentleman Dressed in black and proud as sin. I saw the sun walk across London Like a young M.P. risen to the occasion. His step was light, his tread was dancing, His lips were smiling, his eyes glancing. Over the Cenotaph in Whitehall The sun took the wicket with my skull. The sun plays tennis in the court of Geneva With the guts of a Finn and the head of an Emperor, The sun plays squash in a tomb of marble, The horses of Apocalypse are in his stable. The sun plays a game of darts in Spain, Three by three in flight formation, The invincible wheels of his yellow car Are the discs that kindle the Chinese war. The sun shows the world to the world, Turns its own ghost on the terrified crowd, Then plunges all images into the ocean Of the nightly mass emotion. Games of chance, and games of skill, All his sports are games to kill. I saw the murderer at evening lie Bleeding on the deathbed sky. His hyacinth breath, his laurel hair, His blinding sight, his moving air, My love, my grief, my weariness, my fears Hid from me in a night of tears. NOCTURN FOR going out by night there is no place. The sun upon the dark no region casts, The rose beyond the evening cannot pass. The flying sun withdraws colour and place, Time, and all material attributes -- The rose beyond the angel cannot pass. First of all flowers the crimson are in shade With the unborn, the sleeping and the dead -- There is no place for going out by night. And creatures all make room within the heart -- The heart no region and no sun requires, Nor measuring time nor space for its desires. The heart no region and no light requires, The cannibal heart, that swallows up itself Past the angelic sun, returns to life. And errant night upon the table finds That bread and wine upon the holy stone, The body of the dead, and the unborn. Since for going out by night there is no place For the unborn, the sleeping, and the dead, What sun, what sin, decrees the grail to fade? THE RED LIGHT The women burn throughout the dead of night, Their red signs through the curtained windows peep. What sacrilegious hand puts out the light, And for what fallen body do they weep? Christ, as I die, I own it is for thee, Love, human nature, origin and shame. The same light in the shrine and brothel see, Wherever human passion lights its flame. For of that red star are we virgins all, And the red heart is stilled by the red fire That moves the spirit more than its desire Towards unmoving love, the point of will. Copyright © 2001 Kathleen Raine. All rights reserved.