1 The Currency of the Imaginal in the Poetry of Kathleen Raine By Mary Oak Preamble “All I have known and

been I bequeath to whoever Can decipher my poem.” –Kathleen Raine (CP , 343) I have no recollection of my first encounter with the work of Kathleen Raine. That discovery is inextricably woven into my own intimacy with the English countryside, which features vividly in her poems. For me, the presence of her nature poetry is fused through and through with the four years that I lived in a rural English village. Initially, I appreciated her for the quality of a reverence for nature that sings through her poetry. But that was just a prelude to discovering another aspect of her work. As I pursued the largely un-chartered terrain of Mythopoetics and Sacred Ecology for my BA degree, I found myself being led to her criticism. This was on Blake in particular, around the primacy of Imagination and the Platonic tradition. I have found her poetry to be a rare meeting place of mythos with nature, which is the crux of an ongoing inquiry for me. It has been a joy to become more familiar with the body of her work in its entirety, from her autobiographies to her essays, and to be exposed to more of her poetry as well as other poets’ criticism of her. My respect for her has only grown in this exploration. I knew it was special to hear Dr. Raine in her early nineties, but now that I have become more intimate with her work, I cherish those encounters even more. The first time I heard her was in London at a lecture that she gave on Shelley’s “Prometheus Unbound” at the Temenos Academy. She spoke of how Gandhi carried this poem of Shelley’s with him everywhere, and that he referred to it as an inspiration for his work. I was extremely moved by this account of hers, demonstrating a mythic source behind effective nonviolent activism. It still gives me hope for the power of poetry as instigator, beyond the ivory tower of the academy. I had the good fortune of seeing Dr. Raine again when she gave the keynote lecture on Eliot and Yeats at a conference at Sussex University on Metaphysical Arts. Her words, that in our time, ”Pegasus is riderless” have stayed with me as an accurate depiction. But more than

2 anything that she said, it was her poised and lucid presence, radiating wisdom and a clear nobility that I distinctly remember. At the time, I knew next to nothing of her extraordinary life. She was born in Essex, in 1908 to a Scottish mother and English father, a miner’s son, who was an English teacher and a lay Methodist preacher. During World War I, she lived in a Northumbrian hamlet that remained a touchstone of the beauty of the natural world for the rest of her life. She experienced a “desolation of sorrow” (Raine, Farewell Happy Fields, p. 101) to see the advent of the motor car change her hometown of Ilford into a suburb, as this passage from her autobiography describes, “The Essex Maidens [her beloved Elm trees] the white foam of cow parsley, the muddy lanes bordering misty ploughed fields, farms with walnut trees, chestnut avenues, all that old slowly traced, slowly matured pattern of human life lived from generation to generation was gone in less them than the sowing, reaping and harvesting of a field of corn. The new pattern no longer bore any relationship to shelter of hill or fall of stream; fertile and barren were alike to speculative builders. Then an arterial road advanced from London, severing like a cut artery the beginning of a lane, bordered with bramble and hawthorn, bleeding away now into the cement and gravel of the ribbon-building which sprawls endlessly in the roads leading nowhere. As cancer cells proliferate without the informing pattern of the life of the human body, so this new way of life proliferated, cell by cell, rapidly killing the life of the villages and old farms and parishes and manor houses. I knew that something was taking place all round me which I wanted to stop, for all seemed wrong about it, as if it were some mistake beyond control. Who was making the mistake, I did not know; but reading the lineaments I knew its meaning.” ( ibid, 100) I quote this in length because it is relevant to the topic of this paper, in its parallel to the destruction of the sacred imagination, severed from the source, that she spent a fair portion of her life devoted to restoring. I also see that the signature of her death hearkens back to it. In 2003, at the age of 94 and in good health, she was fatally hit by a car when she crossed a street. But before this tragic end, she was an accomplished and award-winning poet, critic, editor and translator. She published nearly two dozen poetry books and numerous critical works, including her highly acclaimed scholarship on William Blake. In addition, her series of

3 autobiographies are respected for their introspective and reflective (not to mention poetic!), narrative. She won a scholarship to Girton College, Cambridge, where she studied biology, psychology and poetry. An interesting detail of her Cambridge time was that she was present when Virginia Woolf presented the lecture that has become the esteemed essay “A Room of Her Own.” Although money wasn’t always easy to come by, a room of her own was something that Raine managed to secure for herself for the greater part of her life. She had two children from her short-lived second marriage, to Charles Madge, the poet and co-founder of “Mass Observation” (a movement in social research that was groundbreaking at the time.) During World War II, her son and daughter stayed in the country mansion of a benefactor of hers while she continued to write in London, keeping company with a bohemian crowd. The love of her life was the gay writer Gavin Maxwell, who provided his cottage on the Scottish island of Sandaig for her to retreat to. He is best known for the book, ”Ring of Bright Water” about a free running pet otter that Raine and he shared in the care of. Besides her prolific writings, Raine leaves as a legacy the ongoing work of Temenos Academy, which she founded in 1980, under the patronage of Prince Charles. In her words it is dedicated to, “the learning of the Imagination, both in the arts and also in such metaphysical teachings as are likewise the expression of traditional spiritual knowledge. We reject the premises of secular materialism, widespread at the present time, which deny the very ground of meaning and value.” i (“A Message From Dr. Kathleen Raine” par 3) One of the activities of the Academy is to sponsor an annual interfaith lecture. In the spring of 2004, the Dalai Lama will be presenting this lecture, dedicated to her memory. Before I begin to examine and reflect upon how a study of the Imagination was actualized in her poetry, I need to state a disclaimer. That is that in order to do her work justice, a dissertation would be required. I hope that the reader is aware that with such a substantial body of work, spanning more than six decades to choose from, my inquiry remains only precursory— inklings of one facet of a profound opus that she has left behind. Topic and Terrain

4 Isolation. Degradation. Alienation. Devastation. We live in a time of alarming ravages. Outwardly, in the name of “progress” the biosphere is being destroyed at an unprecedented rate. Inwardly, our souls are atrophying from a lack of recognition and true nourishment. Both of these are symptomatic of living in a flattened out universe. Not that the universe is by any means flat, but that we as humans have shut down our powers to perceive its multidimensionality at an astonishing rate. We are suffering from living on surfaces, a failure of Imagination-- a crisis of consciousness from which ecological holocaust proceeds. As the philosopher Jeremy Naydler puts it, “The extent to which nature is in need of being healed corresponds directly to the extent to which our consciousness of nature is sick.” (23) This association--of ailing consciousness with the destruction of the natural world--flows through the work of Kathleen Raine. In the pages that follow, I will explore this relationship and how her work offers an alternative to the aridity of our times. In particular, I will address her intimacy with the principle of Imagination in her work, as well as looking at how this is characterized in her poetry. Choked Wellspring To sound a keynote of the particular pathosii of my exploration, I would like to start with a poem not by Raine, but by a poet 18 years her junior, Denise Levertov, originally a fellow native of hers from Brittan. The Stricken Children The Wishing Well was a spring bubbling clear and soundless into a shallow pool less than three feet across, a hood of rocks protecting it, smallest of grottoes, from falling leaves, the pebbles of past wishes peacefully underwater, old desires forgotten or fulfilled. No one threw money in, one had to search for the right small stone.

5 This was the place from which year after year in childhood I demanded my departure. my journeying forth into the world of magical cities, mountains, otherness—the place which gave what I asked, and more; to which still wandering, I returned this year, as if to gaze once more at the face of an ancient grandmother. and I found the well filled to the shallow brim with debris of a culture’s sickness— with bottles, tins, paper, plastic— the soiled bandages of its aching unconsciousness. Does the clogged spring still moisten the underlayer of waste? was it children threw in the rubbish? children who don’t dream, or dismiss their own desires and toss them down, discarded packaging? I move away, walking fast, the impetus of so many journeys pushes me on, but where are the stricken children of this time, this place, to travel to, in Time if not in Place, the grandmother wellspring choked, and themselves not aware of all they are doing without? (p 35) This poem gets straight to the heart of what ails us, showing a parallel between nondreaming children and the debris of a culture’s sickness. Levertov begins with a clear image of the wishing well in its original purity, which as a child provided her access to magical realms.

6 She equates returning to that wishing place with gazing once more at the face of an ancient grandmother. But now, that countenance is obscured, barely recognizable--the spring itself clogged with waste. The Stricken Children ends with questioning how the children of this time will fare, ignorant of what they are missing. There is strength in the image of the wellspring cohering between inwardness (where it expresses qualities of imagination—allowing departure, travel in time) and its outward manifestation of the actual well being trashed. In both the allusion and the literal, the wellspring is choked. One of the gravest environmental threats that we face in the not-so-distant future is massive shortages of water on the planet. Aquifers are being depleted at a rate far faster than it takes to replenish them as population rates soar. This danger is serious and deserves attention (as well as concerted action!). What concerns this paper, however, is a corollary to this outer scarcity: the diminished resource of intimacy with the imaginal realm. I believe that a restoration of Imagination, as upheld by Raine and others, will in turn influence our ability to bring restoration to the natural world, releasing the stranglehold of the narrow worldview that has removed us in the first place. Kathleen Raine championed the potency and power of Imagination. In the foreword to her Collected Poems, she insists, “I could wish that my poetry might be read in the context of the whole scope of my life-work in the learning of the Imagination.” (VI) Because of her strong affiliation with this learning, any serious consideration of Raine’s work must include a firm grasp of an ethos of the Imagination. For Raine, this comes from the Romantic poets , primarily Blake, (whom she referred to as “my Master”iii) and to a lesser extent, Yeats. This lineage traces back through “the singing school of the soul”iv (Plato, Plotinus, Ficino, and Boehme to mention a few.) According to Edward Hirsch, she, “…may be the last English poet who could claim fullfledged membership in the English holy tradition.” (par 2) Indeed, she is directly allied with this stream of perennial wisdom and stood up for it during the course of her long life through the rise and fall of modernity and into the postmodern erav. As Mark Rudman puts it, “Her mythic, visionary poetry is in distinct opposition to the prevailing isms of the twentieth century.” (123)

Imagination with a capital I

7 Imagination was heralded by the Romantics as offering a way beyond the bindings of rational thinking, Blake’s “mind-forged manacles” or Keats’s “consequitive reasoning”. It was recognized as offering a way beyond being bound by what is measurable, providing other terms altogethervi. This identification was crucial, not to mention subversive, at that time at the onset of the “Enlightenment” and materialistic thinking. Eco-philosopher Charlene Spretnak sets the Romantics in the context of being seminal in a long line of resistance movements to Modernity, all of which share (d), “a larger framework of ecological and spiritual concerns”( 133). These concerns caused the Romantics to respond to the Enlightenment by bearing witness to its shadow side, which, Spretnak continues, “amounted to a self-destructive denial of our cosmological embeddedness, our dynamic participation in the sacred whole.”(136) Of course, we must differentiate Imagination from personal fantasy and understand it as a faculty or capacity of mind. In our Western training of compartmentalization, it is a stretch to understand Imagination beyond being relegated to taking place within the interior isolation of our heads. Rather, it is a “participatory engaged consciousness” (ibid, 136) that carries a relational nature, overlapping with and penetrating into what we might think of as separate areas. According to Barfield, Imagination is seen by Coleridge as an extension of “the productive unity” of nature, interrelated with the whole and its many facets. (80) In this way it is a mode of perceiving an underlying truth, thus providing a literacy of the book of Naturevii. This literacy is evident in Raine’s poetry, which earned her to be known as “a mystical nature poet.” (Hirsch ) Imagination has a dynamic and a synthesizing quality; linking between various levels of being; serving as intermediary between part and whole, self and world, inwardness and outwardness. Imagination as intermediary is mercurial, moving between all of these areas. Raine qualified it in her lecture at the Metaphysical Arts conference at Sussex University as a power, ”where meaning takes on form and by the same agency form takes on meaning.” (my notes) To define Imagination as an agency affirms it as an activity rather than a static thing. She captures how this operates in a bridging way, at the level of meaning and form, source and derivation each containing the other. We see this when there is no distance or abstraction in art—a direct expression rather than standing for something else. This is revelation instead of construction. I will return, below, to how this activity shows up in her poetry. In his Memoriam for Raine, Christopher Bamford speaks of how she “constantly strove to elucidate the sacramental wisdom of the imagination, that wisdom inherent in reality,

8 immanent in nature and in mind, which the poet, when he or she is most truly "original," only uncovers or remembers.” (par.2) This gesture of uncovering is present in a childhood memory of Kathleen Raine’s. In describing her daily chore as a child to fetch water for the family from the well in the farmyard in Northumberland, Kathleen remembers it as, “a task which burdened me to the extreme limit of my strength but whose imaginative delight was of a quality I find it difficult to give a name, for it seemed to touch streams of thought at that time unknown to me.” (41). . . she continues in describing, “the roughlyhewn well-head which covered the spring might have dated from a forgotten monastery; and simple as it was it spoke a language entirely strange to me at the time, not of nature, but of a different kind of meaning, which I recognized because this primitive shrine (for the well had, for me, a kind of numinosity) was raised upon a marvel of nature itself whose magic it served to enhance. I shared, as I drew my water, the wonder of those who had built the well-head, recognizing in it the expression of a mind for which, as for my own, a spring was something pure, mysterious more than natural. The spring was not deep, and I could plunge my arm to the depth of the sand-grains which danced on the bottom perpetually, as the cold clear water welled up. This perpetual welling up of the water was a marvel, that emergence from rocky darkness where water has a secret life of its own, profound, flowing in underground streams and hollows under the hills which none can know or enter. It was as if at this spot a mystery were perpetually enacted. If I found in the stone basin leaves or water-shrimps I removed them as from a sacred source. (Farewell Happy Fields, 42) The reverence that she displays in the childhood scene above, taking care that the flow is not obscured, provides a signature gesture of her life’s work and is prescient of the poet to come. This evocation of water emerging from the depths suggests the Hippocrene, the spring that originated when Pegasus, the white winged horse that sprang form the severed head of Medusa, struck his hooves upon the ground and water gushed forth. This sacred spring was guarded by the muses, daughter of Mnenosyme—memory. The New Century Classical Handbook references that the Hippocrene is “ alluded to as a source of poetic inspiration”( p 567). One of Raine’s volumes of critical work is actually entitled, “Defending Ancient Springs” and very

9 much captures her stance in relationship to the ancient source. This is reiterated in her poem below that one can see directly relates to the passage above: THE WELL The poem I wrote was not the poem That sang in my own voice Out of the past a phrase of Gaelic song, And with the song rose scent of birch, and birds In skies long set, ancestral gloaming, As love and grief rose up from the beginning And joy from lives long gone, And I knew all they and the song had known. When I , a child who spoke in a northern tongue Telling of a land of birch and heather, Dipped my country dipper in a stone well, Sand-grains danced where the spring rose so clear, Its water seemed a place purer than air I could not enter, though I dipped my hands in , And saw my face reflected in its cold brim, And filled my buckets and carried the water home. The poem I wrote was not the poem that in a dream Opened a well where water flowed again. I cleared dead leaves away with my hand, But inextricable weeds had grown Rooted in the ancestral fountain; And yet the water flowed Pure from its inexhaustible source, And all to whom the water came… In my dream I bathed a new-born child

10 And washed away the human stain. An exile I have drunk from the Castilian spring But not such water as there rose. (Collected Poems, 121) Here she frames the familiar act from her childhood, of drawing water from the well, with its archetypal significance--and how she attempts to approach a “place purer than air” through her poetry. The content is held by a repetition of negations, “The poem I wrote was not….” which introduce inklings of how it could be--of ancestral voice, and ancient song (the first stanza) and a numinous dream image (stanza two). The image of clearing away the dead leaves recalls the clogged spring in Levertov’s poem, although what blocks it here is not refuse, but “inextricable weeds.” Despite this, “…water flowed/ Pure from its inexhaustible hidden source/ And all to whom that water came…” and then with no more of a rest in the mystery of what is left out, she shifts to bathing a new-born child. We are left on the edge of an uncompleted image. Perhaps this is the poem that she didn’t write? “The Well” articulates her ideals of writing poetry, while approximating these ideals within the poem itself. Yet this is contrasted with ending on a note of being in exile.viii I don’t pretend to be a Raine scholar, but I can’t help but notice that this poem was written in the early 1960’s, only a third of a way into her writing. It establishes a tension that she works with but eventually resolves--not through transcending the world, as one might expect “spiritual” poetry to do, but through what shows up in her later poems as “the presence,” thus, a whole collection bears that title.ix. Epiphany of the Commonplace The quality in Raine’s poetry of bearing witness to presence stems from apprehending the sacred in the natural world, and this infuses her poems. In the third volume of her memoir, she describes a state of consciousness that informed a period of her writingx, “I seemed then to be not so much a person as an eye of the world, a pure consciousness in which the beautiful forms of creation were reflected.” (43) This sensibility permeates many of her poems, allowing the

11 reader to enter the radical wonder of seeing anew, whether the subject is a hyacinth, a rock, an ash tree or London. In his “Note on Kathleen Raine,” poet Peter Russell describes the influence of first encountering her poetry, “I began to learn how to look at nature and the cosmos through eyes fully conversant with the modern sciences but able to see not just surfaces but also inside and through appearances.” (51) It is not incidental that Raine was conversant with science as well, having trained as a botanist at Cambridgexi. Here is one of her short poems that shows an encounter with the ordinary in an exalted way: Flies-But what I see Flashing under leaves As morning sunbeams fill the sycamore tree Is flight Of minute meteors, rays In living transmutation of light. (The Presence, 45) This poem serves as a good example of the activity of seeing anew because the second line, “But what I see” clearly places this act as the axis that has the power to shift the flies to being perceived as minute meteors. She is not making a comparison here. In an instance of vision, rather than a simile, she articulates light: alive and dynamically in the process of transmutation. Without the “But what I see” it would be a different poem. This is Imagination as revelation. This visionary activity is given credence in a section of one of her late poems, The Sun,: Not that light is holy, but that holy is the light-Only by seeing, by being we know Rapt, breath stilled, bliss of the heart No microscope nor telescope can discover The immeasurable: not in seen but in seer Epiphany of the commonplace. (CP 335)

12 There is a tremendous insight here (no pun intended) into the nature and potency of seeing, that, when practiced in depth (“ rapt breath, stilled”) leads to wisdom. This is reminiscent of other metaphysically inclined poets, such as HD, when she reflects that, “We must be ‘in love’ before we can understand the mysteries of vision.”( p 22) or the line from Johann von Goethe’s xii letters that I have always held dear, “Pure beholding kindles love,”( 122) implicating the involvement of the responsive heart. This implies a certain communion that underlies what the poet commun-icates, in contrast to the rampant spectator consciousness of our culture, whether it is with microscope or telescope or simply in a detached observer stance. Far from being removed as spectator, Raine is dynamically engaged in communicating underlying patterns and unity from out of her depth of imaginative vision. As she says, “Imagination does not see different things, it sees things differently” (On the Symbol, 113) She exemplifies the ethos captured in the ethic of the self-confessed eco-theologian, Thomas Berry, to perceive nature not as a collection of objects, but as a communion of subjects, animated with spiritxiii. Her poetry draws from an eternal spring, “A dream returning to its timeless source, the heart/ Where all remains that we have loved and known.” (SP 149) She wrote from that source despite whatever the current literary styles were, and was disappointed with the contemporary literary scene. Speaking of her time in Cambridge and thereafter, she shares that “ . . . with the literary friends whom I presently made, the talk was all of technicalities, dry dull talk it seemed to me, without the sense of wonder or mystery.” . . . “Now I can see that those of my contemporaries who had accepted, implicitly or explicitly, the current positivist philosophy had lost access to the wells and fountains of imagination and were engaged in heaping stones to seal the springs which might, had they overflowed, have swept away that sand-castle.” (36) Recognizing Raine as an exception to the trends around her, Bamford places her as writing poetry, “not dictated by the fashions of the moment but inwardly determined by what she experienced as the unifying links that bind the human soul to the larger cosmos whose she is and must strive to reveal.” (par. 11)

13 And where is this unifying link between self and cosmos located? According to Raine, it occurs in/ through the human heart. This is given testimony in what I would place as a crowning poem of hers for its sheer lyricism: Amo Ergo Sum Because I love The sun pours out its rays of living gold Pours out its gold and silver on the sea. Because I love The earth upon her astral spindle winds Her ecstasy-producing dance. Because I love Clouds travel on the winds through wide skies, Skies wide and beautiful, blue and deep. Because I love Wind blows white sails, The wind blows over flowers, the sweet wind blows. Because I love The ferns grow green, and green the grass, and green The transparent sunlit trees. Because I love Larks rise up from the grass And all the leaves are full of singing birds. Because I love

14 The summer air quivers with a thousand wings, Myriads of jeweled eyes burn in the light. Because I love The iridescent shells upon the sand Takes forms as fine and intricate as thought. Because I love There is an invisible way across the sky, Birds travel by that way, the sun and moon And all the stars travel that path by night. Because I love There is a river flowing all night long. Because I love All night the river flows into my sleep, Ten thousand living things are sleeping in my arms, And sleeping wake, and flowing are at rest. (CP 76-77)

At first blush, without being sensitive to the context that Raine writes from,xiv one could read this as egotistical and grandiose--and certainly it would be if interpreted as the personal “I.” But it is a greater self bound to the larger cosmos that sounds through in this repetition of causation--all set into motion from the power of creative love. This carries the sense of the Ishq of the Sufi mystics, the generative force of love of the divine heart, that one has access to through the heart. (Khan, p 509) This poem could also be seen as being an expression of how, through love, one becomes aware of all these “ten thousand living things.” The title of this poem, which translates as “I am because I love” certainly suggests a participatory consciousness, owing ones very existence to love. This is the highest of epiphanies, albeit more cosmic than commonplace!


Currents of the Imaginal The previous poem, Amo Ergo Sum, has a flowing quality to it that I wish to address at this point as being characteristic of Raine’s poetry. This brings us to a seeming paradox. Raine is chiefly recognized for her ability to express the eternal. In remembering her, Peter Abbs speaks of, “The truth of the poet is all in relationship to the archetypal and not the casual-- to the patterns of cosmic life and not the collisions of the ephemeral.” (par 5) However, I would like to prupose that her particular geniusxv has to do with the ability, out of an intimacy with the animating spirit source that underlies creation, to express the changes and permutations, the transmutations of life. This emphasizes process xvi rather than fixation and is directly related to the activity of the Imagination (with a capital “I”). In expanding on the understanding of this faculty, Dennis Klocek, a Goethean scientist, purposes using the word imaginalxvii , in order to differentiate the creative imagination from personal fantasy “What we need is a word which is an image of a process, since imagination is a process rather than a thing. This word is imaginal, from imago.” . . . ” imago is a biological term for the mature form of an insect which has undergone metamorphosis. This process of going from an egg to caterpillar to pupa to imago is the imaginal process, and this entomological term is effective for describing processes in which one image is transformed into another in an accurate way.” (143)

I have quoted Klocek extensively because I want to show how this fluidity of the imaginal is present in Raine’s work as much as the more obvious eternal. These are not necessarily in conflict, as being rooted in a deeper source gives her the perspective to see the ever-changing impermanence of life, “The ever-changing never-changing face.”(CP 298). There is a sense –indeed, a sensing—of a continuous dimension, the continuity of change. Wendell Berry sees that Raine’s sensitivity to nature-as-process stems from the combination of her love of nature and her study of natural sciences. He offers that something of her scientific education affects her thought and works profoundly into her poetry. Berry is able

16 to articulate what I admire in Raine’s poetry but find difficult, myself, to voice, “The creatures of nature that she loves she sees both as they momentarily are and as embodiments of their becoming, of the world-long becoming into which as they momentarily are they will disappear.” (551) This is quite the perspective to maintain, let alone express--on one hand: the momentaryness of the form; on the other: that form seen as the expression of becoming, the infinite in the finite. In Raine’s own words, in Northumbrian Sequence, she states, Yet with what infinite gentleness being flows Into the forms of nature, and unfolds Into the slowly ascending tree of life That opens, bud by bud, into the sky. (ibid 68) This captures her take on nature as an expression of a fluidity of being rather than isolated set forms (= a collection of objects). Any number of her poems bear testament to the quality of flowing and unfolding spoken in the above passage. Take, this one, for instance, Nature changes at the speed of life From moment to moment, so that all, Bird, leaf and tree seem still, seem real, until We glimpse the conjurer at play— A dandelion’s evanescent sphere Created itself, between yesterday and today Came, was, and is over, while I Marvel at that unseen geometers skill Who builds the transience where we dwell. (ibid 317-318) This play on words--the speed of life--alludes to the imperceptible quickness of light in the changes that constantly happen in creation. In a more direct acknowledgment of the formative forces that underlie nature, she gives two names here: “the conjurer” and “the unseen geometer.” This hidden activity is something she is sensitized to and expresses again and again in her poetry in different ways. Paramount as an example of what she identifies elsewhere as

17 magica (CP 288) is this well-loved poem by her, referred to in many critiques of her work, “Spell of Creation” Spell of Creation Within the flower there lies a seed, Within the seed there springs a tree, Within the tree there spreads a wood. In the wood there burns a fire, And in the fire there melts a stone, Within the stone a ring of iron. Within the ring there lies an O Within the O there looks an eye, In the eye there swims a sea, And in the sea reflected sky, And in the sky there shines the sun, Within the sun a bird of gold. Within the bird there beats a heart, And from the heart there flows a song, And in the song there sings a word. In the word there speaks a world,

18 A word of joy, a world of grief, From joy and grief there springs my love. Oh love, my love, there springs a world, And on the world there shines a sun And in the sun there burns a fire, Within the fire consumes my heart And in my heart there beats a bird, And in the bird there wakes an eye, Within the eye, earth, sea and sky, Earth, sky and sea within an O Lie like the seed within the flower.

The “spell” in the title is a strong hint towards her incorporation of incantation. It is one in a series of Raine’s spell poems which, according to Hirsch , “seek transcendence and testify to the circular unity of creation.” (par 3) The poem certainly accomplishes that, returning to the seed image that it started with, after many turnings. It is also reminiscent of the cumulative tales of children, an archetypal story form (i.e.: “The House That Jack Built “ ). In writing of this poem, Ralph J. Mills Jr. says that, “the effect both of the naming and of the metamorphosis of elements, objects, and emotions engenders a paradoxical dreamlike sense of strangeness and familiarity with regard to this interchangeably of inner and outer cosmos in process in the poem . . . ” (41) He introduces that this changeability is inclusive of the cosmos, and metamorphosis is a choice word in describing one image unfolding (or is it infolding?) into another.

19 I wouldn’t be the first to point to the Celtic influence here. In the second volume of her memoir, Raine writes of spending time in the Highlands of Scotland, which were ancestral for her. There she found still intact a culture that inspired her as a poet. She notices how, “Oral tradition still transmitted, not merely the history of the race and its memories, but certain ancient attitudes and values lost to the technological present. I was already at this time, though still blindly, seeking for the lost thread of another tradition altogether than the materialistic civilization dominant in England; dominant no less in poetry and the arts (as I had discovered to my cost in Cambridge) than in science and technology.” (The Lion’s Mouth, 34-35)” Raine speaks of encountering the “Celtic Twilightxviii, not through books but at the source itself . For her, this took the form of an acquaintance, Hugh MacKinnon, who composed his verses in the Bardic tradition, lying in the darkness with a cap over his eyes. She confesses that, “In such company I found myself not, as in England, too much a poet, but not poet enough, for I could neither sing nor recite, as all did here, their learning stored in their memory.” (ibid. 36) She may have felt not poet enough, but this poem and a score of others is written in a way to give honor to these ancient roots--using language in a living way. As she does with the spiritual lineage of Imagination in Blake and Yeats, again, Raine stands for another tradition that is in danger of extinction. From Lyric Fluidity to Prophetic Fire Raine’s ability to capture the flow of the imaginal with one image arising from another is not limited to her more overtly Celtic pieces, nor does her subject remain focused on the changes of the natural world. This is foreshadowed in her 1987 poem “Nataraja” (an aspect of Shiva, as the cosmic dancer) “Time, rhythm/ Of forms that open, / Forms that pass,” (The Presence, 58) I will now turn to examine two of her later poems that express a sober tone. Here the chain of shifting images includes destructive elements: Paradise Seed


Where is the seed Of the tree felled, Of the forest burned, Or living root Under ash and cinders? From woven bud What last leaf strives Into life, last Shriveled flower? Is fruit of our harvest, Our long labour Dust to the core? To what far, fair land Borne on the wind What winged seed Or spark of fire From holocaust To kindle a star? (CP 320).) I see this poem as an extension of her sensitivity to process. She still uses images from nature, but implies a scale that has become macrocosmic now. That a holocaust (and I think she is referring to ecological holocaust here) could contain a winged seed; a spark towards new life affirms the circuity of creation. That this poem is in the form of a question is intriguing, leaving room for a hopeful answer. It is set up to come towards possibility, but is left open. I can’t help but associate this poem with a passage towards the end of her three-volume memoir. She has been speaking of “the leaf-fall of civilization” and that it is of no use to try to keep the leaves from falling, “It is not those leaves which cling longest against the wind of change that are obedient to the tree’s life, but the seed cast adrift, the end as it is the beginning of the life-cycle. The

21 great tree is at this time showering down its leaves in a process of death which cannot be arrested, and whose record is everywhere to be read in the nihilism of the arts, of social life, in a thousand images of disintegration.” (139)

She seems to have achieved a sense of acceptance--confidence even--in trusting the cycles of life-death-rebirth, that the end becomes the beginning in the seed. This confrontation with a culture void of values is a theme throughout her life story that intensifies in grandeur as she ages. The theme of loss of the landscape she loved as a child as it became a suburb of London expands to a sense of all creation endangered by the blindness of human greed. Nowhere is this more severe than in Raine’s final poem (written when she was 94), “Millennial Hymn to Lord Shiva.” This is composed in a vein similar to the previous poem, with a macrocosmic quality of permeation and changeability, but it is much more explicit-- some might say pessimistic. Although it is not necessarily representational of her body of work as a whole, I think it is well worth examining since, in a way, it is her final say. Referring to this poem in an interview, Raine said, “I’m sorry that it was I who had to write it, and I felt very guilty about it at the time, but it had to be said about this much-vaulted millennium, and all the wickedness and betrayal. We are a civilization that has totally betrayed the spirit. I felt that my Millennial Hymn needed to be placed in the context of history rather than just being a cri de couer.” (qtd. In Caduceus, 54) In this, she succeeds, her cry being set in a larger context , a trait that infuses much of her work. Whereas the selection I have shared so far of Raine’s poems have had a quality of flowing water, characteristic of the majority of her poems, here she shifts to invoking fire. Traditionally, Lord Shiva is an aspect of Brahman, the three-fold Godhead in Hinduism. Shiva exemplifies the destruction that is necessary for re-creation. This destructiveness is never seen in isolation, but always as part of a cycle, in relationship to preparing the new. Let us remember that Raine was profoundly influenced by W.B. Yeats. She refers to his vision of, “. . . the darkness approaching, the tide rising;” and speaks of how,”. . . his hope lay not in turning or stemming the tide, but in that which lies beyond civilization, the God of the gyres, the Indian Brahman whose inbreathings withdraw them from existence.” (ibid, 138) This is a picture of the activity of Braham in the manifestation as Shiva.

22 Raine emphasizes Shiva as purifier as she indicts western culture (or lack of it!) Her poem begins with the opening lines, “Earth no longer/ hymns the creator.” This original use of “hymns” as a verb evokes a sense of praise in singing not often associated with the earth (which in itself illustrates its cessation.) The poem is five stanzas long, covering six pages, with four of the stanzas ending (as in the previous poem) with a question “To whom can we pray but. . . ” followed by different aspects of Shiva, whereas the final stanza proclaims him as world-creator, world-sustainer, and ultimately the world-destroyer, who returns us to the unknowable mystery. This culminating voice of Raine, culling the wisdom of a lifetime, is the ultimate in honoring permutations, transformation and cyclic changes. Against the Nihil of the Age In the litany of abuses in her “millennial hymn”, Raine addresses the destruction of both outer world and the interior soul. This weaves back to where this paper started, pointing out the dual losses of our time being both ecological and imaginal. Atypical in its lack of lyricism for Raine, which has the effect of increasing its harshness, here is the second stanza: Our forests are felled, our mountains eroded, the wild places where the beautiful animals found food and sanctuary we have desolated, a third of our seas, a third of our rivers we have polluted and the sea-creatures dying. Our civilization’s blind progress in wrong courses through wrong choices has brought us to nightmare

23 where what seems, is, to the dreamer, the collective mind of the twentieth century — this world of wonders not divine creation but a big bang of blind chance, purposeless accident, mother earth’s children, their living and loving, their delight in being not joy but chemistry, stimulus, reflex, valueless, meaningless, while to our machines we impute intelligence, in computers and robots we store information and call it knowledge, we seek guidance by dialing numbers, pressing buttons, throwing switches, in place of family our companions are shadows, cast on a screen, bodiless voices, fleshless faces, where was the Garden a Disney-land of virtual reality,

24 in place of angels the human imagination is peopled with foot-ballers film-stars, media-men, experts, know-all television personalities, animated puppets with cartoon faces-To whom can we pray for release from illusion, from the world-cave, but Time the destroyer, the liberator, the purifier? (CP 347-348)

There is a tremendous amount here-- from the desolation of wild places to the desecration of the imagination, all in the context of “wrong courses through wrong choices.” A succinct rendering of the state of the world today! A primary wrong course is the viewpoint that deprives “living and loving” of its joy, reducing it to “chemistry, stimulus, reflex.” This hearkens back to where, in her essay, “On the Symbol”, Raine decries the positivist view xix as a, “failure of perception” (107). This distorted viewpoint is so normalized now that it extends to a lack of connection (let alone communion) with the natural world, which in turn leads to significant abuses to our planet home. This negative cycle causes untold suffering on many levels, from the diminishment of species to the stricken children in Levertov’s poem. I particularly appreciate her image of, “in place of family/ our companions are shadows/ cast on a screen/ bodiless voices/ fleshless faces.” This passivity to prefabricated images is particularly painful for any who are sensitized to the deep imaginal, for the poet in particular, entrusted as she is to the work of poetes-- the activity of making and shaping images. Wendell Berry’s sensitive and illuminating essay on Raine, “Against the Nihil of the Age,” besides being aptly titled in characterizing Raine, is precise in locating the parameters of a poet who honors the imaginal in our time,

25 To be a visionary poet in the industrial age, in what Kathleen Raine has called, ‘this post-real world,’ is a predicament of greater difficulty than before. It is to be consigned, as a poet, to a way of images in a time of the desecration of all images, a time when ‘the sacred lineaments grow faint, the outlines crumble/ And the golden heavens grow dim . . .” (543) Being visionary -- not an easy task in itself , is compounded in our time by an erosion of being valued, bombarded as we are by a multitude of images devoid of soul--a plethora of which exist solely in the realm of commercialism. Berry goes on to earmark the various ways that images have been reduced and makes the vital point that, “From the desecration of the image, the desecration of the world and all its places and creatures inexorably follows.” (544) For me this is the essence of a pathos that largely remains unacknowledged. It would naturally follow that the task of the poet in our time would be to re-sacralize (or some would say to ensoul ) the way of images by evoking a depth of vision that we so desperately need. Ultimately, this re-visioning can lead to restoration, both ecologically and imaginally . This offers a counter-balance to the fragmentation of post-modernism, which privileges randomness and posits that value is arbitrary. Without a sense of being embedded within a larger cyclic order, be it spiritual or ecological, we are split off from cohering— and as a result spawn incoherence. I believe that Raine is a case in point of one devoted to a restoration of soul. As such, her work needs to be celebrated in offering a poetry that streams from the sacred imaginal, fed by the wellspring of a lineage of poets who (also) drew from perennial wisdom, and in a lesser degree from what, in both poems and essays, she called “the ancient speechxx” –arising in pure harmony with nature. Yet I believe that her poetry is not entirely about being rooted in the past. It also promises a way into the future, keeping “faith with the soul of the world” (Raine, “Ancient Speech” CP 201) by rekindling a sense of engagement in a time of so many estrangements. She achieves the quality that Hirschfield associates with poets, “To speak… with a precise tongue and unbounded eye, is to liberate things as well as ourselves into a greater aliveness.” (129) This captures that vital insight that can ultimately lead to renewal, finding our relationship to the greater whole.

26 I would like to end with a poem that strongly carries her signature, incorporating many of the attributes I have noted, Invisible Kingdom We know more that we know Who see always the bewildering proliferating Multiplicity of the common show.

There come to the artists hands Such subtleties of form, of light, Gardens, presences,

Faces so tenderly beautiful We wonder with what untaught knowledge seen, Beyond the common place the hidden

Aspects of mystery, secrets Known only to the soul, Known only to love, immeasurable

27 Wisdom from our hands’ work grown, Expression of a knowledge not our own Which yet guides brush and pen, obedient To an omniscience we, though ignorant, yet share Whose hearts respond and answer To Shubert’s music, and Mozart’s, they knowing no more

Than we of celestial harmonies They heard above the continual dissonance The immediate imposes.

Yet unceasing The music of the spheres, the magia of light, Spirit’s self-knowledge in its flow

Imagining continually the all Of which each moment is the presence Telling itself to the listener, the seer in the heart

28 Contemplates in time’s river The ever-changing never-changing face. (CP 298)

This last selection epitomizes Raine’s vision, perhaps not always heard above the dissonances of the immediate, but showing us a way to know the immeasurable through the seeing heart. May this contribution of hers-- to hymn the earth despite profound despair-- flow on and offer inspiration to another generation who may not have had as direct access as she did to ancient springs. May the current of her vision, expressed so flowingly in her poetry, rekindle the true power of the Imaginal and quench many a thirst yet to come.



i Ten Basic Principles of Temenos Academy 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. Acknowledgement of Divinity. Love of wisdom, as the essential basis of civilisation. Spiritual vision, as the life-breath of civilisation. Maintenance of the revered traditions of mankind. Understanding of tradition as continual renewal. The provision of teaching by the best teachers available of their disciplines, and of publications which set the highest standard in both content and design. 7. Mindfulness that the purpose of teaching is to enable students to apply in their own lives that which they learn. 8. To make Temenos known to all those who may benefit from its work. 9. Reminding ourselves and those we teach to look up and not down. 10. Governance of The Temenos Academy itself in the light of the above principles
From Message from the Founder of the Temenos Academy Dr Kathleen Raine, CBE http://www.temenosacademy.org/temenos_raine-message.html

as used in Rhetoric-- referring to a quality of expression of deep sadness that induces tender feeling in the listener/ reader. She was an also an accomplished Blake scholar, her book, “Blake and Tradition was groundbreaking in illuminating extensive esoteric influences that inspired William Blake, from “Hermetica’ to Swedenborg. Raine quotes this phrase from Yeats, to indicate an ongoing visionary stream. (Blake and Tradition, page xxxi) In speaking of Raine’s drawing upon esoteric traditions such as Hermeticism, Kabala, and Alchemy, Russell makes the point that “For a generation (or three or four generations) of academics who care nothing for these ancients, the crystal clear simple and lovely poetry of
v iv iii



Kathleen Raine is a closed book. These academics whom I castigate live in a never-never-land of post-Cartesian rationalism and modern linguistics which encourage the idea that men can not understand or experience anything outside the magic circle of language.” (54) Owen Barfield was another champion of the Imagination who did extensive work in delineating it In a glossary of his terms we find Imagination defined as, “The chief mode by which the human mind apprehends reality and through which it expands knowledge and awareness. ‘The Imagination is a form…of perception, if you like, a way of apprehending reality which cannot be reformulated in terms of logical sequences. It’s not a rule of logic and reason, but it’s not unreal for that reason.’ The rational faculty can increase understanding, but it can not increase knowledge; only the Imagination can increase knowledge and expand consciousness.” (A Barfiled Reader, xxxii) Richard Tarnas further illuminates the link between imagination and nature,” Within its own depths the imagination contacts the creative process within nature, realizes that process within itself, and brings nature’s reality to conscious expression. Hence the imaginal intuition is not a subjective distortion but is the human fulfillment of that reality’s essential wholeness, which has been rent asunder by the dualistic perception. The Human imagination is itself a part of the world’s intrinsic truth; without which the world is in some sense incomplete.” (434) The theme of paradise and exile also figure strongly in her work, which has been a more obvious topic of criticism than the one I am pursuing. In reflecting on this essential quality in Raine’s work, Russell refers to “the presences of timeless profoundly meaningful emotions.” This was a period of years, undated in her memoir, when she went regularly to the island of Sandaig to write. Luckily she lived long enough to see the new sciences emerge, (such as quantum physics) which support a less mechanistic paradigm than the one she suffered from. Goethe, another romantic, was a pioneer in phenomenological science as well as a poet and thus shares Raine’s primary interests. He is lesser known for his scientific methodologies that are respected nowadays in new science as being a precursor of many holistic principles. This is in the tradition of the Anima Mundi, the soul of the world that in the tradition of Ficino, Raine bears witness to. For a wonderful exposition on the Soul of the World, see “Anima Mundi: The Return of The Soul of the World” by James Hillman in “The Thought of the Heart and The Soul of the World” Woodstock, Connecticut, 1997. Here he suggests, ”Let us imagine the anima mundi as that particular soul-spark, that seminal image, which offers itself through each thing in its visible form. Then anima mundi indicates the animated possibilities presented by each event as it is, its sensuous presentation as a face bespeaking its interior image--in short its availability to our imagination…” ( 101)
xiii xii xi x ix viii vii vi


Russsell comments on the lack of literary criticism on Raine…”one of the most genuinely learned authors of our time. I think the reason for this is that very much of Kathleen Raine’s intellectual equipment is based on the esoteric dimensions of what in the West we may call the Platonic mentality. The academics of our time have almost completely neglected this tradition and have encouraged the (?imperialistic) idea that the traditions of East and West are totally opposed to each other. (53) This dearth has been somewhat filled in a whole issue of the issue of the esteemed Poetry Nation Review out of Brittan, which I was continually led to in my research. I was unsuccessful as a student to get electronic access to this issue through my American university. In many ways this thwarted the extent I could take on how she is seen by a fine selection of contemporary critics and poets. Needless to say, I found this disappointing! ( See PN Review Nov/ Dec 2000 through Lit Online if you subscribe) In a recent MFA workshop given at Antioch Los Angeles on, “Writing as an Act of Attention,” Brenda Miller spoke of genius as arising from original language and insights. She pointed out that the etymology of genius is related to a tutelary spirit, which derives from, of all things, the guardian of a spring! " “process “ = “ as in the philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead, to designate the course of becoming rather than being.”- the Oxford English Dictionary Incidentally, the word “imaginal” comes up in Russell’s article where he paraphrases Raine speaking of her true imaginal life. He then offers, “This term “imaginal” came into general circulation in the sixties due to the highly refined intellectual or spiritual definitions of its referents by Henry Corbin in his great studies of Sufism. The word was not of his invention. G.R. S. Mead used it more or less in the same sense forty years before Corbin, and if I remember rightly Denis Saurat, that so neglected but fascinating critic of the poetic imagination, used it during the 1920’s. In simple terms one might describe it as an adjective specific to the creative (= poetic) imagination freed from the bonds of the irrational soul.” (61) “The Celtic Twilight” was a cultural movement to revive Celtic identity through returning to its myths and traditions. WB Yeats was a leading figure in this primarily Irish cultural renaissance , with a book of stories entitled “ Celtic Twilight” Raine says of Positivism, that it, “lacks nothing in conceptual subtlety but dispenses with the imagination and disregards the metaphysical roots of poetic thought.” (“on the Symbol”107) In addition, her obituary in The Telegraph characterizes her thus: “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". This theme is another facet of Raine’s work, that given more time, I would like to build on. I see that along with the desecration of nature and the imaginal, an erosion of speech is taking place as well. Raine’s work speaks to this as well. Here is her poem that addresses a nostalgia for when speech was still in accord with the natural world: Ancient Speech
xx xix xviii xvii xvi xv



A Gaelic bard they praise who in fourteen adjectives Named the one indivisible soul of his glen; For what are the bens and the glens but manifold qualities, Immeasurable complexities of soul? What are these isles but a song sung by island voices? The herdsman sings ancestral memories And the song makes the singer wise, But only while he sings Songs that were old when the old themselves were young, Songs of these hills only, and of no isles but these. For other hills and isles this language has no words. The mountains are like manna, for one day given, To each his own. Strangers have crossed the sound, But not the sound of the dark oarsmen Or the golden-haired sons of kings, Strangers whose thought is not formed to the cadence of waves, Rhythm of the sickle, oar and milking pail, Whose words make loved things strange and small, Emptied of all that made them heart-felt or bright. Our words no longer keep faith with the soul of the world.


Works Cited
Abbs, Peter. “ Kathleen Raine” Resurgence, No.222, (Jan-Feb 2004) www.resurgence.org Avery, Catherine B., Ed. “The New Century Classical handbook.” New York: AppletonCentury –Crofts, 1962. Bamford, Christopher. “In Memoriam: Kathleen Raine 1908- 2003” Lapis Magazine <http://www.lapismagazine.org/raineprint.htm> Online.

Barfield, Owen. “What Coleridge Thought” Middleton, Conn: Wesleyan University Press, 1971 Berry, Thomas. “The Great Work. New York: Bell Tower Books, 1999 Berry, Wendell. “Against the Nihil of the Age.” Sewanee Review (Winter 2002): 542- 563 Goethe, Johann von. “Correspondence with a Child.” Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1859. Hirsch, Edward. “Poet’s Choice” Washington Post. Sunday, September 28, 2003: BW12 . Hirschfield, Jane.” Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry.” New York: HarperPerrenial, 1997. Klocek, Dennis. “Seeking Spirit Vision.” Sacremento: Rudolf Steiner College Press, 1998. Levertov, Denise. “Breathing the Water.”Glasgow: Bloodaxe Books, 1988. Mills, Ralph J. Jr. “Kathleen Raine: A Critical Essay.” New York: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1967 Naydler, Jeremy. “Goethe on Science.” Edinburgh: Floris Books, 1996. Raine, Kathleen “Farewell Happy Fields.” New York: George Braziller, 1977. _______________””The Lion’s Mouth” London: Hamish Hamilton, 1977 _______________”On the Symbol” Defending Ancient Springs. West Stockbridge, Massachusetts: 1985.


________________” The Collected Poems of Kathleen Raine.” Ipswich, UK : Golgonooza Press, 2000 ________________“A Message from Dr. Kathleen Raine” Temenos Academy Website. http://www.temenosacademy.org/temenos_raine-message.html Rudman, Mark.” Kathleen Raine’s Originality” New England Review, 23 (2002): 123-125. Russell, Peter. “A Note on Kathleen Raine.” North Dakota Review 63.1 (1996):49-63. Spretnak, Charlene . “ The Resurgence of the Real: Body, Nature and Place in a Hypermodern World” New York: Routledge, 1999 Tarnas, Richard“The Passion of the Western Mind” New York: Ballantine Books, 1991

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