Kathleen Raine Raine, Kathleen

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Raine, Kathleen

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Raine, Kathleen 1908–

Kathleen Raine is a British poet, an authority on Blake, a translator and critic, as well as a natural scientist. She was one of the Cambridge poets of the 1930s, with William Empson.

Kathleen Raine is a woman whose pity tends to lapse into self-pity. But she holds with Muir that "the ever-recurring forms of nature mirror an eternal reality." Central to the poetry of both is a sense of that "eternal reality" as the goal of the human pilgrimage and the source of pure joy. Kathleen Raine's poems gain in depth and subtlety because they keep returning to the actualities that embody the mystery of the physical universe and of conscious selfhood. Not alone the stars, the mountain pool, the rock, the fish, the bird, but the chromosome and the nucleus of the atom are integral to her vision of the world, which she regards as the Word made flesh. Close as she seems to Blake, she appears to have escaped his confusions, and she is not at all eager to dethrone Nobodaddy. She is separated from the old visionary by a feeling of the gulf between the self and the Other. And yet she seeks to embrace it, though she is forced to ask how a house so small can contain a company so great…. Miss Raine acknowledges the death and dismemberment that is intrinsic to our experience, the moments when she finds "ambiguous nothingness" seemingly everywhere and everywhen. Yet her supreme certainty is that, though the bird, like all flesh, is dust, "the deathless winged delight" survives. (pp. 259-60)

Kathleen Raine names the various natural forms and the aspects of nature so as to assign them places in a larger design, but not in a way that presents the special quality of a certain scene, a certain creature, a certain unrepeatable hour. (p. 261)

Babette Deutsch, in her Poetry in Our Time (reprinted by permission of Curtis Brown, Ltd.; copyright © 1963 by Babette Deutsch), revised edition, Doubleday, 1963.

[In her essays, Defending Ancient Springs,] Miss Raine proceeds by a repetitive, rather cocksure confrontation of terms, given little or no gloss, which are either Praiseworthy or Disparaging, Divine or the Devil's. Praiseworthy terms are prophetic, profound, primitive, the race, archetypal image, age-old traditions, mystery, and cosmic.

Disparaging terms, of insufferable weakness, if not wickedness, are modern, realist, conscious, individual, Auden (a forgotten term surviving from the Thirties), positivism, Empson (things have changed), and scientific.

Dogmatism can be smelt here; also a considerable, if less unpleasing, naïvety. (p. 174)

The reader needs to be patient with archaic approaches, no doubt, and hopeful, too. But is there a reward for such talk—still falls the drizzle—of 'the poet's task', 'the Celtic genius', 'the haunts of the heron', and this or that which is 'fraught with meanings and messages of the soul'?

Yes, when Miss Raine is informative, for instance about Yeats or St John Perse. No, when she praises Shelley for his short-cutting (or faked temporality). No, when she asks us to admire 'Little lawny islet, with anemones and violet like mosaic paven'. No, when she reads out to us a rather ludicrous (temporally ludicrous) passage from David Gascoyne, beginning 'At night I've often walked on the Embankment of the Thames / And seen the Power Station's brick cliffs dominate the scene'. No, when she tells us that this passage is 'at once grander and more intimate than Eliot's depiction of The Waste Land', and that the poem it comes from asks to be compared with Blake or Dante. No, when she mistakes intention or inclination for performance. No, when she attempts to sandbag or mesmerize the reader, in a prose stubborn with self-righteousness and immodesty; uncertain in grammar, and rife in cliché. (pp. 175-76)

Geoffrey Grigson, "Four Ways of Making Fudge" (1967), in his The Contrary View: Glimpses of Fudge and Gold (© Geoffrey Grigson 1974; reprinted by permission of Macmillan, London and Basingstoke), Macmillan, 1974, pp. 166-76.


(The entire section is 2,839 words.)